Struggling to relate this post to Columbus Day (or Annapolis Sailboat Show) weekend, I typed “Columbus Sweet Potato” into Google…and got the following history of the sweet potato. I shouldn’t be surprised; I knew it was a great cruising recipe because sweet potatoes store well and are found in most parts of the world where sailboats go:
- Central Americans were raising sweet potatoes when Christopher Columbus first landed on their shores in 1492. He liked the vegetable so much that on his fourth voyage, he took some home to grow in Europe.
And as we ALL know…Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 14-hundred-and-92; dude was a cruiser! This is a great shoulder-season recipe for early fall — when it’s still close enough to summer that you don’t want to let go of delights like potato salad, and certainly aren’t ready for November’s casserole with brown sugar and marshmallows, but it’s time to transition…autumn is upon us.
The starting point for any good potato salad, other than potatoes, is a vinaigrette. With heavier, more flavorful sweet potatoes, a more tangy, robust dressing: whisk together 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons ketchup, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 4 tablespoons cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and 2 tablespoons of lime juice (from one really juicy, or two average limes). Slowly whisk in 3/4 cup olive oil in a steady stream to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Peel 4 medium sweet potatoes and dice into large chunks — about the size of two big bites. You want larger pieces so that the potatoes don’t disintegrate as they boil.
Boil potatoes for 10-12 minutes, until just done — periodically poke them with a knife tip…they should still be fairly firm, despite giving easily to 1/4 inch or so of the knife point. Boiling at knife-point…VERY PIRATEY! As an aside, one of my favorite of my dad’s many sayings was, when someone would tell a lame joke or pun, he’d say “you know, Columbus got an arse full of arrows for telling that one to the Indians!” See?!? Columbus really ties it all together…sweet potatoes, bad humor, sailing, my dad…okay those all go with sailing, but still. Dad made it FUNNY.
Your seasoning vegetables (and standard-issue Pirate Kristin still life) are 1/2 large red onion, 1/2 large red bell pepper (though this one was ridiculously huge…size of a canteloupe! I still used half of it because I love the crunchy vegetables in potato salad), 1/2 large green bell pepper (I used the whole one here to stand up to the gargantuan red pepper half), and 4 tablespoons fresh parsley. If you’re sensitive to onions at all, cut the red onion into thick rings and soak for 10 minutes or so in ice water before dicing.
Dice the seasoning vegetables and combine.
When the potatoes are done, drain them quickly and do whatever you can to cool them to stop the cooking! At home, I literally submerge them in a sink full of ice water. In a galley, I’m not wasting ice that way (if I even have any), and will be sparing with submerging them in cold water from the icebox. This does, however, vastly improve the texture and color of the potatoes, so if you have ice/plenty of cold water, do it. If you’re aiming for a dainty meal, dice the potatoes further into smaller bite size pieces; I was not, and did not…my pirate crew can cut their own! Stir the potatoes together with the vegetables and vinaigrette.
We served this salad one evening with our marinated flank steak (forgetting to get a picture of dinner), and a couple of days later discovered one of those “leftovers better than the original” concoctions. Not only had the salad aged wonderfully and become far more flavorful, but there was an overabundance of vinaigrette, as dinner portions had been taken from the top of the serving bowl. So I tossed the remaining salad and vinaigrette-plus with a bag of arugula and topped it with cold flank steak — DELICIOUS!