If we didn’t have 150 pounds of pork in the freezer, I could eat a warm salad of winter greens and roasted veggies every night. (Roy, not so much.) This is one of those recipe/techniques that I unapologetically come back to again and again—Warm Winter Salad of Roasted Root Fries (The Fresh and Green Table), Warm Bistro Salad with Tiny Roasted Root Vegetables and Bacon Dressing (Fast, Fresh & Green), and Quick-Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Salad with Ginger Lime Vinaigrette (coming in Fresh from the Farm), to name a few. (Hmmm, it appears I’m not averse to sneaking pork into these things, so you could certainly have your salad, and your bacon, too.)
The appeal of a warm salad with crispy, yummy roasted veggies served atop deep, dark greens with a bracing vinaigrette is the interplay between fresh and comforting. I also like the textural contrast, and to be honest, the visual appeal. These days, I don’t compose the salads so much as scatter-and-platter them. It’s a looser, more rustic look, and served family-style, more casual. But you can always arrange the salads on individual serving plates if you like.
It occurred to me this week that I should back up, look at the architecture of these salads, and come up with a template you could use, depending on whatever greens and winter veggies you’ve got hanging around.
Plus, I needed an excuse to show off my greens that are still alive in the market garden. (Ahem, again, unapologetic…) So this morning after my chicken chores (no frozen water—yay!), I took a bowl and scissors and collected a nice combo of mizuna, Ruby Streaks mustard, Russian kale, arugula, tat soi, parsley, a few baby bok choy leaves, and even a few carrot tops. It’s amazing what lives through freezing temperatures and unfortunate ice formations; the arugula is particularly hearty, and one of my lettuces, Winter Marvel, acts like it doesn’t even know its December. (Alas, soon enough, nothing will be growing, even if it stays alive, since we’re now down below the critical mark of 10 hours of daylight. I’ve got lots of lettuce and greens down in the hoop house which I am just hoping to keep alive and harvest sparingly until early February, when 10+hours returns and they’ll start growing again.)
Realistically, most of us will be harvesting greens for our winter salads from the grocery store, so here’s your chance to buy baby kale, escarole and frisee, sturdy spinach, and anything that’s got some backbone or body. Make your own custom mix, and try to steer away from bagged mixes of salad greens, which tend to be less fresh than heads or bunches and also contain filler lettuces which don’t hold up to warm vinaigrettes too well.
For your veggie mix, choose from sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, beets, or butternut squash. Dice them quite small so that they’ll roast quickly; most won’t need peeling—but for the butternut. (For a pretty all squash-salad, you could use thinly sliced acorn and/or Delicata rings, which don’t need peeling and will also cook quickly.) Add diced pears or apples to the veggie mix if you want, and customize your salad with whatever toasted nuts and good quality cheeses you like. Use your favorite vinegar in the warm vinaigrette, and don’t be shy with a squeeze of lemon or lime to juice it up.
Here’s my template—I hope it will make a nice starting point for you. If you come up with a really delicious combo, I’d love to hear about it!
Be sure to cut your veggies into evenly small pieces so they’ll all cook at the same rate. Don’t be tempted to crowd them on one pan, either—a little room around them will brown them up better. (Unless, of course, you want to cut this recipe in half, which is perfectly doable.) If you decide to include beets in your veggie mix, toss them with a little oil and salt separately from the rest or they’ll tend to color everything else.
For the salad:
1½ to 1¾ pounds combination sweet potatoes (unpeeled), potatoes (unpeeled), carrots (peeled), parsnips (peeled), turnips (unpeeled), beets (unpeeled), butternut squash (peeled), firm-ripe pears (peeled), or Golden Delicious apples (unpeeled), cut into small dice (about 3/8-inch in diameter) (about 5 to 6 cups)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 to 7 cups combination sturdy mixed winter greens (such as baby kale, escarole, frisee, arugula, mustard, or tat soi)
¼ cup chopped toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts
½ to 2/3 cup crumbled good quality blue cheese, feta cheese, goat cheese or 1/3 cup coarsely grated aged gouda or Parmigianno
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried cherries, cranberries, raisins, figs, pitted dates, or other dried fruit (optional)
For the vinaigrette:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, or cider vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice (more to taste)
½ teaspoons lemon or lime zest
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves (or other herb of choice)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line two large rimmed heavy-duty baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large, wide mixing bowl, combine the veggies, the 4 tablespoons olive oil, and a scant teaspoon kosher salt. Toss well and spread in one layer on the two baking sheets. Roast, rotating the sheet pans once (and flipping the veg with a spatula if you like), until the veggies are nicely browned and tender, about 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes on the sheet pans and then combine in a mixing bowl.
While the vegetables are roasting, put the greens in a wide heat-proof mixing bowl. Set out a serving platter or four serving plates.
Make the warm vinaigrette: Heat the 1/3 cup olive oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are browned and crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Take the skillet off the heat and remove the shallot rings with a fork, transferring them to a paper-towel lined plate. Let the oil cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, the maple syrup, the Dijon, the juice, the zest, the herbs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Whisk vigorously until the dressing is mostly emulsified. (Alternatively, first transfer the shallot-infused oil to a heat-proof Pyrex liquid measure, add the other ingredients and whisk well. This is a slightly less awkward way of making the dressing). Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon or lime juice, salt or pepper as needed.
Season the greens with a sprinkling of kosher salt and drizzle over them a few tablespoons of the warm vinaigrette. (Be sparing at this point). Toss well, taste, and add a little more dressing if necessary. Arrange most of the greens on your platter or serving plates. Sprinkle with half of the nuts, cheese, and fruit.
Season the roasted veggies with a pinch more salt, and dress them lightly with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Toss well and scatter over the greens. Garnish with remaining nuts, cheese, fruit, greens, and reserved shallots. Serve right away, passing the remaining dressing if desired.
P.S. Farmer enjoyed harvesting greens this morning, too!