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grilled sweet potatoes, cherry salsa + the side dishes


I love an easy, healthy and unusual side dish for summer dinners, and this one fits the bill pretty nicely. In fact, I’ve spent a good amount of time looking forward to side dishes lately. The vegetables, the whole grains, the crusty bread, the salads; just filling out that plate like I know how (I absolutely know how). Wholesome summer sides are kind of my scene. And maybe spontaneous ice cream outings. Those are important too.

This is likely a by-product of saying nay to meat for most of my adult life or maybe I just have an insane loyalty to vegetables. It’s lovely when family or friends invite you over for a barbecue with (hopefully veggie, grain and bean-based) burgers, but what about those side dishes? I don’t think I’m alone in my curiosity/sincere appreciation/true, undying love for them.

I’m also fully aware that finding a scrap of motivation to make something other than a leafy salad, cheese and crackers, sliced fruit, a glass of water with a slice of lemon even etc. is kind of a miracle nowadays for a lot of us. Thirty plus degrees Celsius (or higher)?! Sorry, oven. You lose this round (except when a fancy cake is happening–I still love you seriously). Summer living is meant to be easy, fun and smiley; not frustrated-frizzy-haired-red-oven-glow-sorta-shiny-grrr-face awfulness. Staying cool and keeping your coiffed hairs, well…, coiffed is ideal.

I steam the wedges of sweet potato first to get them mostly cooked (like super quickly), slather them in a chili flecked marinade for a bit, make up a sweet and tangy cherry salsa, grill up the wedges, spoon the salsa on top, and add a sprinkle of toasty pecans at the end. Sweet and spicy, so easy, super flavourful and light. I don’t recommend too many heat-based cooking methods in this kind of humidity, but once the sun retreats in the evening, grilling is totally alright with me, especially with a cool drink in the non-tongs-holding hand.

Chopping up the cooked sweet potatoes and tossing them with the cherry salsa, a bit more olive oil, a good pinch of salt and a cup or so of cooked quinoa makes for an awesome picnic side or, you know, a tupperware full of goodness that you can dig your fork into every time you pass the fridge. Either way, really.

I’ve accepted that it might be a while before we get ripe, juicy summer tomatoes. In the meantime, this super fun and beautiful summer side dish is suiting me just fine.


grilled sweet potatoes with cherry salsa and quinoa
serves: 4 (6-8 with the quinoa)
notes: You kind of have to par-boil or par-steam the sweet potatoes before grilling. It’s only, like, 5 minutes of stove steaminess though. Not too bad, right? Instructions for making this into a little quinoa salad are at the bottom.

for the sweet potatoes:
3 small-medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges or rounds
1.5 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chipotle powder (or to taste)
pinch of chili flakes
salt and pepper

for the cherry salsa:
heaped cup of de-stemmed sweet, black cherries, pitted
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated on a rasp zester
zest and juice of 1 lime
black pepper

to serve:
a handful of pecans, roughly chopped
salt to taste

for the quinoa salad variation:
1/2 cup quinoa, soaked and rinsed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
2 green onions, thinly sliced
big handful of pecans, chopped
lots of salt and pepper

Place a large pot with about 2 inches of water on medium heat. Bring to a simmer and place cut sweet potatoes onto a steamer basket. Lower steamer basket into the pot, put a lid on top and steam the sweet potatoes for 5-7 minutes or until just tender. Remove wedges with a pair of tongs, placing into a large tupperware container.

Cover the cooked sweet potatoes with the grapeseed oil, lime zest, lime juice, ground cumin, chipotle, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the cherry salsa: chop the pitted cherries roughly and place in a medium bowl. Add the sliced green onions, grated ginger, lime zest, lime juice and black pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.

Heat a your grill or grill pan to medium-high. Place marinated wedges, cut side down (as opposed to peel-side down) on the grill. Flip wedges after about 2-3 minutes. Cook other side for another 2 minutes and remove sweet potatoes from the grill.

To serve: Place wedges face up on a plate, season with salt if you like and cover with the cherry salsa.

For the quinoa salad variation: cook the quinoa in 1 cup of water over medium heat. Bring the quinoa to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until all of the water us absorbed. Remove from the heat and place into a large bowl. To the quinoa, add chopped sweet potatoes, the cherry salsa, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, the juice of 1 lime, the sliced green onions, chopped pecans, salt and pepper.

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Sara21/06/2012 - 4:18 pm

I love that first photo–such gorgeous colors and amazing arrangement. I could never make the cherry salsa, though I think it sounds like an amazing idea–I would eat them all before they made it any further!

Jacqui21/06/2012 - 4:19 pm

I just grilled up some sweet potatoes and asparagus for dinner last night, so wish I had topped them with this cherry salsa, looks amazing! Instead we had cherries for dessert : )

Yossy | apt2bbakingco21/06/2012 - 6:03 pm

This recipe looks delicious and my, my that is a good looking cherry pitter. Now, if I could only find myself a grill…

Kathryn21/06/2012 - 6:16 pm

Sides are always one of my favourite parts of a meal too – there’s so much room for originality and inspiration like this cherry salsa which sounds wonderful with the grilled sweet potatoes.

Grishma @Zaikazabard21/06/2012 - 6:32 pm

As soon I get cherries, I am making this for sure! Glad to find ur blog..you have got a new follower! Looking forward to your vegetarian recipes :)

sara21/06/2012 - 7:11 pm

I’ve contributed to a few vegetarian thanksgiving articles lately, and I keep hearing from the editors “we want things to be main course focused, not just side dishes’. The thing is, us vegetarians live off well rounded side dishes, gladly, that is not a sacrifice! I love the way you think, and this looks incredible. All my favorite things :) beautiful work.

sarah21/06/2012 - 10:31 pm

This is perfect! Really, what a great combination of flavors. And the cherry photos! Stunning. I keep looking at them, they are so beautiful. {nice work, Ms. Laura}

[...] Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cherry Salsa & Quinoa. [...]

Melissa Cowan22/06/2012 - 1:43 am

This dish sounds amazing and the pictures are stunning! I really like the first photo at the top of the post, it has done it’s job, I want to make this salad! Thanks for sharing.

Márcia Gonçalves22/06/2012 - 5:24 am

Cherry salsa? What an unexpected/amazing combination of flavors!
And your photos are really beautiful, congratulations

Julia22/06/2012 - 9:48 am

This sounds lovely, a great flavour combination I can already feel on my taste buds!

Sarah B.22/06/2012 - 12:02 pm

Laura- Cherry salsa is a spectacular thing, wow! I love this combination. Pairing it with grilled sweet potato wedges? Pretty genius if you ask me. Bring us more sides babe!

Rachel22/06/2012 - 12:19 pm

This is truly an unusual summer side! I might even eat this for dessert…at least a first dessert before ice cream.
Side dishes are important for non meat eaters like myself when it comes to summer barbecues. Sometimes I have to make a meal of side dishes. It’s nice to see one with quinoa for the protien too!

Mara @ Elemental Custard22/06/2012 - 5:32 pm

This looks phenomenal! I love the colours. Your photo is stunning – I definitely want to make this stat!

myfudo23/06/2012 - 1:57 am

The dark orange sweet potato looks so yummy. Can’t wait to try this recipe. It is indeed BBQ season.

Kathryne23/06/2012 - 1:21 pm

I love sweet potatoes so much and never would have thought to add cherries, or cherry salsa, no less! Also? I think I’ve always preferred side dishes, I live off them!

Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies23/06/2012 - 3:18 pm

I’m glad you commented on my blog because now I found yours. And then I found this recipe. And whoa, this recipe! This is going on my summer must-make list for sure. :)

Kathy Patalsky23/06/2012 - 8:52 pm

yummmm. Lovely pics Laura :)

Linda23/06/2012 - 10:17 pm

I assume these to be sweet cherries?

Laura24/06/2012 - 1:34 am

Yes they are sweet cherries, Linda! I’ll fix that in the recipe. Thanks :)

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar24/06/2012 - 5:58 pm

This salsa is so unique! Love this idea!

Amy24/06/2012 - 6:56 pm

Oh my gosh this looks so yummy! I cant wait to try this, now that I have some cherries!

[...] Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cherry Salsa – Bring something a little different to grill this holiday with this sweet potato recipe! Sweet potatoes are amazing when grilled and this cherry salsa looks fantastic! [...]

kale25/06/2012 - 1:51 pm

This is something I’ve never even considered! Cherries on sweet potatoes..? But it looks so yummy! Must try…

Hannah27/06/2012 - 5:20 pm

That cherry salsa, holy wow! I am a huge fruit-salsa person, but this is a combination I have not ever seen before. Have you tried adding heat? I’m thinking a serrano or a thai bird chili might be a nice addition … hm. Can’t wait to try this one!

Javelin Warrior29/06/2012 - 12:10 am

On Fridays, I share my favorite food finds in a series called Food Fetish Friday – and I love this post so I’m featuring it as part of the roundup (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and I always love dropping by to see what you’ve created…

Katie03/07/2012 - 2:21 am

Woah, you had me at cherry salsa. I’m traveling back to Canada in a few weeks for a summer vacation and the local cherries should be in full swing then. I’ve got this recipe bookmarked to make then. Thanks so much for the recipe!

[...] Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cherry Salsa from The First Mess [...]

[...] of dreamy summer meals simmering away over time. My love of juicy fruit in savory dishes is pretty obvious at this point and tacos are the perfect outdoor-dwelling-with-a-cool-drink-in-the-other-hand-kinda food (my heart [...]

meatballs & milkshakes25/07/2012 - 11:25 am

Really beautiful pictures! They’re inspiring me to eat something healthy today!

[...] (4) This one is so beautiful. Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cherry Salsa. [...]

colleen b.08/08/2012 - 4:15 pm

I made this last night and it was delicious! I kind of combined the salad idea with the side dish idea to make a main dish and served the wedges over the quinoa with the salsa on top. It looked beautiful and was so easy…made me look and feel like a bit of a master chef ;) Amazing flavors, thank you for sharing!

Kathy Patalsky11/08/2012 - 4:12 pm

Hey, found someome stealing photos – many of mine – saw yours too – recognized from finding vegan post .. http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=396491057065880&set=a.396490957065890.86969.318040668244253&type=3&theater

SO annoying.

K

[...] Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cherry Salsa  [...]

Elizabeth07/06/2013 - 8:18 pm

Just saw this recipe and have to say it looks incredible. I have a pretty serious love for savory cherry treatments. I’ll have to start ogling our local cherry trees more intently as I hope for cherry season.

[...] Row 1: Thai Sweet Potato Stacks, Sweet Potato Almond Butter Muffins, Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cherry Salsa [...]

Life Images by Jill29/07/2013 - 12:10 am

oh this looks so delicious I am going to try this out when summer comes around! thanks! ps – fabulous food photography too!

[…] Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Ginger Cherry Salsa lets us channel your summer into our side dish. (via The First Mess) […]

Tina21/04/2014 - 1:27 pm

You have got to be THE most amazing, creative food creator out there!! The pictures are always stunning! And the recipes unheard-of! Thank you sooo much for sharing!

[…] via The First Mess […]

Ella23/06/2014 - 8:51 pm

I made this for a dinner party last night and it was KILLER- a direct quote from my mom who despises sweet potatoes. Thank you so much for sharing!
http://www.youtube.com/sparklesandsuch26

Five for Friday {6.27.14} -27/06/2014 - 7:04 am

[…] // Favorite meal this week: Grilled sweet potatoes with cherry salsa and quinoa. Dr. G. made this last Saturday night and holy cow! Amazing. Leftovers also made for a wonderful […]

[…] Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Cherry Salsa and Quinoa via The First Mess. […]

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