Thursday, October 21, 2010

Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad with Feta

Though I adapt a lot of recipes to our liking, there are some I come across and just know that there isn't one thing I'd even think of changing. The recipe reads like poetry, so perfectly expressed and balanced in flavor that you can taste it before it's even out of the oven. It's the kind of recipe where the words oh this is going to taste great begin to play in your head, in a kind of obnoxious giddy manner (where you wonder if you're actually humming it like a favorite tune).

I've had this little recipe (actually a whole spread that appeared in Food & Wine last March) tucked away for just the right moment. Sophie Dahl has been on my radar for some time but it wasn't until I traveled to London this past May that I realized what a food celebrity she actually is. If this recipe is any example of why, I totally get it.

Roasting vegetables is certainly not a new concept. However, putting a winning combination like this together is just short of spectacular. And these are veggies you might overlook, perhaps selecting more conventional choices to pair. Here, however, beets, sweet potato, parsnips, celery root, red onion, and carrot are combined in a beautiful harmony of flavors that just meld so perfectly together. The subtle sweetness of the beets, carrot, and sweet potato perfectly balance the more earthy flavors of the parsnips and celery root. And then the red onion pops the whole thing with a crisp, crunchy, kind of charred goodness that makes you want to seek out every little morsel to call your own. There's a simple little dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, lemon, and flat-leaf parsley that you toss all these veggies with once they're out of the oven. It's really just a bit of a dressing, making you wonder if it's even enough to make a difference. Well... it does. It offers a light, bright note that is subdued, and yet so utterly perfect. I think I may just add a bit of a dressing to every roast of veggies I make from here on out. The recipe also calls for a handful of toasted chopped walnuts which, I have to admit, I lazily thought to pass on... and thankfully didn't. The nuts add a wonderful crunch that is subtle, yet entirely as important as any of the other components in this medley. And then... you sprinkle the whole thing with some coarsely chopped feta cheese. Not only does this addition work visually -- a rich and creamy white against the bold, deep red and orange hues -- but it serves to add a perfect tart note that amplifies the dressing beautifully.

I love finding recipes I love. However, I love it even more when I find recipes that I know others I love will love. And I also love it when that little tune playing in my head is right... and then turns off. Phew. I really love that.

Roasted Winter Vegetable Salad with Feta
A Sophie Dahl recipe from Food & Wine, March 2010, subtly adapted
serves 4

While this recipe calls for 1 small red onion, I used a whole medium red onion (and will probably use a large one next time out). I also used a large sweet potato (instead of small), 2 parsnips (instead of 1), and a large beet (instead of 1 small beet). Minor changes, but ones that I felt would appeal to our own tastes.

1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large beet, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 ounce feta cheese, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place onion, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery root, and beet on a large baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over veggies, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Place in oven to roast for approximately 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots.

2. Place walnuts on an oven-safe pan and pop in oven with veggies, until just toasted; approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and coarsely chop.
3. In a large bowl, whisk balsamic vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard. Fold in parsley; season with salt and pepper. Add roasted vegetables and walnuts to dressing; toss to combine. Top salad with chopped feta and serve warm or at room temperature.

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