From the Kitchen – A Splash of Colour

by Joan Saunders | photos by Amanda Cribdon Photography – 

I find that January is a time to pull back a bit from the excesses of the holiday season, hibernate a little and enjoy some hearty, healthy and heart-warming winter meals. Of course, there’s always the pesky question of resolutions, but I consistently and irritatingly make the same ones each year: move more, eat well and nutritiously. Fortunately, I can feel slightly smug and start the year off right with this recipe.

I often forget how flavourful and colourful winter meals are. As food can, and should, be both pleasing to the eye and to the palate, looking to local food stands and veggie markets provides some wonderful inspiration to bring a little splash of colour to our often drab winter days. This salad, which uses roasted beets and squash, can be a side dish to a bigger meal, such as with chicken or ham, or can be a tasty lunch on its own with some crusty bread or buttermilk biscuits.

The mixture of vinegars gives this recipe a lovely zing, and when you add in peppery arugula and some crumbled, salty feta, you have layers of taste which complement the earthiness of the beets and sweetness of the squash. I suggest that you use delicata or butternut squash, but you could always substitute your favourite, such as acorn, hubbard or buttercup; see what you’re drawn to as you wander through the market. Whatever you prefer will work well.

I never used to toast walnuts when I needed to add them to a salad, but taking a few minutes to do this on the stovetop makes a difference as it brings out the natural oils while drawing out the richness of the nut. Toasting the nuts prior to adding them to a recipe can improve the flavour and texture of any dish. Just be careful not to burn them, as I’ve done that before and the taste is most definitely not pleasant, no matter how much you justify your lack of attention. Believe me, I know.

And after you’ve put all of the components of this salad together, take some time to admire what you’ve done as you’ve just added some fabulous colours and flavours to your meal. And that is something worth celebrating in January or, really, at any time of year.

Roasted Beet & Squash Salad
2 to 2 ½ pounds delicata or
butternut squash
1 ½ pounds beets
arugula (about 2 big handfuls)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tbsp olive oil (divided)
2 tbsp walnut oil
3 tbsp chopped walnuts, toasted
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs of your choice: parsley, chives, mint
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Roast beets. Preheat oven to 425°. Cut the greens off beets, leaving ½ inch of stem attached. Scrub beets; place in baking dish or ovenproof casserole dish. Add about ¼ inch of water to dish. Cover tightly with lid or foil; bake 35-40 minutes (until the beets are tender when pierced). Remove from oven and allow beets to cool.

Line another roasting pan or baking sheet with parchment or foil. Peel squash; cut it into ½ inch thick slices. Toss squash with 2 tsp of olive oil and some salt; place the slices on baking sheet. Roast 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through the baking time, until lightly browned and tender. You can roast squash at same time as you cook the beets; watch them carefully if you have to put the baking sheet on lower rack. Remove squash from oven; allow to cool completely.

Mix together vinegars, garlic, salt, pepper, remaining olive oil (3 ½ tbsp) and walnut oil. Toast walnuts in small frying pan on stove for about 3-4 minutes on low-medium heat, tossing them once in a while. Let cool completely. When beets are cool enough to handle, trim ends off, slip off skins, cut in half, then slice into half-moon shapes (also cut squash in half-moons if a bit big). Toss beets with half of prepared salad dressing. In a separate bowl, toss roasted squash with remaining dressing.

Place arugula on a platter, leaving a space in the middle. Arrange beets and squash as you would like in the middle of platter; drizzle on any remaining dressing. Alternating the colours always looks good. Sprinkle on walnuts, feta and fresh herbs. Serve.

You can always roast the veggies ahead of time, store covered in the fridge, then assemble the salad.

Adapted from:

And from some ideas from my friend, Kelly. Thanks.

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