As March blows in with its familiar bluster, I find myself uncomfortably on edge, teetering between the seasons. Not quite in one season or out of the other. It is probably caused by the glorious taste of Spring we enjoyed early in the week with almost balmy temperatures, only to be thrown back into Winter by the end of the week with a cold force that remind us it is only March.
This Warm Root Vegetable Salad with Quick Pickled Onions and Thyme is a bit like that. The end-of-winter root vegetables need a little encouragement to bring out their best flavors. You could easily just roast these vegetables and call it a day…or a side dish. But by this time of year, you might be, like me, in need of something more. A slightly sweet and sharp vinaigrette brings new life to our roots and, when topped with goat cheese and walnuts, this warm salad became our meal on Wednesday night when our sweet summer-like day was cruelly discarded with a blast of sharp wind and a stormy night.
Knowing what do with the freshest vegetables at the start of a new season is helpful, knowing what to do with it all at the end of the season is a saving grace. It takes a bit of discipline to adhere to seasonal eating, particularly as we near the end of the season. We are inundated with food channels, magazines, and, yes, food blogs, that seem to insist that we continually prepare new recipes with different ingredients without repetition. Eating seasonally sometimes means that we see the same vegetables every week until a new season comes around. This doesn’t mean we have to eat them the same way every week.
Eating seasonally relies on practicing simple methods to prepare fresh vegetables that bring out their best flavors and knowing some reliable techniques to pull it all together into a dish. Roasting root vegetables is always a sure thing. Knowing how to prepare a few vinaigrettes is helpful regardless of the season.
Using vinegar is also an asset for quick pickling vegetables, which I first featured in my Asian Minced Chicken with Homemade Pickles. The preparation takes a few minutes and the results last about a week in the fridge. Pickled red onions are terrific in sandwiches, on flatbread pizzas, in tacos or as a topping for any roast meats or burgers. They taste special and different and will be something I’ll make again in the spring when the different varieties of onions arrive at the market.
So, while we wait for the next crop of the new season, there is comfort in knowing how to prepare something easy, filling and enjoyable with what we have today. Just enjoy it while it lasts. Spring will be here soon. I can almost taste it.
A market basket full of organic vegetable ingredients needed to make this dish will be available for a special discounted price at the indoor Great Falls Farmer’s Market at the Great Falls Grange, 9818 Georgetown Pike, Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- 5-6 cups of root vegetables (I used 3 beets, 3 carrots, 2 small sweet potatoes, 2 turnips and a parsnip)
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil or melted coconut oil
- Salt and pepper
- Goat cheese (optional)
- Walnuts or almonds (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons organic maple syrup
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 medium red onion
- ½ cup rice vinegar*
- 2 teaspoons cane sugar
- Spring of thyme
- pinch of sea salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Peel and cube vegetables and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
- Spread out on a sheet pan in an even layer. Place in the oven and roast until lightly browned and soft, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare Pickled Red Onions by peeling and slicing the onion into very thin slices.
- In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar, sugar and salt just until the sugar and salt dissolve. Place the thyme sprig in the pan and swirl around. Set aside.
- Place onions into a jar with a lid and pour vinegar over the onions to cover. Tuck the thyme sprig into the jar. (It depends on the size of your onion. You may need to double the recipe.) Place jarred onions in the fridge. They are good in an hour, great in 2 and for the next 5 days, at least.
- Prepare the vinaigrette. Combine all of the ingredients in a small glass measuring cup, whisk to combine.
- To assemble the salad, place roasted vegetables in a large bowl while still hot. Pour over vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. If desired, sprinkle with goat cheese and toasted walnuts or almonds. Serve immediately.