The orange in this salad isn't carrot, though it could pass without triggering any questions or nervous pokes with a fork—much the way your eyes jump right over a typo. We see the orange we want to see.
But this orange is sweet potato. Raw sweet potato! The most congenial tuber, in the most unfamiliar place. Before you wrinkle your nose and head to a safer space, remember: We felt this way about kale salads not long ago.
Why start eating raw sweet potatoes out of nowhere, like some sort of farm animal? Let's start small: You probably have one or two hibernating in a dark corner of your pantry or fridge, just because you didn't feel like cooking them. Now you don't have to! Plus, raw sweet potatoes are crunchy and flavorful, and far from sticky-sweet, the way they can be when they're cooked.
Unsurprisingly, a sweet potato can stand in for a raw carrot, but they also have a subtle milky-starchy quality, like a more substantial jicama, and can bulk up a flimsy slaw like nobody's business.
They're really not poisonous? Really. Admittedly, I trusted this recipe because it was published on Martha Stewart's website as part of the late Whole Living magazine's New Year's 2012 cleanse (and because our Home and Design Editor Amanda Sims, who's secretly also a really good cook, vouched for it). I also learned that the recipe developer behind it was Sarah Britton of My New Roots, whom I've followed into uncharted territories before (sunflower seed risotto, psyllium husk) and been the better for it.
So of course I ate the raw sweet potato, then served it to a number of loved ones, colleagues, and office visitors. Then I did my homework.
Raw sweet potato is pretty common in the raw food community, a natural place for novel ideas like this to catch on (they predicted one-ingredient banana ice cream, too). On blogs and in cookbooks, the crunchy orange starch takes the form of spiralized salads, soups, juices, and raw sweet potato pies.
This salad in particular hangs together nicely, giving the sweet potato the chance to play it straight next to the eye-squinching tartness of Granny Smith apple, the aromatic crunch of celery, and the spice of radish and scallion. It's all batted together with fiery fits of grated ginger and lemon juice, and the just right amount of toasted sesame seeds for me (that is, enough to make the salad resemble the stucco wall outside my dentist's office).
But there are other places to play with the hibernating sweet potato: More salads are a natural, but beyond julienning, you could shave, dice, or grate it like fine coleslaw. Vegan author and Food52 columnist Gena Hamshaw sent reports of sweet potato "rice" from Prasad restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Try it as a crudité-like snack, in a spring roll, or as a taco garnish. Or taco shell? A better question: What can't you do? Orange is the new kale salad, after all.
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 small sweet potato, peeled and finely julienned into matchstick (about 2 cups)
- 1 tart apple like Granny Smith, cored and finely julienned into matchsticks
- 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 3 radishes, finely julienned
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
Note: Although raw sweet potatoes can be eaten in a variety of ways safely, please don't get so excited about this salad that you make raw sweet potatoes a staple of your diet. In extreme cases, in the absence of other proteins, a diet based on raw sweet potatoes can be dangerous. Here's further reading.
Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to Food52's Home & Design Editor Amanda Sims for this one!