Travel is one of my biggest sources for culinary inspiration. The sights, sounds, and smells of faraway places provide many of the ideas that I bring to the kitchen, and ultimately, to the table. I consider myself very fortunate to have a husband and a daughter who share my love for travel (and food!), and together, we get away from home as much as possible. Regardless of how near or far we’re venturing, I always know that I’ll discover something new.
Last week was spring break for us, and we spent a few days in Charlotte, NC. We were there to celebrate a cousin’s bat mitzvah, to relax with family and friends, and to enjoy some of the delicious foods that we enjoy eating during our trips south to North Carolina. Many years ago, my sister and I happened upon a great restaurant in Charlotte called Living Kitchen. At the time, it was a completely raw restaurant; everything we ordered and ate was delicious and vibrant, full of the flavors of uncooked/unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Each time I go back to Charlotte, I must eat at least one meal at Living Kitchen. While my husband and daughter were enjoying some Carolina-style BBQ for lunch on Friday, my sister and I returned to Living Kitchen to catch-up over some of our favorite creative dishes.
I studied the menu for awhile - everything at Living Kitchen is amazing, so it’s tough to pick just one thing to eat! I decided to order the BLT sandwich (their trumpet mushroom bacon can’t be beat!) and had to choose a side dish. Hmm, just one side? Both the roasted sweet potatoes, served with lemon tahini sauce, and the broccoli waldorf salad sounded good to me. I made a quick decision and ordered the broccoli Waldorf salad, it was quite tasty and ultimately was the inspiration for today’s recipe! And in case you’re wondering what my sister ate, she greatly enjoyed the Pad Thai (perhaps I’ll use that dish for inspiring another of my recipes soon?).
My mom occasionally made Waldorf salad when I was growing up. I remember a big bowl of diced apples and celery, along with some chopped walnuts, all covered in a thick dressing made from Miracle Whip and some herbs. While I’ve always loved apples, celery, and walnuts, I’ve never been a fan of Miracle Whip or mayonnaise, so the salad wasn’t something I requested or even made myself once I had my own kitchen. Several years ago, when I was doing some recipe development work for a small seed butter company, I created a Fresh Waldorf-Inspired Summer Salad using one of their products, and it was quite delicious, but that was the extent of my exploration of Waldorf salad, until now. Of course, you know that I love sweet potatoes and tahini, both ingredients a featured in so many of my recipes, so including them in my creative spin on Waldorf salad was a necessity.
My Sweet Potato Waldorf Salad is very simple to make, no fancy ingredients or techniques are used - hooray! I had a Japanese sweet potato in my pantry (white fleshed and nearly purple skinned), but you can easily use the traditional orange-fleshed sweet potato in this salad. Sweet potatoes, unlike white potatoes, have a low glycemic index, which means that eating them will not cause a spike in blood-sugar levels. This is due to the composition of sweet potato’s starch (I’m not going to explain all of the scientific stuff here), but keep in mind that sweet potatoes are considered some of the most nourishing vegetables to eat (according to The Center for Science in the Public Interest). I lightly sautéd a diced sweet potato in a neutral oil (I prefer Sunflower Seed Oil), then combined the cooked potato with more traditional Waldorf salad ingredients (apple, celery, raisins, seeds). The dressing is made from raw cashews, tahini, lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil. It’s tangy and slightly sweet (despite no added sugar), and is a delicious alternative to a heavy mayonnaise type sauce. Once tossed together, the salad is ready to serve.
I can’t wait to make this salad again and again, it would be a great dish to take along on a picnic (no perishable ingredients to worry about), and it would be welcome at any backyard BBQ - fire up the grill! And if you’re looking for another delicious sweet-potato salad recipe, take a look at my Za’atar-Spiced Sweet Potato Salad, it’s one of my absolute favorites!
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Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Sweet Potato Waldorf Salad
print recipe here
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
1 1/2 T sunflower seed oil
1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1/2” dice (approximately 2 C)
1/4 C raisins
1/4 C pepitas + extra for garnish
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into 1/2” dice
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2” dice
1/4 C raw cashews
2 T tahini
2 t freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 T hot water
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat sunflower seed oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the diced sweet potato, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on the edges, about 15 minutes. The flesh will be cooked but still firm when done. Remove from pan to a large mixing bowl to cool to room temperature.
While the sweet potato is cooking, assemble the rest of the ingredients. In a mixing bowl, combine the raisins, pepitas, diced apple and diced celery. Set aside.
Make the dressing in a mini-prep food processor or in a blender. Add the cashews, tahini, lemon juice and water. Blend until smooth. Drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil on top of the mixture and blend to incorporate. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Once the sweet potatoes have cooled to room temperature, add them to the mixing bowl with the other assembled ingredients. Pour the dressing over the top of the mixture and toss gently to coat the ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Cover and chill for 20-30 minutes, if desired, or serve immediately.
recipe yields 4 generous side-dish servings
substitute almonds or walnuts for the pepitas; chop them prior to adding to the mixture
leftovers keep well in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days