The Fourth of July, the next great food holiday, is looming in the not-so-distant future. There's a flurry of red-white-and-blue recipes, along with grilling suggestions for how to make the best hot dogs. After all, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt served 'em to the King and Queen of England, so what could be more all-American than frankfurters?
However, in my opinion there is no food more quintessentially USA than the humble sweet potato. While many other cultures have celebrated the New World export of the standard red and white (and sometimes blue fingerling) spud, Americans have lovingly embraced the sweet potato in a very unique fashion. We deck it out in marshmallows, slather it with marmalade and maple syrup, fry it, and tart it up with brown sugar and even coconut.
However, the sweet potato has another side. Kind of like the beauty queen who is also a straight-A student, this vegetable so often found in sugary casseroles is loaded with fiber and Vitamins A and C. . And note: for those individuals avoiding possibly inflammatory nightshade vegetables like white potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes, the sweet potato is from a different genus of plants. I'm not so sure I subscribe to the idea of macrobiotics. But unless you fear all carbohydrates, the sweet potato is pretty close to a guilt-free indulgence in its unadorned state.
In honor of the upcoming patriotic holiday celebrations, I have made a sweet potato salad: roasted sweet potatoes with paprika. Topped with broccoli Dijon and served on a crisp bed of lettuce. It can be eaten hot or cold, although I rather like the texture of the hot potato against the crunch of slightly bitter lettuce. It's a humble, weekday salad, not something you'd serve as a showpiece. Just a nice, healthy yet flavorful way of enjoying a food that should be eaten all year 'round, not just in the fall.
Dijon: yes, in honor of the current Administration, I have chosen to give a nod to the glory of one of my personal favorite, sinus-cleaning condiments, and the favorite hamburger topping of the President. I have even thrown in some infamous broccoli, the vegetable nemesis of the first President Bush. If you want to make it a more bipartisan salad, I suppose you could garnish it with bright red beets. But I prefer chickpeas, almonds, or even pistachios to amp up the protein quotient a bit.