Sunday, August 2, is Friendship Day. An outdoor party with friends is the best recipe for fun. But even in a group of best friends, all is not fair. Here's a brief account of how on this friendship outing to a picnic I got the short end of the straw and lengthened it.
"Let's go for a picnic at the lake! We'll go hiking and swimming!" my friends rallied. "We'll have a pot-luck picnic at the park!" went the cheer. "We'll bring brats and buns," one couple volunteered."
"We'll bring dessert and sodas!" other friends added.
I was slow and left to offer, "I'll bring the sides." Yes, I was to bring some Herculean, vegetable side-dish that could hold up in flavor and appearance while keeping bacteria at bay for the length of a summer day. What picnic food can be driven for an hour, stay in a car for 3 hours, sit on a picnic table for 4 hours and still be edible? Isn't this asking a lot of a vegetable? - at least one that tastes good? How about potato chips? Everybody likes them. Definitely bring the potato chips.
But I know these adults. They like "healthy food", which means to say that on the picnic plate beside the brat on a fluffy white roll has to be a healthy, vegetable side-dish that does not pour from a bag, - a deli carton okay, but not from a bag. But at a picnic I'd have to nix the traditional coleslaws and potato salads - they have mayonnaise in them. Nix the oil and vinegar lettuce salads, they get limp and soggy, and my kids don't like them anyway. - Oh yes, there's that hidden requirement, - kids have to like the food too.
So for this all-day, outdoor party I chose a recipe for sweet potato salad. My kids like sweet potatoes and this potato salad is sweetened with honey, - definitely a kid-friendly substance. And as sweeteners go, honey is healthy. Honey contains natural anti-bacterial compounds; that's why honey doesn't spoil in the hive. If those picnic table germs aren't scared off by the honey, the acids from the vinegar and lemon juice in this potato salad will pickle them! Yes, folks, here's a delicious, kid-friendly potato salad without mayonnaise! It can travel to a distant park, hang out on a picnic table and not spoil for the rest of the day. (Three days may be pushing it.) This potato salad even looks pretty. The dressing turns the sweet potatoes vibrant orange, and the green onions and diced red pepper add colorful accents. Click on "Continue reading..." for the recipe.
This recipe for sweet potato salad comes from Therese Allen's cookbook and culinary guide to Wisconsin's specialty food markets. The book is Wisconsin's Hometown Flavors. Preceding the recipe is Allen's description of Honey Acres, Inc., a family-run bee-keeper and honey producer that started about the same time Wisconsin got statehood. Honey Acres' honey is tasty because of the special flavors of nectar in the natural mix of Wisconsin's clovers, buckwheat, basswood, and wild flowers on which the bees feed. The great-great grandson of Honey Acres' founder, Christian Friederich Diehnelt, now runs Honey Acres. In addition to selling honey in its pure form, the family offers its honey in honey chocolate mints, honey mustards, honey cremes, and high-energy honey fruit bars.
Despite honey as an ingredient in this potato salad, Allen writes that this is not a "sweet salad; it's really a savory side dish that goes well with spicy main courses like jerk chicken or blackened catfish." And she's right! I've served this sweet potato salad with chicken satay when white rice just seemed too dull for the party. Here's the recipe from Therese Allen's Wisconsin's Hometown Flavors:
Sweet Potato Salad:
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (about 8 cups)
- 4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon (grate only the yellow portion of the rind)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon brown mustard
- salt and pepper
- 3 Tablespoons corn oil
- 1 small sweet red pepper, finely chopped
- 3 slender green onions, finely chopped
Place sweet potato chunks in pot; cover with water and bring to simmer. Cook until barely tender, 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix vinegar, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste in large bowl. Whisk in corn oil. When sweet potatoes are done, drain well and gently toss with dressing, which will be absorbed. (I tossed the potatoes in the dressing then drained off the extra dressing.) Stir in sweet red pepper and green onion. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour or in refrigerator several hours, stirring occasionally. Serve at room temperature.