Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad

After a wonderful, ridiculous weekend in Montreal this Easter, my friend Julia and I have decided we are beginning a new, healthier life. This may only last a week, but today I went to yoga AND made a delicious, healthy supper. Day one of new healthy lifestyle = success!

This recipe is actually one of very few recipes that I kinda, sorta came up with myself. It started with some inspiration from smittenkitchen . I really liked the blister-y, almost burnt taste of the sweet potatoes. However, I found it hard to eat because the celery and pecans kept falling off. A couple weeks later in the grocery store, I saw a leafy and delicious lookin’ bale of kale (he he) and thought I’d try to pair that with the sweet potatoes. It turned out deliciously – the kale was sauteed so it stuck to the sweet potatoes and I used sunflower seeds instead of pecans so they weren’t as cumbersome.

This is another try at the sweet potato salad. I decided this time to go for spinach because the only kale in the grocery store was limp and ugly lookin’. As well, I added some portobello mushrooms in to the mix. I have to say, while the spinach was just as delicious as the kale, I really did not like the mushroom addition. It made the salad too soggy and did not add much flavor-wise. Next time, I would just stick with the spinach, sweet potatoes, goat cheese and sunflower seeds. They are flavorful enough as is! So here is the finished product:

And here is the recipe:

Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad
One medium-sized sweet potato, peeled washed and cut into chunks
~2 cups baby spinach, stems taken off (this only applies if you buy the not pre-washed and pre-stemmed variety – a little bit of stem is okay)
~2 tbsps goat cheese (or however much you like – I like a lot of goat cheese)
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 small portobello mushrooms (or one large portobello)
Olive oil (enough to coat the base of the pan)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Now, first we must peel, wash and cut the sweet potato into bite-size chunks. Then, lightly toss the sweet potatoes in olive oil and give them a good sprinkle with salt and pepper. I know this is new, healthier lifestyle day one, but do NOT skimp on the salt. Salt makes things taste good! Once the potatoes are coated in oil and seasoned, place them in the oven for 30 minutes. Check them halfway through and turn them over. When they come out, they should be blistered and almost burnt looking. This is a good thing.

While the potatoes are in the oven, wash and remove the stems from the spinach. As well, cut up your mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. When the potatoes are out of the oven, pour some olive oil into a non-stick pan (enough to cover the base of the pan) and sautee the spinach for 2 minutes. Remove the spinach from the pan and place over the sweet potatoes on a plate. Then add more oil if the pan is dry and sautee the mushrooms until browned. Place the mushrooms on top of the spinach, then sprinkle goat cheese and sunflower seeds over top.

Yum.

What You Don’t Know About Saffron

This spice is worth its weight in gold. It holds the title as the world’s most expensive spice, and not just by a few dollars. Fortunately it’s reasonably affordable because it has a very strong flavor and is used in very small amounts – a pinch for most recipes.

Saffron is made from dried bright red stigmas of the saffron crocus. Each blossom has three thread-like stigmas that have to be removed by hand, and it takes 80,000 of them to make a pound of saffron! It isn’t hard to understand why it is so expensive.

After they are picked, they are carefully toasted to dry them. They are either left in threads or ground into a powder. Some people feel the powder is inferior to the threads, because fillers are sometimes ground into the mix. But if they are of the best quality you get more for your money because the powder has a much stronger flavor and you don’t have to use as much.

The threads need to be soaked in hot liquid for at least 20 minutes before cooking – the longer the better. Don’t use a whisk when stirring them, as they will get caught in the wires and will not blend properly into the food.

If a recipe calls for saffron, it isn’t a good idea to use a substitute. The flavor is so unique that nothing else will taste the same. To preserve that unique taste in a recipe, it’s better not to use other strong flavored spices, such as chili pepper, in the same dish, as it will overpower its taste.

If you want to add it to baked goods, go lightly, as the flavor will be more pronounced the next day.

Saffron will easily absorb other flavors and odors, so be careful where and how you store it. If you don’t use it very often it will keep for several years when it is stored in a dark space, and is sealed so no moisture can get to it.

When buying it, there are some things to look for. The threads should be a bright red, with no other color. Sometimes if it isn’t real saffron it will be tinted to make it look authentic, and splotches of yellow will be visible. Substitutions are sometimes made, but the product doesn’t look like threads. It may color food, but it won’t taste like saffron.

There are many recipes on the Internet that will give you ideas for using this exotic spice.