- 2 purple sweet potatoes, diced (you want the sweet potatoes that are purple on the inside, not just on the outside)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped, divided
- ½ bunch spinach, stems removed
- ½ avocado, diced
- 1 mango, peeled, seeded and diced
- ½ cup virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 I’itois onions or green onions, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- 1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Juice of ½ grapefruit, orange or lemon
- 2 tablespoons coconut chunks (I used the Coconut King frozen chunks) or unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate arils
About this recipe
I love the colors of the traditional King Cake, a Louisiana pastry that appears this time of year in celebration of Mardi Gras. King Cakes are typically eaten between Epiphany (January 6) and Ash Wednesday (February 14 in 2018). They’re a sweet bread, often glazed, and characterized with colored sugar stripes of purple, gold and green.
King Cake parties are a pretty huge deal in and around New Orleans. But, as with many things NOLA, there are important traditions and superstitions to keep in mind. Eating King Cake outside of the Carnival season is believed to cause it to rain on Mardi Gras day. If you’re planning to head to the big parade, exercise some discretion!
As much as I adore the pre-Lenten celebrations from everywhere I’ve experienced them, I’m just not much of a cake person, and I’m really not much of an artificial-coloring person. So I came up with a festive salad that still maintains the vibrant green, purple and gold of the King Cake, using fresh produce instead. It was important to maintain the colors, since each has special meaning.
• Purple represents justice.
• Green represents faith.
• Gold represents power.
And, since this is a salad created in honor of one of our country’s largest and most beloved parties, it also comes complete with its own edible confetti (coconut) and Mardi Gras beads (pomegranate arils).
It’s a very simple salad from a cooking perspective. It’s the assembly that may take some time. But I found the creative process relaxing and the result was so beautiful, it was worth the effort.
King Cakes were originally baked with a fava bean inside. Whoever found the bean in their piece became responsible for bringing the cake to the party the following year. The tradition has modernized, and these days a small plastic baby doll is placed inside the cake.
You can always hide a doll in your salad, just for fun (see it in my picture?). I found mine at the local bakery supply store. You would never believe what kinds of things you can buy there to place on cakes.
(The tradition is pretty much what our local Mexican community celebrates with the Rosca de Reyes. This cake is eaten on January 6, and whoever finds the baby brings the tamales to the February 2 Fiesta de la Candelaria.)
Reprinted from hipveggies.com with permission from the family. Monika Woolsey was a dietitian, local food activist, mentor and inspiration. She will be missed.
Roast the sweet potatoes.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Add the diced sweet potatoes, olive oil and 1 tablespoon thyme leaves to a mixing bowl. Toss until potatoes are thoroughly coated.
3. Spread sweet potatoes on a greased baking sheet, or on a silicon sheet that is lining a baking sheet.
4. Bake sweet potatoes until fork tender, stirring/turning frequently. It should take 20–30 minutes.
Prepare the spinach and arrange the color strips.
1. Arrange spinach leaves in salad bowl so that they cover the entire bottom of the bowl.
2. Divide avocado, mango and sweet potatoes into 4 equal portions.
3. Place each divided portion of avocado, mango and sweet potato onto the bed of spinach, forming equally sized wedges of rotating, alternating colors. When finished, you should have 4 wedges of mango, 4 wedges of sweet potatoes and 4 wedges of avocado/spinach.
Prepare salad dressing.
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, I’itois onions, garlic cloves, parsley, serrano chile, salt and grapefruit/ orange/lemon juice.
Add the party decorations!
1. Grate coconut chunks in a food processor. Sprinkle over salad.
2. Arrange pomegranate arils on the salad to resemble a string of Mardi Gras beads.
Dress and serve.
1. Drizzle dressing over salad to taste.
2. Toss all ingredients before serving.