Sweet Potato, Black Bean and Nopales Salad

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I am a potato salad lover, the old fashioned mayonnaise laden white potato kind, and I come from a potato salad loving family. I know that it’s not the healthiest choice at a picnic or pot luck because those potatoes are white and the mayo is, well, mayo. There’s a great trick for making a creamy potato salad with much less mayo, and I used it faithfully in the days when I ate potato salad more often. Many healthier solutions have been invented to help with the potato salad conundrum, including using yogurt, wine, spices and vinaigrettes to dress a wide variety of spuds. It’s truly a wonderful thing when cooks get creative, because now there are so many kinds of potato salad being served up that you could taste a new one every day for a month.

This salad uses sweet potato (or yam for a more intense color), black beans, red onion and nopales. It’s simple to make, and it hits an abundance of healthy notes. Besides having so many minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, all three of the main ingredients have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a body process that encourages disease, so eating anti-inflammatory foods can be very important for those who suffer from food allergies, arthritis and auto-immune disorders.

Steaming the potatoes is a great way to help prepare this salad quickly. Cut the potatoes into 3/4 inch thick rounds, place them in a steamer basket and steam for 7-10 minutes. The slices should be tender enough to slice easily but not cooked to the point of crumbling.

The black beans may be prepared at home or purchased in a can and rinsed in a collander, then drained thoroughly before combining with the potatoes. I always suggest reading the label on canned goods to make sure you aren’t getting any unwanted surprises.

Young, tender, bright green nopales (cactus paddles) that have had their thorns removed can simply be cubed, rinsed and added directly to the salad. Rinsing takes away the sliminess that some may fear.

A sharp vinegar works best in this salad. Apple cider vinegar is wonderful for many purposes, but a bit too mild to give this salad the kick necessary to wake your taste buds.

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Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes, sliced, steamed, peeled and cubed

1 or 1 1/2 cups black beans, cooked

2 raw young cactus paddles, thorns removed, cubed, rinsed and patted dry

1/2 to 1 red onion, chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup white vinegar or red wine vinegar (or a combination of both)

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 tsp. red pepper (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

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Instructions:

1. Steam sweet potato slices until firm but tender (7-10 minutes). Skin and cube. Add the cubes to a large bowl.

2. Drain the black beans and add to the potatoes in the bowl.

3. Cube the nopales (thorns removed) and rinse them in a colander. Pat them dry and add to the bowl.

4. Add the chopped red onions and mix everything together.

5. Mix the garlic, red pepper, salt and black pepper into the ingredients to distribute evenly.

6. Combine the oil and vinegar in a shakeable container. Combine by shaking and pour over the potato salad, and then toss it all together until it’s all covered by the dressing.

7. As always, if you want to add another ingredient for color or taste, please do. Enjoy this salad as a healthy and fun side dish, a great portable dish for picnics and pot lucks, or a Meatless Monday (vegetarian) entree!

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