Though we associate salads with summer, there’s no reason they should be relegated only to the season that produces the most local veggies. It makes sense to have salad for dinner when it’s too hot to turn on the oven, but when it’s cold out, why not turn the oven on to make your salad?
A salad has no clear parameters. It’s not defined by its ingredients – even if our thoughts first jump to leafy greens, there are also fruit salads, pasta salads, potato salads and tuna salads. There’s ambrosia salad, made with canned pineapple, coconut and Cool Whip – proof that anything can be called salad. It’s also not the structure – a salad can be tossed, chopped, composed, gelled and slawed. Most salads are cold, but warm salads exist, too.
And now’s the time for them. Try jumbling warm roasted veg with salad-friendly ingredients – then drizzle with a vinaigrette, creamy dressing or something saucy. Winter salads often call for hardy brassicas – kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage – and winter squash, all of which benefit from roasting. “Baked salads” are popping up on social food feeds, but when I cook veggies at high temperatures, I think of it as roasting, boosting natural sweetness and creating charred, caramelized edges. (The terms are often interchangeable; why do you roast a turkey, but bake a ham?)
The best salads have a range of flavours and textures – crunchy and soft, sweet, salty and briny, rich, creamy and acidic. Add high-water veggies, the ones that deliver the juiciest crunch, such as celery, raw – ditto sweet/crunchy/acidic apples and pears. Lemons and mandarin oranges can be halved and roasted alongside your veggies, then squeezed overtop or into your vinaigrette. For a protein boost, roast chickpeas or butter beans along with your veg, or add egg and cheese – for a creamy contrast, roll soft chèvre or plant-based feta into small balls, then roll in za’atar or everything bagel mix.
And because all salads benefit from something crunchy, oily and salty on top, you can roast chunks of bread along with your veggies to make croutons. Or take a couple crusts from the freezer and pulse them in the food processor with a clove of garlic and a big pinch of salt, perhaps some walnuts, a bit of lemon zest, or some parsley (or all of the above), and toast them in a drizzle of oil or butter in a skillet to scatter overtop.
Recipe: Winter Roasted Salad
The ingredients here are completely flexible; use what you like, or what you have, in quantities suited to your appetite and how many people are at your table. Cut your veggies into similar sizes, or if you’re roasting different kinds, cut the dense ones (carrots, sweet potato) into smaller chunks, or give them more time before adding the others to the pan. (Remember, they’ll shrink as they cook.) And of course any dressing you love will probably be perfect on your salad.
Dense winter veggies such as carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, rapini, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, squash or anything else you like
Cooked or canned pulses, such as lentils, butter beans or chickpeas
Canola or other vegetable or olive oil, for cooking
Lemon or mandarin orange, halved
Cooked grains, such as barley or farro
Bread slices or ends
Chopped apple or pear
Cheese or plant-based cheese
Vinaigrette (or use your dressing of choice):
Olive or other vegetable oil
Red or white wine vinegar, or lemon or orange juice (preferably roasted)
Grainy or dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 425 F. Cut your veggies into wedges or chunks a bit larger than bite-sized (trim the ends of rapini, but leave them whole) and spread out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you like, add larger pulses, such as chickpeas and butter beans, to the pan as well. Drizzle generously with oil, roll everything around to coat and sprinkle with salt. If desired, add a lemon and/or orange half or two to the pan. Roast, stirring once or twice, for 20-30 minutes, or until tender and starting to char on the edges. (If some veggies are cooking more quickly, take them off the pan early.)
Remove from the oven and if you like, shake some cooked grains onto the pan and stir to warm through and coat with some of the oil. Blitz bread slices or crusts in a food processor with a clove of garlic (or some dehydrated or granulated garlic) and a pinch of salt until as coarse or fine as you like, and toast in a skillet with a drizzle of oil or chunk of butter, until golden.
To make the vinaigrette, shake a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 oil to vinegar or citrus juice in a jar with about a teaspoon of mustard, a bit of finely grated garlic, and some salt and pepper.
Spread your roasted veg out on a plate or platter, scatter with celery, purple onion, apple or pear, and some cheese if you like, drizzle with vinaigrette and top with crispy crumbs. Serves as many as you like.