I love an easy, healthy and unusual side dish for summer dinners, and this one fits the bill pretty nicely. In fact, I’ve spent a good amount of time looking forward to side dishes lately. The vegetables, the whole grains, the crusty bread, the salads; just filling out that plate like I know how (I absolutely know how). Wholesome summer sides are kind of my scene. And maybe spontaneous ice cream outings. Those are important too.
This is likely a by-product of saying nay to meat for most of my adult life or maybe I just have an insane loyalty to vegetables. It’s lovely when family or friends invite you over for a barbecue with (hopefully veggie, grain and bean-based) burgers, but what about those side dishes? I don’t think I’m alone in my curiosity/sincere appreciation/true, undying love for them.
I’m also fully aware that finding a scrap of motivation to make something other than a leafy salad, cheese and crackers, sliced fruit, a glass of water with a slice of lemon even etc. is kind of a miracle nowadays for a lot of us. Thirty plus degrees Celsius (or higher)?! Sorry, oven. You lose this round (except when a fancy cake is happening–I still love you seriously). Summer living is meant to be easy, fun and smiley; not frustrated-frizzy-haired-red-oven-glow-sorta-shiny-grrr-face awfulness. Staying cool and keeping your coiffed hairs, well…, coiffed is ideal.
I steam the wedges of sweet potato first to get them mostly cooked (like super quickly), slather them in a chili flecked marinade for a bit, make up a sweet and tangy cherry salsa, grill up the wedges, spoon the salsa on top, and add a sprinkle of toasty pecans at the end. Sweet and spicy, so easy, super flavourful and light. I don’t recommend too many heat-based cooking methods in this kind of humidity, but once the sun retreats in the evening, grilling is totally alright with me, especially with a cool drink in the non-tongs-holding hand.
Chopping up the cooked sweet potatoes and tossing them with the cherry salsa, a bit more olive oil, a good pinch of salt and a cup or so of cooked quinoa makes for an awesome picnic side or, you know, a tupperware full of goodness that you can dig your fork into every time you pass the fridge. Either way, really.
I’ve accepted that it might be a while before we get ripe, juicy summer tomatoes. In the meantime, this super fun and beautiful summer side dish is suiting me just fine.
grilled sweet potatoes with cherry salsa and quinoa
serves: 4 (6-8 with the quinoa)
notes: You kind of have to par-boil or par-steam the sweet potatoes before grilling. It’s only, like, 5 minutes of stove steaminess though. Not too bad, right? Instructions for making this into a little quinoa salad are at the bottom.
for the sweet potatoes:
3 small-medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges or rounds
1.5 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chipotle powder (or to taste)
pinch of chili flakes
salt and pepper
for the cherry salsa:
heaped cup of de-stemmed sweet, black cherries, pitted
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated on a rasp zester
zest and juice of 1 lime
a handful of pecans, roughly chopped
salt to taste
for the quinoa salad variation:
1/2 cup quinoa, soaked and rinsed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
2 green onions, thinly sliced
big handful of pecans, chopped
lots of salt and pepper
Place a large pot with about 2 inches of water on medium heat. Bring to a simmer and place cut sweet potatoes onto a steamer basket. Lower steamer basket into the pot, put a lid on top and steam the sweet potatoes for 5-7 minutes or until just tender. Remove wedges with a pair of tongs, placing into a large tupperware container.
Cover the cooked sweet potatoes with the grapeseed oil, lime zest, lime juice, ground cumin, chipotle, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make the cherry salsa: chop the pitted cherries roughly and place in a medium bowl. Add the sliced green onions, grated ginger, lime zest, lime juice and black pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.
Heat a your grill or grill pan to medium-high. Place marinated wedges, cut side down (as opposed to peel-side down) on the grill. Flip wedges after about 2-3 minutes. Cook other side for another 2 minutes and remove sweet potatoes from the grill.
To serve: Place wedges face up on a plate, season with salt if you like and cover with the cherry salsa.
For the quinoa salad variation: cook the quinoa in 1 cup of water over medium heat. Bring the quinoa to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until all of the water us absorbed. Remove from the heat and place into a large bowl. To the quinoa, add chopped sweet potatoes, the cherry salsa, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, the juice of 1 lime, the sliced green onions, chopped pecans, salt and pepper.