roasted winter vegetable salad

January 4, 2012

Have you read this article in the New York Times? Recently I told Dan I’d like to gain some more confidence in the kitchen and perfect more basics and “weeknight” type meals. My interest in cooking and baking was first piqued by reading other food blogs, most of which (like mine) focus on recipes.

I’m good at following instructions and I think I have a good sense of what will work well together and turn out tasty. But often I lean on recipes like too much of a crutch, following instructions and ingredients to the tee, mainly through fear of messing something up should I go astray. This is the primary reason I like simple recipes. They allow for some variation and adaptation without fear of anything collapsing, burning, or blowing up.

What this article talks about though, is something that really speaks to me and that is ditching recipes and instead familiarizing yourself with basic techniques and skills. If, like me, you didn’t grow up around parents who cooked from scratch at every opportunity then there’s a high likelihood that conjuring up a great meal after one glance in the fridge as if by magic doesn’t really work for you.

So I give you this salad in the spirit of simplifying life and ditching recipes every now and then in favour of spending less time thinking about food and more time just enjoying it.

I started with some fresh arugula (rocket, in the UK. A much cooler name, incidentally.) and then found a selection of root vegetables (choose whatever is in season where you are – carrots, parsnips, potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes, turnips – see what you find). I always find roasting vegetables to be the simplest way to bring out their delicious flavour. (You know my feelings on roasted broccoli.)

What really does the trick here though, is the dressing. It’s very simple but it just elevates this into proper salad territory. Red wine vinegar (balsamic would be good too), lemon juice, salt and pepper, mustard, fresh parsley. Bam. Throw some tangy feta cheese on top and you. are. golden.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 handfuls arugula (rocket)
  • 2 carrots, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 2 parsnips, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1 beet, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 small sweet potato, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Toss chopped parsnips, carrots, beets, and sweet potato in a roasting pan and drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast , shaking and turning occasionally for about 30-45 minutes.
  2. While those are roasting, add walnuts to a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 6-10 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and chop them into small pieces.
  3. Next make your dressing: get a big bowl and whisk together the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, remaining olive oil and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the chopped parsley. Add the vegetables, walnuts, and arugula to the dressing and toss. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and serve with a nice hunk of bread.
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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle January 4, 2012 at 8:48 am

This salad is everything I’ve been craving and more. I love what it represents. Thanks for sharing the article and your own experience!

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Emily @LivingLongfellow January 4, 2012 at 9:37 am

I’m one of those people who struggles to throw together a meal without a recipe. Salads though are something I enjoy getting creative with. That dressing sounds wonderful.

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Laurie Jesch-Kulseth @ Relishing It January 4, 2012 at 10:54 am

Looks gorgeous, Angharad!

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leslie January 4, 2012 at 10:59 am

it’s funny, i have a similar goal as you for this year, but i’m coming at it from a completely different place. i’ve never been a recipe follower, and i want to start actually following recipes in order to truly learn the techniques that make them work and become a more well-rounded, confident chef. i’ll be interested to see the things you try out in the next few months!

also, this salad looks perfect. just the kind of thing i want this time of year.

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Angharad January 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I reckon we’re a bit of a balance, you and I. I do want to learn some more techniques, but only so I don’t need a recipe to rely on. You want the structure of a recipe AND the technique. Either way, together my friend, we could cook up a storm!

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holly January 4, 2012 at 11:29 am

this is totally how i cook! honestly, most of my recipes aren’t *really* recipes but rather ingredients i’ve just kind of thrown together knowing (a) basic flavors that pair well, (b) basic techniques for making things and (c) whatever comes out of it, i’ll be eating anyways.

off to read the article now…

p.s. the salad looks super yummy!

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Kara January 4, 2012 at 11:34 am

Lovely post. I’m yearning for healthy and colorful
salads this time of year.

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dana @ my little celebration January 4, 2012 at 11:38 am

Oh yum! It looks so hearty and yet light and refreshing. Bravo, friend!

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Lauren January 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

tweeted with you about this, loved that article. I’m a recipe follower as well. Funny enough, I have beets roasting as we speak and love the sound of this salad “Roasted and Rocket” has a nice ring too. Great blog.

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janetha January 4, 2012 at 1:23 pm

gorgeous! and i am sure delicious!

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Deanna January 4, 2012 at 5:02 pm

I grew up in a house where everything was made from scratch with what we had. I think that sometimes people follow recipes too closely, as in “I don’t have a shallot so I can’t make it” instead of thinking “eh. An onion is close enough.” I think a balance of both is good, and I tend to use a recipe as a jumping off point, not the destination. Good luck on your kitchen experiments! I’m sure they’ll be delicious.

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Angharad January 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Deanna, I completely agree! Adapting recipes in this way is one thing I’m certainly good at and it saddens me that some people feel crippled by not having access to one totally adaptable item! I think I’m probably more balanced in this respect than I give myself credit for but there’s always room for growth and improvement hence how much this article grabbed me. p.s. Lucky you growing up with scratch-chefs at home! :)

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sofia January 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm

totally with you – this is my favorite kind of cooking! i too want to get back to the basics (or really just LEARN the basics) and then get creative on my own.

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Marisa January 5, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Haha – you sound exactly like me. I am usually pretty terrified at the notion of stepping outside of a recipe book. For me it was difficult as I am primarily a baker and of course baking does require a much more strict adherence to the recipe. So cooking has always been a challenge for me. But, over the past two years I have ventured out a bit more and have had some successes with pulling something together on my own. I was forced into cooking more often over the past 2 years due to a family illness and I credit this with helping me to gain confidence with my cooking skills. But, I still have a long, long way to go. 99% of the time I’ll stick with a trusty recipe – but every now and then I get adventurous and go out on my own – fortunately all of my efforts have not been complete disasters!

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Angharad January 5, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Oh my gosh, Marisa, YES. Such a big point that I forgot to mention is that I’m a baker at heart too! And we all know baking is for type a, follow-the-book people :) It is really hard (I find) to go from baking, which as you say is about precision, to cooking which is a much more liberated style of food creation. Glad to hear you’ve had the opportunity (even if at a difficult time) to branch out and cook it up :)

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anna January 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

You should check out the books by Michael Ruhlman. Ratio is one, can’t remember the name of the other, but both focus on learning the science behind what makes food work together (balancing acid, how baked goods rise etc.) They’re on my wishlist, so if you get them, share the info love ;)

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Angharad January 6, 2012 at 9:12 pm

I was talking to Dan about the desire to know more about the science behind cooking. Part of me wants to learn that but part of me also just wants to learn how to be more intuitive with food. Great resources, thanks for sharing them – and ditto on the info sharing! x

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