Summer is my favorite time of year for so many reason; long days, warm evenings and easy breezy meals made with the lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. And the salad is queen of the season! I am not talking about the “house” salad of iceberg lettuce and a few sad looking cherry tomatoes, I am talking about bold, complex, nutritious and hearty salads that you can eat every day of the summer and never get bored of. This is such a salad.
The first order of business when making a well rounded salad is to make sure you have all of your textures represented. Crunchy, smooth, creamy, crispy. Next the flavors; earthly, sweet, tangy, bitter, spicy. For this reason, I love adding fruit to salads because it adds amazing texture and flavor, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the extra dose of nutrition as well.
Apples and beets make a wonderful combination of earthy, sweet, tart and crunchy. But, don’t stop there, this salad has endless variations. Using pears and pecans instead of apples and walnuts would bring up the sweet and earthy character, making this a terrific early-fall salad. Assertive salad greens, such as arugula or dandelion greens, stand up well to the creamy dressing so try adding them in if you have some around. Blueberry season? Yes, add them. Cherries? By all means. As you can see, endless variations.
Let’s talk about the “easy” part of the easy, breezy meal making. There are few steps to making meal-type salads like this one, but that doesn’t mean you have to make it all in one day. All of the components, the dressing, roasted beets, candies nuts, can be made ahead of time. In fact, make a double batch of each and use it throughout the week in other dishes. Hello, it’s summer!
A word about the dressing, soaked cashews make a wonderful dairy alternative, but if you are a dairy eater I recommend still trying the soaked cashews at least once. They do offer a depth of flavor that regular old mayonnaise does not. Plus, it will cut down on saturated fat and cholesterol which is a good thing. That might even leave room for an extra helping of Aunt Doris’ potato salad!
YIELD: 4 servings
- 1 pound of beets, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 2 large beets)
- 1 tablespoon of high heat oil such as grapeseed, safflower or avocado oil
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder, depending on desired spiciness
- 4 cups of salad greens
- 1 large sweet and tart apple, such as Fuji, quartered and sliced thin
- 1/4 of a small red onion, sliced thin
- 3 celery stalks, sliced crosswise into thin slices
- Fresh parsley sprigs
Dressing: (makes about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup raw cashews (alternatively 1/4 to 1/2 cup regular or dairy free mayonnaise can be used)
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Juice and zest of one large orange
- 1 tablespoon of shallots, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Roast the beets; preheat the oven to 425 degree fahrenheit, in a large bowl toss the beets with the oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, spread them out evenly on a sheet pan and roast for 25-30 minute or until the beets are tender, tossing once during roasting. Let cool on the sheet pan.
- Make the candied walnuts; Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat, set a piece of parchment paper or non-stick mat on a heat proof surface, in the meantime mix the walnuts, maple syrup, cinnamon, chipotle powder and a small pinch of salt in a bowl until combine, add nut mixture to the heated skillet, stir continuously until the moisture has evaporated and the nuts are thickly coated, about 10 minutes, immediately spread the nuts out onto the parchment paper and let cool completely. Note: you can add plain walnuts here but if you have a few extra minutes to candy the walnuts it adds another layer of flavor to the salad, plus you can make a few extra to munch on later!
- Make the dressing; cover the cashews in warm water and let soak for 30 minutes, drain the cashews and add to a blender, along with the dijon mustard, maple syrup, orange juice, shallots and a pinch of salt and pepper, blend on high until smooth. Add water as needed to achieve a pourable consistency. Stir in the orange zest and adjust for seasoning as needed.
- Assemble the salad; in a large bowl or on individual plates, combine the salad greens, roasted beets, apples, red onion, and celery, drizzle with dressing and top with walnuts and a few leaves of the fresh parsley. Serve immediately.