Savvy Sweet Potato Salad

Today’s post has been (happily) hijacked by the best chef I know, who also happens to be my significant other + roomie. His creativity in the kitchen fascinates, inspires, and occasionally (while forcing me to eat food so spicy I cry) frightens me:
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“At almost every barbecue I went to as a kid, there was potato salad. Sometimes it was chilled, sometimes it was room temperature. But it was nearly always typical potato salad – which is to say russet, or Yukon gold, potatoes with mayonnaise and a veggie (maybe two if an endeavoring soccer mom was on sides duty that day). Every summer, I’d eat it dutifully until I outgrew my basic bitch potato palate.
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This summer, with so many worthwhile vegetables in season, you owe it to yourself to remix a classic. Ditch the russet potatoes. Add some sweet potatoes. Lose the mayo. Add some miso, and on and on, until you have something that reminds you of a timeless dish, but with a twist, and that doesn’t say, “I bought this at [insert grocery store name here] so I didn’t show up to your party empty handed.”
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This potato salad is equal parts memory lane, health food, and new-wave summer side. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make, so you don’t have a great excuse for bringing something lame to your next barbecue. It’s an incredibly unique, salty, sweet, spicy concoction that, at first bite, you just can’t keep your fork out of. The sweetness of the potatoes and zest from the chiles mix with the “umami” of the miso for a harmonious blend of perfection.
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Miso may be heating up on the food scene but Eastern healers have used it for centuries; the fermentation process it undergoes creates a digestive force to be reckoned with. Not only does this super savory substance contain ample amounts of iron, calcium, B vitamins, and potassium, but as the soybeans are fermented to make the miso, lactobacilli levels rise and actually facilitate the absorption of these nutrients. This may help promote a healthy pH in the stomach, and is a godsend for anyone with a sensitive tummy. All hail da miso.
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Savvy Sweet Potato Salad

Makes ~5 servings

  • 5 small/medium sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
  • 1 leek, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • 5 Thai chiles, minced (use less if you’re a wuss)
  • 2 tablespoons yellow miso
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Black sesame seeds (to garnish)
1. In a large salted pot of water, boil the sweet potatoes until, when stabbed with a fork, they’re soft but not falling apart. Drain, chop into large cubes, and set aside.
2. In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil. Add leeks and sauté until mushy, then set aside. These, along with the miso and liquid ingredients, will collectively serve as the mayo substitute, holding the salad together.
3. Toss sweet potatoes, sautéed leeks, remaining oil, and all other ingredients in a bowl. Mix very well, distributing miso, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil throughout.
4. Garnish with black sesame seeds and serve immediately. Or refrigerate and serve the next day for a more flavorful dish.

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