Roasted fall veggie salad
Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
It’s a transitional time of year. Shorter days and changing colors signal the end of one season and the beginning of another, and with this change in the weather, I find myself shifting gears in the kitchen. Grilled meats are replaced by hearty stews and warming soups. Baked goods fresh from the oven are suddenly more appealing than goodies from the freezer. While I still want lots of vegetables on my table, the idea of eating things raw is less enticing than the mixture of sweet and savory that comes with applying a bit of heat.
For the last few years, I’ve all but given up on steaming and sautéing produce. Roasting brings out the best in so many veggies, particularly the ones that might otherwise be unpalatable to all but the most health conscious among us. In a very hot oven, Brussels sprouts go from bitter and disappointing to crispy and somewhat sweet. Broccoli becomes more tender, and zucchini takes on a hearty, almost meat-like texture. My favorite strategy for roasting is to coat the vegetables in just a whisper of oil, which conducts heat without adding lots of fat and calories. Using my roasting method, I’ve converted even some of my most vegetable-hating friends and family members to hard-core vegetable consumption.
This salad, which I’ve adapted from a recipe shared by the BBC, takes the tastes of late summer and marries them with the flavors of early fall. Additionally, it combines roasted vegetables with raw ones, which creates interesting texture combinations and brings together the best offerings available during this in-between season. There are some other unique pairings I wasn’t sure I would like, but the mixture of basil with olives is sweet, salty and delicious. The apple cider vinaigrette is mildly acidic, which plays up the flavors of all the ingredients and adds a warm, savory element. I was lucky enough to find a few tasty heirloom tomatoes (the last of this year’s crop) to toss into this beauty, but regular old grape or cherry tomatoes from the grocery store would be nice here too. Feel free to swap the summer squash for a more autumnal choice like butternut or Hubbard if those look better when you’re at the market. If cucumber isn’t your favorite, celery would add nice texture and crunch.
In addition to being delicious, the vibrant colors of this salad make it a visual feast, so it’s a natural choice for an evening of entertaining. It is good warm or at room temperature, so if it sits on the buffet for a bit, it will be none the worse for wear. It’s delicious with chicken or fish, or even with just a crusty piece of bread, if you’re eating light. Make a double batch and tuck the leftovers in the fridge for a savory, healthy lunch.
Warm temperatures are gone for now, and the season of cozy dinners by the fire has begun. With this dish in your repertoire though, you can keep just a little bit of the abundance of summer on the table while also welcoming the flavors of fall.