Current dietary wisdom dictates that to mitigate all the indulgences of the holidays, January becomes the month of eating salad.
Everywhere you look, you’ll see recipes for satisfying salads for dinner, portable salads for lunch — even breakfast salads to start the day, if your need for bodily atonement runs that deep.
This is all good in theory, but in terms of seasonality, it can be challenging. What’s the best way to eat salad in winter when lettuces and other greens are at their wilting worst?
The solution is to cut back on the fragile leafy greens in your salad bowl, and ramp up vegetables of a more robust order.
Roots and squashes; mushrooms; and sturdy stalks and bulbs like celery, fennel and onions are viable, easy-to-find options. Roasting not only makes them sweet and wonderfully tender, it also gives you the perfect excuse to crank up the oven, something you’d be hard pressed to do for your average bowl of arugula.
In this dinner-worthy salad, a combination of roasted golden beets, radishes and winter squash does the heavy lifting, while the green matter — herbs, scallions and frisée (or whatever decent-looking lettuce you can find) — acts more as a bright, refreshing garnish. This is all rounded out by a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds for crunch, and pecorino cheese for a salty tang.
Although in general I adore the sweetness of roasted red beets, golden ones are better for this particular salad. Earthy and savory, golden beets are a more sympathetic partner to winter squash, which becomes deeply caramelized and velvety in the oven’s high heat. Red beets can be almost cloying here, but if they’re all you have, squeeze on some extra lime juice to offset the added sweetness.
No matter which beets you use, the dressing — an assertive mix of lime juice, anchovies and garlic — adds just the right pungency to perk up all the honeyed flavors, especially those of the squash. And note that if you can’t find delicata squash, other winter varieties such as honey nut, acorn, butternut or sweet dumpling make fine substitutes.
With its vibrant mix of colors, flavors and textures, this is a salad you’ll want to make all winter long — whether you’re trying to balance the cookies of December or just craving a little brightness.