Heirloom LA’s Twice-Baked Sweet Potato Salad & Homemade Pickled Cucumbers

Hopefully wherever you are right now the weather has been gracious, gently clipping the heat and humidity to let fall start to breathe through the end of summer’s cracks.

It’s always a toss up with LA in September but, even still, we’re romancing this recipe from Darling Issue No. 9 written by Heirloom LA‘s Tara Maxey. She begins the piece with a note on plating — the art of the eye when it comes to our food — and ends with a fall-appropriate recipe we’ll gladly enjoy, 90 degree temps or not.

Bon Appétit.

Made to Be Enjoyed

By Tara Maxey

When approached about the art of plating, I am stuck. Food is not art. You can’t hang it on a wall and you can’t treasure it at room temperature for more than an hour—unless it is drenched in vinegar—or it will be considered unsafe for consumption. Yet as the owner of Heirloom LA, a very busy catering company, and a former restaurant pastry chef who has eaten at many of the finest restaurants in the country, I can’t deny the thrill of a beautifully executed plate.

Texture, temperature and color of the different food components on a plate all work together to affect our experience of dining since we eat with our eyes first. The intentional application of sauce to a plate has a completely different impact than sloshing it on somehow or serving it up in a gravy boat. There are also those chefs who are creating potions and foams that push conventions, and it’s possible that these sorts of chefs are who inspired the dialogue of the art of plating in the first place.

… we eat with our eyes first.

Food to me should not be fussy or mysterious in any way. It should be simple. Ingredient names should be recognizable because at the end of the day food is just fuel and we should fill up our bodies with the premium stuff. I do concede that the preparation and serving of food can be quite artful, but at the end of the meal you shouldn’t be craving a cheeseburger, you need to feel full and satisfied.

When produce and even meat is seasonal, it lights up your senses. When it isn’t seasonal, things get complicated. For fall, it’s easy to keep food simple with the bounties nature brings like Brussels sprouts, squash and root vegetables. You don’t have to do much when your ingredients shine, but if you must—if you are inspired to be artful—here are some ideas.

TWICE-BAKED SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH OVEN ROASTED YAMS STUFFED WITH SLICED FINGERLING POTATOES, HOUSEMADE PICKLED CUCUMBERS, BABY LEEKS AND PURSLANE

Makes 6 twice-baked potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes, sliced in thirds
10 fingerling potatoes, boiled until tender, sliced
1 large cucumber, sliced
2 tablespoons sweet vinegar (apple cider vinegar, Riesling vinegar or white balsamic)
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ pound purslane leaves (any durable green may substitute such as arugula, kale or mustard greens)
1 bunch baby leeks, sliced
1 cup tartar sauce (equal parts crème fraiche, garlic aioli, chopped pickles)
1 cup chopped bacon (optional)
Salt, pepper, olive oil to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

Toss sweet potatoes in olive oil with salt and pepper and arrange on baking sheet. Trim ends to allow potatoes to stand on their own. Bake in oven 45 minutes to allow for generous caramelization. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, sauté fingerling potatoes, leeks and bacon until lightly brown. Set aside to cool. Combine cucumbers, sugar and vinegar in a bowl and set aside to macerate.

Once sweet potatoes are cool to the touch, hollow out the center of the sweet potato and add caramelized sweet potato meat to the fingerling potato mix. Lightly toss the fingerling potato mix with tartar sauce, purslane and strained cucumbers and add to the hollowed part of the sweet potatoes.

Like this? Read the rest of Darling Issue No. 9, available for instant digital downloading HERE

Images via Dana Hursey

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