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, Turtle bean and butternut salad with green herb dressing definitely satisfies.
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 oil-free roasted butternut, fresh cherry tomatoes and quick-pickled red onions. Add some smoky slices of roasted red pepper, cubes of cashew feta and lastly 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 then remove the seeds and skin.
- 1 red onion – thinly sliced 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 bitter green leaf would work, I like the shape of mizuna or rocket, but baby spinach works too.
- 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.