Oh, the dog days of summer…they are here, whether we want to accept it or not. (Personally, you have to drag me kicking and screaming into fall. I know what comes next.) The kids are back in school. The nights are getting cooler and very soon (GASP!!!) pools across New England will be closing. I’m soooo not ready to retire my flip flops to the back of the closet and dig out my sweaters and boots. I treasure the sunshine and warmth of summer, but at this time every year it becomes extra special to me. Those last few summer picnics before it becomes hoodie and bonfire season are like the closing act of a play, a way to lock in the memories of a summer well spent.
One of my favorite parts of a good summer picnic is the sides – baked beans, fruit salad, pasta salad and potato salad. Although I love the classic versions that we all grew up with, as a foodie, I’m so incredibly excited to see (and taste!) the next generation of these delectable dishes. We are getting so creative – I love it!!! We are forging ahead to leave our mark on this evolution of picnic sides. OK…maybe it’s not that intense and I may need to reel my excitement back in or I’ll be considered too nutty to actually be invited to any future picnics.
Like any summer, we’ve had our share of graduation parties this year. We love to share in these types of celebrations, especially for family. So, when we were recently invited to a picnic to celebrate hubby’s cousin’s high school graduation, of course I asked if I could bring something. Drum roll please…A POTATO SALAD. Now if you know me or more importantly the family that I married into, potato salad is not my specialty. It’s not in my repertoire because hubby’s mom is 100% Irish. She jokes that she was born with a potato in her mouth. Her traditional potato salad is the BOMB!!! You do not mess with her recipe! Enter the moment of freak out, how was I going to bring a potato salad to an event with a ton of Irish family. Once I could catch my breath and I poured myself a glass of wine (or two), clearer heads started to prevail and I decided to just do me. What foods do I do good? What flavor combinations do I love? How do I get bacon into this baby? So my friends, this is the answer to my soul searching journey (and it was a huge hit at the party). Enjoy every mouth watering bite!
8-9 large sweet potatoes, rinsed but leave the skin on
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
6oz. crumbled blue cheese, divided
3/4 lb cooked bacon, crumbled
1 medium red onion
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic paste or minced garlic
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 scallions, diced
Place sweet potatoes in a large stock pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until you can easily stab them with a fork, but do not over cook. You do not want the potatoes to be mushy. Drain the potatoes and refrigerate them so they cool down.
Heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat. Cut the onion into 3/4 inch slices. Brush the onion with a little olive oil and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and roughly chop the onion into bite-sized pieces.
Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, we can bring this all together. The skin on the potato should peel off pretty easily. After this is done, cut the potatoes into bite-sized cubes. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, 4 oz of the blue cheese, bacon and grilled onion.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, honey, salt and pepper. Dress the salad, folding everything together gently, so our potatoes don’t break down too much. Garnish with the remaining blue cheese and the scallions. Serve at room temperature or chill if desired.
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