I served it alongside some roast chicken, buttered green beans and couscous with pine nuts and currants. It was delicious. I think the salty, sweet and lemony flavors would make it a great accompaniment to many kinds of foods. I also think it would make an excellent tapa...or, as I discovered, a tasty appetizer. While the roasted sweet potatoes were marinating in their spicy, lemony dressing, I found that I could hardly keep my fingers out of them...nibbling away as I prepared the rest of the meal.
As it turns out, this is how salads like this are often served (in a much more purposeful way, of course...) in Morocco. Claudia Roden writes in her book Arabesque (in which she publishes a similar salad) that vegetable salads featuring ginger, cumin, paprika and lemon are frequently served as a starter. Typically they are then left on the table to be enjoyed with the main course...which is of course, just what I did. But I have to say, if you plan on following suit...and you are serving more than 2 or 3 people...you will need to make a bigger batch.
Moroccan Sweet Potato Salad
1 to 1 1/4 lbs. orange-fleshed Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small onion (4 to 5 oz.), finely diced
1/2 t. grated fresh ginger root
a pinch of saffron threads
1/4 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. paprika
Zest of half a lemon
6 or 7 coarsely chopped green olives (I used Picholine)
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 T. chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 to 2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl, season with salt and toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat. Spread in a baking dish and roast in a 375° oven until tender—about 45 to 50 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, warm a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a small sauté pan. Add the onion along with a pinch of salt and sweat until soft, tender and straw yellow in color—the edges may be beginning to lightly caramelize. Add the ginger, saffron, cumin and paprika and continue to cook for a minute or two. Set aside to cool briefly.
Transfer the onions to a bowl and add a tablespoon of olive oil, the lemon zest, olives, herbs and a tablespoon of lemon juice. If the mixture seems tight, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and lemon juice.
Spoon the marinade over the lukewarm sweet potatoes and let sit for 30 minutes, gently folding now and then. Taste and add more salt and or lemon juice as needed. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4.
Note: A bit of chopped preserved lemon would be an excellent addition to the marinade.
(Recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)