Friday, February 24, 2012

Warm Sweet Potato Salad with Black Beans, Feta, and Lime

I am not poutine! I am a healthy salad!

Travel always leaves me craving healthy food when we return home. I love clam shacks and road houses, diners and street food and sausages and all those outrageous local specialties that emerge piping hot from various deep fryers and must be doused in maple syrup and/or hot sauce. Eating well (and badly) is, for me, more than half the fun of travel. It’s actually, like, 9/10ths of the fun of travel. But then we sit down to our first post-trip meal, and somebody always says, “Ah, it’s Mama’s classic first dinner home.” And it is. Tofu, brown rice, and a salad. It feels almost like a physical relief to eat it.

And the Ottawa trip did seem to involve a nearly excessive amount of French fries, gravy, cheese, and fried dough. Plus, there was the added fragility factor, after first Ben and then Birdy contracted a nasty virus. Michael had had the bug first and described it as “bowling ball stomach,” but for the kids it seemed more to be a kind of “bile geyser stomach.” (I, like all good mothers everywhere, stayed healthy so as to wallow around in the muck in a cleaning-up fashion.)

Oops. There goes my 2012 resolution not to talk about barf in a recipe column. Doh!

Anyhoo. The one super-healthy meal just didn’t cut through all the grease. So I had to make this one too. And I found it on my new favorite food blog. Such a good and beautiful place. I really love it.

Ugh. Bad flash is making this look like a greasy porn shot. Sorry! It was gorgeous, I swear.
Warm Sweet Potato Salad with Black Beans, Feta, and Lime
Adapted from Remedial Eating, where Molly Hays claims to have adapted it from Mark Bittman, though I bet her version is much yummier. Molly suggests that this is a versatile salad, and indeed it is. I made this again last night, with giant black beans instead of regular ones, roasted winter squash instead of sweet potatoes, toasted almonds instead of pumpkin seeds, a handful of dried cherries, and heaps of leftover cooked quinoa. It was delicious. It follows all my own basic principles of a good bowl of food: something tart, something crunchy, something rich, something salty, something sweet, something green-tasting, something spicy. It's zippy and tender, fragrant and pungent and gorgeous. You really can’t go wrong.

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt
2 limes, 1 zested, both juiced

½ teaspoon chipotle puree
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup green pumpkin seeds
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed and drained (or 2 cups cooked black beans)
few handfuls of greens (I’m using arugula)

½-1 cup crumbled feta

*A note about the chipotle: I buy a small tin of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (if there's a Mexican section of your supermarket, you'll be able to find it there), puree it in the blender, and store it in a clean glass jar in the fridge, where it keeps almost forever as long as you don't stick a dirty spoon (or finger) in it. I find this incredibly handy to have around for those times you want to stir a bit of smoky heat into something.

Preheat the oven to 450, and place a rack on the bottom level.  

Toss the cubed sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt and arrange them on a large non-stick baking sheet, ideally one with a rim. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until fragrant and caramelizing on bottoms.  Toss gently with a flat metal spatula, turning most of them over without making yourself crazy.  Return to oven to roast another 10-15 minutes, or until gorgeous brown and tender. 

Meanwhile make the dressing and toast the pumpkin seeds. Combine the lime juice and zest, the rest of the olive oil, the sugar, chipotle, and ½ teaspoon of salt in a jar and shake well. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a teaspoon of oil in a tiny frying pan over medium-low heat until they are browning and fragrant.

When the potatoes are done, put them in a bowl with the beans, pour about half the dressing over it, and stir gently (hands are best for this) and taste. Add more dressing or more salt, if you think it needs it.

Arrange the greens on a wide platter, and top with the sweet-potato mixture and then the feta and pumpkin seeds. Serve straight away.
My CSA sweet potatoes were so dirty and filled with dirt-filled holes that I thought I'd have peeled them to nothing before I got a sheetful of cubes out of them. It was a strangely tedious experience.
They came out lovely and caramelized.
The rest of the ingredients (the limes are dinged-up and ugly, hiding beneath the arugula bag), plus Ben studying his lines for Pirates of Penzance. Is he not the very model of a modern major general? I know.
I typically cook my beans from scratch, but this tin called out to me. At some point we should talk about canned foods and Bisphenol-A. 
pumpkin seeds!
I love a big bowlful of healthy food that I can call dinner. And so does the major general.
And the Birdy general.


  1. Yum! This looks great. Will try soon. I for one don't mind the talking about barf because it's like a virtual version of that phone call when you call up your girlfriend to say, "Uggh! My kids are barfing!" And she says, "Oh, no! That stinks!"

  2. Anonymous5:10 PM

    My kids call it our "Super Foods Meal," Kale chips, sweet potatoes, and BBQ lentils. It's my go to after a period of over indulging, whether it be vacation or just a weekend of take-out. It made me feel slightly less crazy that someone else out there has a similar habit!

  3. Anonymous10:05 PM

    BBQ lentils??? I need to know!

    1. Anonymous8:31 AM

      Here is a link to the original recipe:
      I leave out the carrot and the jalapeño. You could easily do this on the stovetop instead of the slow cooker. Sometimes, I just cook the lentils with the broth and add a jar of our favorite BBQ sauce. I serve these sandwiches open faced as they are quite messy for little hands. Plus, you get to have twice as much lentils! Happy eating ~ Betsy

  4. I just love you. Your recent posts have been awesome and I admire your writing so. Not to mention this lovely healthy dish and the lovely children that eat it. If only my children can grow up to be half as appreciative of said food, then I will feel like I've done my job as a mother.

  5. Anonymous6:55 PM

    Love this.....still want a "healthy" Catherine-style poutine recipe!!

  6. Catherine, can you tell us how you prepare the tofu that you serve for your detox meal? Would love some tofu recipes. Thanks!

  7. maxanyamom10:10 PM

    Finally made this tonight - delicious! Both kids ate it up which can be rare. I used Haloumi Cheese. Have you ever tried this? I promise you would love Haloumi, Catherine. It would set off that choir of angels that sing salty praises in your head when you bite into it. AND - you can grill it - no joke! I cubed it and roasted it in the oven after I pulled out the sweet potatoes. A few small pieces melted down, put it worked really well. Mmmm!

  8. Anonymous12:50 PM

    I made Poor Man's Shrimp Cocktail and thought of you, it is basically cauliflower marinated in Old Bay seasoning with garlic, onion and salt, maybe something else too?, then cooled- it really did seem like shrimp, the kids ate one head and wanted more! I found it in Bon Apetit last month, hope you like it- we eat so many of your awesome recipes it makes me feel good to send you one that you might enjoy, since I can't send you free games or books. Games- have you tried GUB? You should!

  9. I forgot to tell you thank you for this recipe. I was searching for "Catherine Newman sweet potatoes" and found your curry recipe, but I didn't have the ingredients. This I can make!

  10. Just made this. . . . mmmm! You give good salad.

  11. This looks wonderful, but I doubt my kids will eat it. With respect to the BPA issue. I just found this:
    Apparently Trader Joe's uses BPA free cans for their beans and most of their other items.

  12. Oh, and Maxanyamom. Halloumi cheese is DELICIOUS!