Yam, Poblano, and Corn Salad: A Perfect Barbecue Side

We had a perfect barbecue the other night. It came together the way summer parties should—casually—with invites issued when inspiration struck that morning at breakfast. Sure enough, plenty of our friends had no plans, and we had a bunch of sausages in the fridge that needed grilling, and the afternoon sun was golden and the breeze was soft. We haven’t gotten enough use of our balcony this summer, so we were determined to park ourselves out there for at least a few hours.

We grilled up bratwurst and hot Italian sausage,  garlic scapes, and long skewers of mushrooms. We ate a loaf of bread with the delicious ricotta spread from Andrew Carmellini’s cookbook Urban Italian. (By the way, does anyone want to try his new restaurant with me? I really, really want to go.)

The unexpected star of the meal was this refreshing side dish, a salad of sweet potatoes and smoky poblano peppers inspired by a recipe I saw in Bon Appetit. The combination of poblano and yam the magazine called for sounded delicious, but after I read those two ingredients, I pretty much ignored the rest of the recipe. I’m glad I wrote down the ingredients as I improvised, because this one is definitely a keeper, great for any barbecues or potlucks you have planned. The flavors mingle as time goes on, so feel free to make it a day ahead.

Once I’d latched on to poblano and yam, I decided to throw in a bunch of sweet corn and brighten it up with a lime juice based dressing, smoky with pimenton and a bit of chile powder. Instead of grilling the yams—which I’m not sure I could have managed without a huge mess—I simply cooked them in the microwave. Even though the yams ended up more mashed than chunked, giving the dish a bit of a strange appearance, everyone couldn’t stop eating it. The zing of lime and sweetness of the vegetables was so fresh and tangy, a great foil for the richness of grilled sausages.

We laughed and talked and passed the platters of food around until the sun went down, and stayed outside with a guitar and a giant bowl full of blueberries long past midnight. Sorry for the noise, neighbors.

Yam, Poblano, and Corn Salad

4 medium yams, washed but not peeled
2 poblano peppers (preferably unwaxed)
8 ears of fresh corn, shucked
3/4 cup cubed cojita cheese

for dressing
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3/4 tsp chili powder (blend)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp (pinch) smoked paprika
1 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
juice of four limes
1 tsp chopped cilantro
2 T olive oil
salt to taste

Garnish: additional cilantro and lime wedges

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil for the corn. In a small bowl, mix all dressing ingredients and let sit to infuse.

Pierce yams several times with a fork. Cook yams two at a time in the microwave until just tender, not overly soft. This will take about six minutes, depending on the size of the yams, turning every 2 minutes. Remove yams from microwave and let cool. Alternately you could steam or boil the yams, it just takes longer.

Using long metal tongs, toast poblano peppers directly over a gas flame untl blistered on all sides. Set aside to cool.

When water is boiling, add ears of corn (4 at a time if you’re using a less-than-gigantic pot) and cook about 1 minute—just until water returns to a boil after adding corn. Do not overcook! Cut kernels from cobs directly into a large serving bowl. Chop poblano and add to bowl. Peel yams, cut into chunks, and add to bowl along with cojita cheese. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat well. Yams may mash a bit, but that’s ok. Cover and refrigerate at least half an hour to mingle flavors, or make one day ahead. Serve at room temperature. Garnish with additional cilantro if desired and serve with lime wedges.

In corn, grilling, healthy, holidays, mexican, peppers, sides, vegetables, vegetarian, yams

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