Day 5 of the Salad Week Series.
I didn’t know how this Salad series was going to turn out or how my readers and online friends would receive it. I’m happy to know so many people are interested in considering alternative ways of eating and feeding their bodies. When I started last week, my goal was to simply give us other options to leafy green salads. My gosh, they can be so boring. Ultimately, I did want you to think of vegetables and salads in a more positive way. I also wanted to find a path for all of us to look at salads in way where you’d be excited to make them more often and so that your family, especially your kids, if you have any, would really benefit. What I didn’t expect was a starter conversation about how crucial it is to know what our bodies need, what’s good for us, what’s not so great, and now we can more easily consume those foods we don’t always default to.
The first four salads were great and mostly unplanned. But this one has been on my mind since I conceptualized the series. My mother makes an amazing pan of hot and gorgeous oven roasted vegetables quite often. I love, love, love it. She seasons them so perfectly, with notes of Cuban influence in the sazón. She doesn’t have a recipe or method. Just kind of goes with whatever her palate calls for. I love her version so much, I take to making a similar pan myself.
But this particular salad, which is more of a plate, was inspired by beautiful dishes I enjoyed in Israel in late January. I didn’t have much in the way of root vegetables but I did enjoy come crazy good salads with pretty vegetables, both roasted and puréed. Most memorable was a bulgar and lentil salad with roasted okra and grilled onions. I’ll be making that dish to share with you for sure.
So this one is only inspired by that goodness I had. I wanted to make something super simple but super inviting. Root vegetables are incredibly filling and can go into just about anything. And if conceptualized fully, it can serve as a main course, not just a starter salad. Butternut squash is popular in Cuban cuisine. We call it calabaza. We eat it cold in this salad I’ve blogged about before and moreso in our frijoles colorado and even by favorite chicharos. We don’t usually keep the seeds, but it makes so much sense to use them whenvever you can. They make a great crunchy topping. And they made their way into this plato!
I also kept it just three vegetables with a great amount of whole cloves of garlic (some with paper) so that we could really focus on the individual beauty each one adds. The beets are the winner, here. It has taken me all of life to appreciate them. Ironically, a salad I made about 8 years ago started shifting my feelings. I found so many ways I could manipulate it to work with my picky palate. Roasting them in hole and part gave this a great bold punch. The asparagus is almost expected but we’re not mad about that.
What you don’t see much of is the boniato purée! Goodness. I love me some boniato, the white sweet potato. Or the Cuban white potato, as I’ve always known it. It’s a basic starch in our diet, typically eaten with cured meats such as tasajo. We seldom purée it like we do malanga (taro root), which is what I really wanted to use. Since I was out of that, boniato was the next best thing. A lovely brushing on the plate helped give some texture and depth.
The finishing touches I applied here are what make this so inviting and so perfectly suited to encourage your friends to eat more vegetables! It’s all about making something sexy and attractive. I don’t like wasting anything in m kitchen. I saw a great use for them the ugly part of the beets. Thos stalks made it into my food processor to make a dark liquid used to make a light and airy meringue. I’ve made something similar in this duck confit and Spanish omelette breakfast. I remembered how great it was, so it was glorious to incorporate an colorful fluffy puff to an otherwise very rustic plate. This is sexy stuff.
It was magnificent. All of it. With and without dressing. I did come up with one on the tail end of roasting, once I was able to determine how all the flavors married well, especially with the aromatic and tasty thyme.
I had an idea to a a light mustard champagne vinaigrette to complement the sweetness of it all. You can bypass it completely, but it adds a mild punch anyone would gladly spoon off the plate.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the series. I hope you’ve been inspired to make more salads and to be creative in your own kitchen. Kale doesn’t have to be this chunky celebrity leaf we keep seeing of in the same light. We can do so much with it! And, the beauty of cooking is that if it doesn’t work out the first time, we can also go back and fix it.
Here are a few fun salads for you to try!