By Linda Morel
When summer gradually gives way to fall, I’m never quite ready to give up eating salads. In early October, it’s too late for delicate field greens but too soon for brisket and short ribs, noodles and mashed potatoes.
There are many sunny October days in the 60s when I crave the crunch of salads. However, I shift the ingredients I toss into my salad bowl from sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes to the heartier vegetables so prevalent in the fall.
I love the earthy smell of autumn produce that floods farmers markets. I fill my shopping basket with spinach, mushrooms, watercress, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and carrots. I often roast these vegetables and add them to salads warm, taking the chill off of cooler days. Even at room temperature, there’s something cozy and filling about roasted vegetables in salads.
Autumn salads are satisfying as side dishes, but when served with soup or sandwiches, they create light lunches or dinners that complement October, which hovers between warm September days and the long winter ahead.
Roasted sweet potato salad
- ⅓ cup pecans, chopped
- 2 bunches of scallions
- Nonstick vegetable spray
- 3 large sweet potatoes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, or more, if needed
- Kosher salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ⅛ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Place aluminum foil on a toaster oven tray. Sprinkle the pecans on the foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Watch the pecans constantly, as they burn easily. Cool and reserve.
Cut the roots off of the scallions and discard. Thinly slice the white ends of the scallions and place them in a small bowl and reserve. Thinly slice the green parts of two scallions and place them in a second small bowl and reserve.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch-by-13-inch ovenproof pan, such as Pyrex, with nonstick spray.
Peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into 1-inch chunks. Move them to a bowl and drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss them with a spoon until they are coated with oil. Add more oil, if necessary, then sprinkle with salt. Move the potatoes to the prepared pan and spread then out evenly.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and discard it. Turn the potatoes with a spoon. Sprinkle on more salt. Bake until just soft in the center, about 10-15 more minutes. Remove the potatoes from the oven and cool them to room temperature.
Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and add the white parts of the scallions, along with the apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gently toss the ingredients. Add more oil and salt, if needed. This can be made to this point up to two days before serving if covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.
When ready to serve, move the salad to an attractive serving bowl and bring it to room temperature. Sprinkle it with the pecans and green parts of the scallions.
Warm spinach salad
- 8-10-ounce package of baby spinach
- ½ pound white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced thin
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries or raisins
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- Kosher salt to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Rinse the spinach under cold water and dry it in a salad spinner or spread out on paper towels. When the spinach is dry, place the leaves on a large platter or on individual salad plates. Arrange the sliced mushrooms on top of the spinach, then scatter the dried cranberries or raisins. This can be made to this point several hours ahead if covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated.
In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil on a low flame until it’s warm. Add the garlic and salt, stirring almost constantly until the garlic is fragrant and wilted, about two minutes. Remove it from the flame and cool it briefly to warm. Sprinkle lemon juice on the salad. Spoon the oil mixture over the salad and serve immediately.
Linda Morel is a food writer. This originally appeared in the Jewish Exponent, an affiliated publication of the Baltimore Jewish Times.