While it certainly isn’t salad season, spring is on the horizon. There is something hopeful about a light refreshing salad even when February’s winds are blowing and frost coats the kitchen windows.
Recognizing that a salad doesn’t have to mean lettuce really opens up the options. A salad with such vegetables as squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, celeriac and winter radishes can rival the sunnier, more colorful vegetables that will soon be on their way. Adding a grain, such as quinoa, and a protein such as tofu or chicken, creates a delicious and satisfying one-dish meal.
The trick is to work with contrasting textures, colors and flavors. Roasting the root vegetables draws out their earthy sweetness and gives them a nice caramelized finish. You can roast them all at once, but make sure they are cut the same size and shape so that they cook evenly. You can do this in advance; the roasted vegetables will hold in a covered container in the refrigerator for several days. Simply reheat before using.
Winter radishes, such as beauty heart, black radish and daikon, add a peppery, snappy crunch.
Vinaigrettes are the best way to dress winter salads. Tart and sweet, they play on the robust flavors and textures of the winter roots. The dressing can be as simple as whisking together olive, sunflower or hazelnut oil with a splash of balsamic, sherry or cider vinegar or a squeeze of lemon, lime or blood orange juice.
There is so much pleasure in creating salads that suit the season. These wintry combinations make great use of the odds and ends from the previous evening’s dinner, as well as underappreciated vegetables such as celeriac and black radish.
And the recipes are open to interpretation. Add cheeses, roast meat, grilled fish. Serve them warm or at room temperature. Many of my best weekday dinners are these kinds of salads, with whatever happens to be on hand.
WINTER VEGETABLE SALAD WITH QUINOA AND TOFU
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: This hearty salad is a meal in a bowl. Delicious warm or at room temperature, the entire dish can be made several hours before serving. You can substitute 1 cup of any cooked grain (farro, barley, brown or wild rice) for the quinoa. You can substitute 1 cup of any cooked, cubed chicken or pork for the tofu. If you can find a black radish, use a single one with this salad instead of the usual variety. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 c. water
• 1/2 c. quinoa (see Note)
• 14-oz. pkg. extra-firm, water-packed tofu, rinsed and cut into 1-in. cubes (see Note)
• 2 to 3 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
• Pinch red pepper flakes
• 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-in. coins
• 2 parsnips, cut into 1/4-in. coins
• Several radishes, cut into 1/4-in. dice (see Note)
• 1 rib celery, diced
• 1/4 c. chopped cilantro or parsley
• 3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1/2 tsp. sugar
• 1/4 tsp. salt or to taste
• Pinch ground black pepper
• 1/4 c. olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil and add the quinoa. Reduce heat and simmer until the grain is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and drain off any excess water and set aside.
Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel and toss with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes to coat. Spread out the tofu on a baking sheet so the cubes are not touching. Roast in the oven until the cubes get puffy and brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.
While the tofu is roasting, toss the carrots and parsnip with the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven until they are tender and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
To make the vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Then whisk in the 1/4 cup olive oil. Set aside.
Toss together the quinoa, tofu, roasted vegetables, radish, celery and cilantro with enough dressing to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:
Calories 270 Fat 18 g Sodium 130 mg
Carbohydrates 20 g Saturated fat 2 g Calcium 146 mg
Protein 9 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 4 g
Diabetic exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 1 bread/starch, ½ medium-fat meat, 3 fat.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.