Last week, we invited my brothers and family to join us for our first dinner together since the pandemic began.

We were serving the Pandemic Pepper Chicken Skewers from my May 27 column, and I needed a side dish that was robust enough to stand up to the tangy succulence of the grilled chicken. We love a good summer potato salad, but after consuming an unseemly amount of starch during the first two months of the pandemic, we are trying to curb our carb intake for a while.

Tony set about creating a recipe for an alternative potato salad, using sweet potatoes as a nutritional twist. To everyone’s delight, Tony’s Sweet Potato Salad with Brown Sugar Dijon Dressing was the surprise hit of the meal and the dish that had everyone begging for seconds.

Sweet potatoes are available year-round and are a staple vegetable in our home. Often labeled as yams at our local grocery stores, this colorful orange root vegetable is an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Before roasting, the sweet potatoes are peeled, rinsed and then cut into slices between 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Before roasting, the sweet potatoes are peeled, rinsed and then cut into slices between 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Even better, sweet potatoes are delicious, especially when roasted. Roasting the sweet potatoes enhances their natural sugars, making them wonderfully lush and sweet.

Tony’s recipe calls for five medium sweet potatoes, which we cut into round slices between ¼- to ½-inch thick. The sliced sweet potatoes are tossed in extra-virgin olive oil and seasoning before roasting in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. Once roasted, the sweet potatoes are chilled in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or even overnight, so that they can firm up before assembling the salad.

RELATED:

With his focus on the sweet potatoes, Tony chose only a handful of other flavors to complement their caramelized sweetness, including bacon, scallions and pepitas. Bacon brings a great smokiness to the salad (and who doesn’t love bacon?), and the scallions add a touch of summer spice and color. I listed the scallions as an optional ingredient because we have had the salad with and without them and enjoyed it either way.

Tony's Chilled Sweet Potato Salad features roasted sweet potatoes with pepitas, smoky bacon and scallions. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Tony's Chilled Sweet Potato Salad features roasted sweet potatoes with pepitas, smoky bacon and scallions. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Pepitas are a kind of pumpkin seed that comes from specific varieties of hull-less pumpkins. They are green in color, filled with nutrients and typically found in the bulk nuts and grains section of most grocery stores. The pepitas bring a lovely crunch to the salad, as well as a contrast in color, and if you cannot find pepitas, you could use sunflower seeds or chopped pistachios instead.

The secret agent that takes this salad to the next level is the Brown Sugar Dijon Dressing. Equal parts brown sugar and Dijon mustard are whisked together with extra-virgin olive oil, cider vinegar and ground cumin to create a dressing that is exactly the right blend of sweet-and-sour for this salad.

The secret ingredient in this recipe is the Brown Sugar Dijon Dressing, which gives an extra punch of sweet-and-sour to this chilled sweet potato salad. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The secret ingredient in this recipe is the Brown Sugar Dijon Dressing, which gives an extra punch of sweet-and-sour to this chilled sweet potato salad. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Tony’s Sweet Potato Salad is easy to make, keeps well in the refrigerator for several days and can be easily doubled for large batches, making it perfect for summer gatherings.

We hope it is as big a hit on your table as it was on ours.

Tony’s Sweet Potato Salad with Brown Sugar Dijon Dressing

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of the recipe

Serves: 4 to 6 (can be doubled for large batches)

Salad ingredients:

5 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 ½ pounds), peeled, washed and cut into slices ¼- to ½-inch thick

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

4 strips bacon, cooked until just slightly crispy but still chewy, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 scallions, finely chopped (optional)

¼ cup pepitas

Brown Sugar Dijon Dressing ingredients:

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Cut the peeled and washed sweet potatoes into round slices between ¼- to ½-inch thick. Place on the lined baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the sweet potatoes and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with tongs or your hands until evenly coated.

Bake in the lower third of the oven until the potatoes begin to sizzle and appear lightly caramelized around the edges, about 30 to 35 minutes. Oven temperatures may vary, so check the potatoes after 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients until fully emulsified, about 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired; let dressing sit at room temperature until ready to toss with salad. Dressing may be prepared up to 1 week in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

When the sweet potatoes are ready, remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow them to firm up before assembling the salad.

To assemble the salad, in a large bowl, add the roasted and chilled sweet potatoes, chopped bacon, scallions and pepitas. Drizzle Brown Sugar Dijon Dressing over the ingredients and gently toss until combined. Taste and add more seasoning as desired.

For best results, refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving to allow flavors to meld, or even overnight. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for several days.

Recipe Time Capsule:

This week in...

Recipes can be found with the article at InForum.com.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.