As the seasons progress and the evenings get longer what I want for dinner changes. In Winter I want warm bowls of soup with something crunchy to dip in it, but as Spring approaches I crave colourful salads.
Since we first eat with our eyes, a good salad has to be more than a mix of vegetables. A great salad should be a combination of colours, shapes and textures, that collectively make the dish visually desirable. It has to have all of these things, and of course, great flavours.
This is what I think of as a trans-seasonal salad: Layers of greens with no-oil roasted butternut, cherry tomatoes, quick-pickled red onions, slices of roasted red pepper and cubes of cashew feta with turtle beans coated in a fresh herby dressing.
Exact quantities are not necessary – serves 4 to 6, as main or side dish
2 Cups butternut squash – cut into bite size pieces, toss in water or vegetable stock smoked paprika. Roast on a grease-proof lined baking tray at 180ºC until tender.
2 red capsicum(bell peppers) – roasted in the oven, or over a flame to remove skin.
1 red onion – thinly slice into rings – put in a non-metallic container, add 2 Tbsp of Aged white balsamic or white wine vinegar topped up with cold water. Set aside to lightly pickle, the longer they are left, the more intense the colour change.
250g cherry tomatoes – I like to use a mix of colours, partly because they look nice and I like the variation in flavours.
2 cups cooked turtle beans – I try to always have beans in various stages of readiness in the freezer, some soaked, some cooked. Tinned are fine, preferably with no added salt.
3 Cups mizuna – Any green leaf would work,I like the shape of mizuna or rocket, but baby spinach works equally as well.
1/2 Cup cashew feta – or any plant-based cheese of your choice, lightly toasted nuts would work too.
No-oil dressing – 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, for me, this depends on what is growing either outside or in my kitchen, a mix or coriander, parsley and chives works well, basil would add a sweetness. Finely diced red chilli, quantity depends on your palette. Zest and juice of a lime. Dash of aged white balsamic for sweetness and enough water to make a dressing to coat your turtle beans. Blend together. Adjust the seasoning or acidity to suit your taste. If you prefer a sweeter dressing, some agave syrup of fruit paste can be added.