Let’s talk potato salad. Everyone knows it’s good — there’s a reason it’s a summer perennial — but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Here’s a crafty version that swaps in sweet potatoes for the more traditional white potatoes and loses the standard recipe’s abundant mayonnaise in favor of a dressing high in flavor and low in fat.
White potatoes have plenty of nutritional value, but sweet potatoes — a good source of fiber that’s also high in calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene — have them beat. One caveat: steam your sweet potatoes just until they become tender. Overdo it and they’ll turn to mush.
I’ve cast black beans and corn in support of the sweet potatoes. I like black beans for their robust taste and their staying power. (They do a fine job of filling you up.) Like all legumes, black beans are low in calories and high in protein and fiber, and they boast an assortment of important nutrients.
Corn, of course, is in no need of hype. It’s just about everyone’s favorite summer vegetable. But corn is at its best when it’s fresh, fresh, fresh! Corn’s natural sugars start to turn into starch the minute it’s harvested. The challenge is to safeguard its natural sweetness. If you live near a farm stand or a farmers market, buy your corn in the morning, then refrigerate it as soon as you get home and cook it as soon as possible.
Typically, truly fresh corn is so good you can eat it raw. Boil it and brush it with butter and you have a dish fit for a king. But grilling the corn, as we do here, takes it to an even higher level. Somehow this process amps up the flavor and decreases the need for fat.
In fact, with the exception of the spray used to coat the corn before grilling, there’s no oil in this recipe. How’d I manage that little trick? By composing a dressing so flavorful — the keys are chipotle, cilantro and garlic — no one notices the lack of fat. The chipotles (or smoked jalapeno chilies) are the crucial ingredient. You can find them in your supermarket simply dried or in an adobo sauce. I prefer the adobo, made of tomato and vinegar, because it adds a lovely flavor of its own. The chili’s heat is counter-balanced with the slight sweetness of the seasoned rice vinegar and by the sweet potatoes. (If you happen to be a cilantro hater, substitute basil or mint.)
One final note: toss the sweet potatoes with the dressing while they’re still warm, which helps them to absorb the dressing and become deeply flavored.