Sweet potato salad with Sriracha mayo is a delicious departure from typical picnic sides. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at iwrite33@comcast.net or 504-0545.

I just can’t help myself – you’ll be hearing about picnics often from me this summer. If you’re not a picnic person (I am aghast to think of it), these ideas and recipes can of course be eaten in other places. Hopefully not in front of your computer or television, though. If that’s the case, I don’t want to know.

When preparing this sweet potato salad, keep an eye on those simmering potato chunks. They’ll cook faster than you might think. Test them with a fork and go for a tender, yet not “falling apart” consistency.

Take the time to slice the other vegetables very thinly because that’s the texture that works best here. I used a mandoline for the bell pepper and celery.

This salad can be served at room temperature, but I think it’s better after being chilled so the flavors of the spicy mayo and the raw veggies can wend their way into the sweet potatoes.

If you’d like to level up this simple salad, here are my thoughts on additions: Black beans, corn kernels, cilantro, bacon. On my last go of making this, I added a few healthy shakes of “everything bagel” seasoning, and I also have substituted toasted sunflower seeds for the pecans. The orange sweet potatoes also look very photogenic served on a plate of baby spinach. The flavors go together well, too.

If you do add some of these other suggestions, increase the amount of ingredients when you prepare the spicy mayo so that none of the components feel ignored, underdressed or downright naked. We want each and every morsel covered in a light blanket of creamy goodness, but not suffocated.


This cauliflower salad needs some time in the fridge to marinade in its bright herby dressing as well. Overnight is best, but just 30 minutes is OK in a pinch. If you’d rather, substitute ham, salami or pepperoni for the chickpeas, or use some of each. Experiment with the herbs, depending on if you use meat or the chick peas. Everything from mint to oregano is worth a try.

And yes, pickled onions are a fantastic addition, but since I’m a pepperoncini fanatic, that’s what I want in this salad. Enjoy your upcoming picnics, everyone.

Next up, something for my rhubarb fans.

Sweet potato salad with Sriracha mayo

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 2-inch cubes

1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced

1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced


1/2 cup green bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Sriracha to taste

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cumin


1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Salt to taste

1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped, optional

In a large saucepan, gently cook sweet potatoes in salted water until tender, for 8-10 minutes. Drain the potatoes then place them in a large bowl. Meanwhile, slice the celery, scallions and bell pepper, then add to the sweet potatoes.

Combine mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Sriracha, lemon juice, cumin, black pepper and salt in a small bowl, whisking until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Spoon this dressing onto the vegetables and toss gently to coat all ingredients. Add pecans just before serving.

Yield: 4 servings


Cauliflower salad with chickpeas

1 (2-pound) head cauliflower (about 7 cups small florets)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste

1/4 cup olive oil


1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup fresh herbs like parsley or dill, finely chopped

1/2 cup pickled red onions or pepperoncini, chopped

Place cauliflower florets into a large bowl. Chop longer stems into small pieces and add them into the bowl. Toss with 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and black pepper.

Whisk lemon zest and juice, olive oil, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt together until creamy and emulsified.

Add chickpeas, herbs, pickled onions or pepperoncini, and the dressing to the cauliflower. Toss until everything is evenly coated. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Yield: 8 servings

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