Salads are a staple in my world but come winter, I crave the complex favors of roasted seasonal vegetables instead of cold salads. This salad was inspired by New Orleans chef John Sinclair featured in the WSJ recently. I modified his ingredients to what I had on hand and substituted juicy blood oranges for his grapefruit. Gorgeous squash, sweet potatoes, fennel, red onion and brussel sprouts are oven roasted with warming spices like chili powder, cumin and fennel seeds. Then bright citrus notes are layered in with blood oranges. A topping of crunchy toasted squash seeds and pistachios finish off the salad. There is so much to fall in love with in this meal salad! The recipe lends itself beautifully to all kinds of substitution in the ingredients, spices and citrus toppings so that you can make it over and over in various combinations and never tire of it. There is no need for vinaigrette as the olive oil of the roasting will have coated the vegetables and the acidity and brightness of the blood oranges and their juice will be enough contrast to make the salad truly sing. Here’s how I made mine
On 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper I spread in a single layer:
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut in half and sliced in 1/2 inch thick slices. Reserve seeds.
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled, sliced in 1/2 inch thick slices
- 1 red onion, peeled, sliced in 1/2 inch thick slices
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced in 1/4 inch thick slices, white part only. Reserve fronds.
- 4 whole carrots, peeled
- dozen brussel sprouts, cored, cut in half
I tossed the vegetables in about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. I sprinkled them with 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon fennel seeds. Try any spice combo but think about adding some heat to contrast with the sweetness and acid of the oranges.
Roast all the veggies at 425 F for 20 minutes, stirring half way through to prevent burning. On another baking sheet I spread the reserved squash seeds tossed with olive oil and a few grinds of sea salt and roasted those about 5 minutes.(You will hear them pop like popcorn when they are ready). Watch closely so they don’t burn. To read more detailed instructions on roasting squash seeds please visit this post. Once you have tasted roasted squash seeds, you will never be able to throw them away, they are so good! Cool the veggies and seeds for 10 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare 4 blood oranges: Slice off top and bottom and stand on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut along fruit’s curve and remove both the pith and peel. Slice the oranges cross wise, reserving any escaping juice. If using grapefruit instead of oranges, use 2 instead of 4 and segment them from their tougher membranes. I didn’t fuss with segmenting the oranges, wanting to keep them in whole slices.
On a serving platter spread the roasted vegetables. Top with the sliced oranges and drizzle the reserved juice across the salad. Sprinkle with fennel fronds, the toasted squash seeds and 1 cup roasted pistachios. Serve at room temperature.
Here’s hoping this colorful, nutrient-dense salad, full of bold flavors and with a satisfying crunch will keep you healthy and happy through winter!