Potato Salad Reinvented with Sweet Potatoes

SENT April 24, 2013

Dear Friends,

Some of my best ideas come to me while standing in front of the refrigerator, staring at the empty shelves. I had thawed out some thick pork chops on that crazy-warm day last week and was determined to grill them outdoors. We were out of potatoes for potato salad. We were out of mayo for macaroni salad. We had no vegetables in the crisper. Caper-and-pickle salad? Nah.

Then I spotted three sweet potatoes hidden among the onions and garlic in a wire basket near the pot rack.  I had a sack of lemons in the fridge and I found a can of crushed pineapple in the pantry. A recipe was taking shape. It fell into place when I located a few tablespoons of crushed peanuts in the freezer.  I had my picnic salad..

The menu was still iffy, though, because the only other sweet potato salad recipe I’ve tried  came from a cookbook early in my career and tasted like – well, cold sweet potatoes coated with mayonnaise. Could I do better?

I kept it simple. To intensify the flavor of the potatoes, I roasted the cubes rather than boil them. I made a tart but fruity vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice and pineapple juice, and added a scant sprinkling of pineapple and crushed peanuts to the potatoes. I’m not usually so restrained, but I didn’t want a cloying salad that tasted like dessert. I wanted an interesting but refreshing salad.

My sweet potato salad went great with the pork, and there were no leftovers. It sure beat that mayonnaise-y salad from the ‘80s.


  • 1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes (3 medium)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt
  • 2 tbsp. drained crushed pineapple
  • 1 tbsp. toasted finely chopped peanuts

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Coat a foil-lined baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the potato cubes, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and toss to coat well. Spread potatoes in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast uncovered at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, until potatoes can be pierced easily with a fork.

Transfer to a medium bowl and add pineapple. Toss with the pineapple vinaigrette. Add more salt if necessary. Sprinkle with peanuts just before serving. Serve at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.


  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. pineapple juice (from the canned crushed pineapple)

Combine ingredients in a lidded jar and shake well. Makes just enough to dress one batch of  sweet potato salad.


Tony buys Kikkoman soy sauce by the bucket (literally; it comes in a 5-gallon plastic bucket). He gets it from a wholesaler, so he found it hard to believe when a caterer friend said she can buy it for less at a Cleveland Asian supermarket. Tony and I both found it hard to believe  we had never heard of Park To Shop.

Heck, I’d shop there just because of the name, but there are other reasons Tony and I will go back. The price of soy sauce is one, and the relative cleanliness is another. The bakery is pretty alluring, too.  We carted home two fresh-made steamed buns filled with Chinese barbecued pork. They were delicious.

Other plusses: A convenient layout that groups foods by type (sauces, noodles, snacks) rather than country. There’s also a deli counter and meat and seafood sections that mirror regular supermarkets. Of course, you probably won’t find fresh chicken feet in the meat case of your local Acme.

The selection is fairly wide, too, but selectively. Almost an entire separate room is devoted to noodles. The produce selection isn’t as bountiful as at the nearby Tink Holl, though, and the produce prices don’t seem to be as low, either.

If you go, do not be tempted to dine at the adjacent East 30th Street Café, which claims to specialize in Szechuan food. The large, nicely appointed restaurant is an offshoot of Li Wah’s, our waiter said. But Szechuan it ain’t. The  iconic Szechuan dish of ma po bean curd came to the table as bits of tofu and shreds of pork in oyster sauce. Yuk.

Park To Shop is at 1580 E 30th St. in Cleveland, in front of the new Asia Plaza. The phone is 216-781-3383. Yes, there’s plenty room to park.


From Barbara M.:
I add a tablespoon of vodka to my pie dough; makes it easier to roll out, and the vodka evaporates when it bakes.

Dear Barbara: I did hear this tip once, and it’s supposed to work very well. It’s from Cooks Illustrated, as I recall.  I haven’t tried it because I keep forgetting to replace the vodka that the teen-ager and his friends drank (and then replaced with water) when Tony and I were in Japan. (Life got ugly for him when we returned.)

From Sally Taylor:

Jane, your pie crust article brought back memories for me.  When I graduated from college I took a notebook to my pie-famous grandmother’s house for a lesson.  She dumped flour and salt in a bowl and took a big spoon and dipped out a hunk of lard.  After working the lard into the flour with a fork, she added water from a glass.  “Amounts?” I said, and she just shrugged.  About three rolls and she had a perfect circle.  When I tried to roll my wet or crumbly mess  I got the USA.  I tore off Maine, and Florida and pasted them around Texas.  Then I started buying Pillsbury crusts!  I have tried other ones that you mentioned over the years but wasn’t happy.

Then I found the America’s Test Kitchen (Cooks Illustrated) recipe using vodka.  They say it is the liquid that makes crust tough.  The vodka added with water evaporates.  While it was super wet, I just patted it into the pie plate and it did make a great crust.  It is available on their Web site and I believe other places on the internet. 

Dear Sally: No need to look it up. Keep reading.

From Jean Hose:
Here is a recipe for:

Makes one double 9-inch pie crust

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).

Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

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