Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette

Allow me to introduce you to my latest obsession: warm bacon vinaigrette!  On a chilly day, I decided to put together a nice warm salad with some sweet potatoes and bacon.  I love sweet potatoes and I always have some on hand to round out a meal or add to a salad.  Obviously they are delicious and satisfying,  but they also pack a nutritional punch.  They are full of fiber, vitamins B6, C, and E, and beta-carotene.

Now let’s talk about this dressing!  With the leftover bacon grease, I made a warm vinaigrette to turn it into a robust, syrupy dressing with a hint of bacon in every bite.  Instead of using onions, I opted for shallots because of the sweeter, milder taste which would not distract from the bacon flavor.  It’s the real star of the show here!

But wait until you sprinkle some bacon bits on top.  If you love them as much as I do, it wouldn’t hurt to double that part of the recipe.  They say you only live once.

Kenshin, my designated K9 taste tester, got very excited as I was frying up the bacon.  He waited patiently knowing that I’d save some for him (of course!)  Smart pup :-)

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Balsamic Vinaigrette
(serves 4)

3 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 thick-cut bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 large shallot, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
6 cups mixed salad greens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Toss sweet potato cubes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a baking sheet.  Roast the sweet potato for about 45 minutes, or until soft and slightly caramelized.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in skillet. Add shallots to the pan and cook under low heat, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar, and let the vinaigrette reduce by half. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle warm dressing over salad greens, roasted sweet potatoes, and bacon, and toss gently.  Serve immediately.

*This dressing must be served warm, because the bacon fat would coagulate when cold.

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Orange, Avocado, and Spinach Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

The past few weeks have been a bit hectic around here.  Most of the time, I thrive on compact schedules and rise to the occasion.  And then there are those moments when the train is unexpectedly delayed, when you’re already running late, and when you’re caught in an epic downpour without an umbrella which leaves you drenched in five seconds and therefore despising the world in general. When those moments are plentiful and patience runs thin, slowing down seems like a pretty good idea.  I’m having a hard time keeping my attention in one place, so not a lot of energy has been devoted to cooking my meals. But, alas. Hopefully things will get back into a regular rhythm soon and I’ll be able to share some more complicated and involved recipes with you.

To continue with my not-heating-up-the-kitchen theme of late, I made this salad for dinner.  I love to make vinaigrette dressings because they’re so endlessly adaptable, and the citrus flavors here go really well with the avocado.  How I made it so many years without eating avocado is beyond my comprehension.

This salad is light and best as a side dish, but can be made into a complete meal with the addition of some grilled shrimp or chicken.

Orange, Avocado, Spinach Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
(serves 4)

For dressing:
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice
2 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp thyme
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

For salad:
10 oz baby spinach leaves
2 navel oranges, cut into segments
1 large avocado, cut into slices
1/2 cup pecans, toasted

For the dressing, whisk together all ingredients except for oil.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well combined.  To serve, toss the salad ingredients with the dressing.

*You can use other citrus zest and juice for the dressing, such as grapefruit, blood orange, lemon, or lime.


Herbed Potato Salad

I am not a mayonnaise kind of girl.  I can only stomach it in small quantities in dips and sauces that disguise the oil-slicked feel and flavor, but other than that…not so much.  I shudder at the sight of slaws and salads that are richly drenched in mayonnaise (sorry to the mayo lovers out there!), and therefore, I’m always trying to play with different substitutions that are more pleasing to my palette, and my waistline, of course!

When I picture summer, I picture salads like this one.  Vibrant, fresh, and light.  At first, I was worried that the loads of herbs used in this recipe would be overpowering.  Anyhow, I gave it a try and discovered that the flavors of the fresh herbs are really what brings this dish to life!  Next time I make it, I’d love to experiment with different herbs.  Maybe with chives and chervil? And I think it would also be quite yummy with some capers.

Herbed Potato Salad
(serves 4)

1 1/2 lb Yukon gold or red skin potatoes, halved
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the potatoes in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.  Drain the cooking water, rinse the potatoes in cold water to stop the cooking process, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion.  Toss the potatoes with the dressing, the fresh herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve cold or at room temperature.