I’m addicted to this salad. Seriously. I’ve made it maybe four times in the past two months, and each time, I’m scraping the bowl with my spoon and hoping that I have leftovers for the next day.
It’s a cinch to prepare. (Well, “cinch” meaning it takes about an hour with the chopping, but there’s no major cooking involved.) It comes from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday, one of my go-to cookbooks since I’ve moved to Mexico. In the original version, he uses regular potatoes and flaked tuna. I’ve prepared it that way, but also with sweet potatoes, chicken instead of tuna, and no meat at all. They’re all fabulous.
My favorite version is with camote blanco. It’s a purple-skinned sweet potato with white flesh, and it’s not as sweet as the orange sweet potato. It balances perfectly with the tangy herbed vinaigrette. I wanted to take a picture of this salad, but Crayton had the camera, so you’ll have to settle for an iPhone shot.
Here’s the recipe. It pairs really well with a glass of white wine.
Sweet potato salad with rajas, onions and oregano dressing
Adapted from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday
Serves 4 as a main dish; 6 as a side
2 poblano peppers
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 medium red onion, or white if that’s all you have (If you have white, use less; the red has a more mellow oniony flavor)
1/3 c. olive or canola oil
3 tablespoons rice or champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, or regular oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or as I like to measure it, “about 18 or 20 grinds in a row” (I hate measuring fresh-ground pepper)
1 can tuna packed in water, drained; or 1 chicken breast, poached and shredded
One hefty handful of cilantro leaves, grabbed off the top of the bunch and rinsed (This is how I do it, anyway)
Roast the poblanos on a grill or over the flame of a gas stove, until the skin is blackened and blistered. If you don’t have a grill or gas stove, a hot oven (425F) works fine too. When the peppers are sufficiently roasted, place them in a paper or plastic bag so they sweat a bit. You can even wrap the bag in a dish towel, which keeps the steam in. Doing this makes the poblanos easier to peel later.
While the poblanos are sweating, peel and dice your sweet potatoes. (Note: If you hate peeling potatoes, you can totally skip the peeling — I’ve left the peel on before in this salad, and it doesn’t affect the taste.) Place your potatoes in a microwave-proof bowl, and toss ’em with salt. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for about five minutes, until tender. Peel back a bit of the plastic wrap to taste one to make sure they’re done. Then leave the potatoes covered in the microwave and ignore them for now.
Chop your onion into thin slivers about 1/4-inch thick. Peel your cooled poblanos, carefully removing the blackened skin with your fingers. (If you want to run the peppers under water to help speed along the skin-removal, go for it.) Make an incision on each chile and remove the seeds and veins. Then cut each chile into thin slivers. Don’t mix your onions and chile strips together…. yet.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add your onion and cook for about five minutes, until the pieces have gotten a bit golden-brown and crunchy. Turn off the flame and add the poblano strips, vinegar, oregano and pepper. Mix together until thoroughly combined.
Pour this mixture over your warm potatoes. When the salad has cooled to room temperature, add your cilantro and tuna or chicken, if you’re using. Toss and serve.