Salad Days (and Nights)

15 Jan

To this American, the British seem to have mixed feeling about vegetables. These are people who get hugely excited about the first asparagus, but then take other vegetables and boil them like they were medieval heretics who refused to repent their green and leafy ways.

But to me, British ambivalence towards produce peaks when it comes to salad. At best, it’s considered an atonement for meaty, delicious sins, and at worst a forlorn interloper, to be nudged to the side of the plate and ignored.

And to be honest, I can’t blame people for their aversion. The salad served in most public places seems to be a fistful of either rocket or romaine, topped with pale-pink tomato and grated carrot and desultorily sprinkled with a greasy, sour concoction going by the name vinaigrette.

It’s a sad state of affairs, and one of the things that makes me truly homesick for California. I miss eating a salad for my lunch, one which has some form of protein in it, whether nuts, cheese, or even meat and fish. One that leaves me feeling full afterwards, but not stuffed. A salad where sweet and sour, savoury and bitter are all balanced.

I swear that if I ever open a café in this country, I will serve main-course salads at lunch! Office workers and shop clerks will sing my praises forevermore, and I’ll receive a special award from the Queen for making workers happier, healthier, and less sluggish in the afternoon!

But until that glorious day, I’ll just make them at home.

Butternut Squash and Beetroot Salad with Pistachio Dressing (via Everyday and Sunday: Recipes from Riverford Farm)
Serves 3-4 as a main course

Salad:

6 beetroot
700g butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1cm thick slices
½ a red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons light brown soft sugar
1 orange, peeled and pulled apart into segments
75g feta cheese

Dressing:

75g shelled unsalted pistachios
grated zest of 1 orange,
juice of half an orange
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Making the Thing

Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the beetroot in an oven tray with 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cover with tinfoil and roast for 1 hour. When cool enough handle, peel off the skin (a bit like peeling grapes) and cut each beet into eighths.

Meanwhile, put the prepared squash in another roasting tray, toss with another tablespoon olive oil, and roast until tender, around 30 minutes.

At the same time, mix the red onion, balsamic vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl and leave for 30 minutes, until the onion is lightly pickled.

For the dressing, toast the pistachios in a frying pan over medium heat until they start to brown and smell delicious. Remove from the heat and chop coarsely. Whisk together all the other dressing ingredients in a bowl until emulsified, then mix in the nuts.

To compose the salad, combine the beetroot, squash, and pickled onion in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then add the dressing and toss. Plate the salad, then sprinkle feta cheese over the top.

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One Response to “Salad Days (and Nights)”

  1. Lynne Hodgman January 17, 2012 at 6:43 AM #

    Love it! I’d probably arrange the root veggies over spring greens. Including maybe something a bit bitter. (Unlike your dad, I gotta have my greens!) There’s a greens-with-herbs bagged mix that has some radicchio and dill in it, pretty universally available here.

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