Master the Formula for the Perfect Roasted Root Vegetable Salad
I’d like us to have a frank conversation about salads, particularly as part of your brunch buffet. Salads always seems like a good idea when planning your brunch. All that heavy, egg-, carb- and meat-forward, nap-inducing fare seems to cry out for something lighter and punchier to fill out the plate. Unfortunately, and I am as guilty of this as the next person, when most of us think salad, we automatically go to a greens sort of place. And when it comes to brunch, a green salad is just not really ideal. Brunch is about languorous lingering at table, and dressed greens go sad and limp awfully quickly. It's an occasion for the big flavors, and at the end of the day lettuces are pretty much just lettuces. Not to mention that after the party is over, whatever salad remains is sort of cashed, not terribly good for leftovers.
Enter the green-free brunch salad. This ratio-based salad does several things. One, it is vegetarian as well as dairy and gluten-free, so that can help any of your guest with dietary restrictions. It can even be vegan if you swap out the honey in the dressing for agave syrup. Two, you can make it, dressed, a day ahead and it is perfect, and leftovers last up to three days. Three, once you know the ratios and the dressing, the possible combinations are endless.
It was inspired by a friend of mine who brought a version of this salad to our book club recently, and just knocked everyone’s socks off with its genius simplicity. I’ve adjusted her recipe slightly and adapted it to work with any number of different components.
Essentially you are looking at a three-headed connection of roasted root vegetables to fresh fruit to toasted nuts, with a light lemon honey dressing. Could not be easier. Just refer to the handy lists below for inspiration, and I’ve included a couple of my favorite combinations. Keep it seasonal to ensure that the fruit is at its peak. I like to keep them simple, but if you want to add in some extra zhuzh-ing like crumbled goat cheese or feta or shaved Parmesan, no one will blame you.
Roasted Root Brunch Salad
For the salad:
4 cups of the root vegetable of your choice, cut into ½ inch dice and roasted until cooked, but still al dente
1 ½ cups of the fresh fruit of your choice, cut into ½ inch dice if appropriate
1 cup of toasted nuts of your choice, whole for small nuts or lightly chopped for larger nuts
¼ cup chopped herb of your choice, parsley is my go-to, but feel free to experiment
1 shallot, minced fine
For the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
In a large bowl, combine the diced vegetables, fruit and nuts with the herbs and shallot. Put all of the dressing into a small jar and shake till combined, then pour over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Vegetables: squashes like butternut, kuri, acorn or delicata, celery root, carrot, parsnip, beets, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, turnip
Fruit: apple, pear, plum, pomegranate seeds, orange, grapefruit, tangerine, grapes, blueberries, nectarines, peaches
Nuts: pecan, walnut, pine nut, peanut, hazelnut, almond, pistachio
Herbs: parsley, dill, cilantro, basil, tarragon, sorrel, chervil, chive, marjoram
My friend’s original genius combination was butternut squash, pomegranate seeds, peanuts and parsley. Some other combos that work great are: parsnip with pear and walnut and marjoram; golden beets with orange and pistachio and dill; carrot with plums and almonds and chervil; celery root with apple and hazelnuts and tarragon.