Now that Memorial Day has passed (which in the Pacific Northwest means we’re down to only one more month of cold and rain), I start considering possibilities for great summer outdoor fare. I love the ease of throwing a simply marinated steak on the grill and bringing out platters of corn-on-the-cob and sliced tomatoes, but ideally I sneak in a more interesting side dish as well.
One of my favorites, a roasted Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad, came about during a marathon potato-salad recipe development phase I had a few years back. Tired of mayonnaise-swathed boiled potatoes, I explored different potato varieties, cooking methods, and saucing options. In this iteration, I roast large (1 inch) cubes of sweet potatoes until they’re tender and then combine them with charmoula, a Moroccan herb-and-spice sauce, and toasted almonds. The resulting salad looks stunning with a taste to match.
Sweet potatoes come in many varieties, but for this salad I like the darker orange-fleshed sweets (often labeled as garnet yams even though they are not, in fact, yams). They remain moist even under high heat roasting, and taste a bit sweeter on my palate than the pale yellow-fleshed type. You can use the lighter sweet potatoes with great results, but they’re a bit less forgiving in terms of timing. Their texture turns from tender to dry and fluffy–like a baked russet potato–in an instant; not necessarily a negative, just something to keep in mind.
As with many of the sauces in my repertoire, the charmoula is extraordinarily versatile. Don’t feel like making sweet potato salad? Try the sauce on simply grilled meat or fish: lamb chops, chicken breasts, shrimp, and swordfish are personal favorites. It works well with other vegetables, too. Steamed green beans, grilled zucchini, cherry tomatoes–all great calls.