I follow a lot of the fluffy and typical cute animal Twitter/Facebook accounts. I also get in a good half cry about every other day when I see a photo or video of an animal being reunited with a sibling or its favourite human, or stories of an abandoned/mistreated animal finally finding peaceful refuge. Frequent contact with any number of species helps you understand some of the more important tenets of humanity, I think.
When we adopted our little gal Cleo through a local rescue organization, we were able to do some digging into her past through some Facebook posts and timeline updates. A local had found her and her siblings as pups in a drainage pipe beside a busy highway in the middle of a thunderstorm. From there, they spent some time at that family’s home regaining their strength and getting healthy again. A volunteer then drove them all the way to Ontario from Louisiana to be placed in temporary foster homes. A few weeks after our girl had been in Canada, we adopted her and brought her home. (Her siblings have been adopted too!)
I get a little lump in my throat when I think about what she went through to find us, and how loving, playful, and sweet she is despite all of those circumstances. When she snuggles up to me when I’m feeling kinda cruddy, or greets me with extra kisses when I rush through the door, or when she bugs me for a walk when I’ve been at the computer too long, I know that our lives are fundamentally linked. There’s an understanding there that goes beyond basic needs being met.
This salad is all sweet potato goodness today because that’s Cleo’s favourite treat. We get those sweet potato jerky slices for her, but I also give her little pieces when we’re having them roasted or steamed for dinner. This dish has a bit of a Moroccan stew vibe, but appropriately cool for summer. I treat it like a potato salad essentially, but with lots of extra vegetables, some chickpeas, and a creamy date, lemon and spice vinaigrette. This salad’s got a little extra something going on, but I think it could certainly be a crowd pleaser at any old outdoor gathering you might get up to.
Sweet Potato Sunshine Salad
- 2 pitted Medjool dates, soaked in hot water for at least 5 minutes
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ⅛ teaspoon chili flakes
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- reserved date soaking water
- 1½ lbs mini sweet potatoes
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (I used some heirloom purple ones for colour contrast)
- 2 bell peppers, seeded and diced into 3/4 inch pieces
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ small red onion, sliced thin
- ½-1 cup cooked chickpeas
- big handful of cilantro leaves, leaves chopped
- 1 healthy sprig of mint, leaves chopped
- ¼ cup shelled pistachios, chopped
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- You could add some cooked quinoa or millet to the mix–about a 1/2 cup of dry grain cooked.
- I’m guessing that mini sweet potatoes aren’t available everywhere. If I was doing this with regular sweet potatoes, I’d probably take 3 medium sized tubers and cut them down the middle lengthwise, and then just boil them like that and proceed with the recipe as written.
- Make the dressing: combine the soaked dates (reserving the water), olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard, chopped ginger, ground coriander, chili flakes, cinnamon, salt, and pepper in an upright blender. Blend on high, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. Add a couple spoonfuls of the date soaking water to get the blade moving, if necessary. You want it totally pureed and almost creamy. I ended up using about 2 tablespoons of the water. Check the vinaigrette for seasoning, adjust, and set aside.
- Place the mini sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer the sweet potatoes until they’re nice and tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the sweet potatoes and place them in an ice bath to cool them down quickly.
- Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into 1 inch-ish pieces–kind of like how you would for a potato salad. Place cut sweet potatoes in a large bowl along with the diced carrots, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion slices, chickpeas, cilantro, and mint. Season all of the vegetables with lots of salt and pepper. Add the date vinaigrette to the bowl and toss the vegetables and chickpeas to coat. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top and serve.