04 Feb A salad of convenience
Here in California, you could easily assemble a meal from prepacked components almost every night of the week. There are pre-formed hamburger patties, sure to please our six-year-old; par-baked loaves of artisanal bread, even packages of coleslaw with squeezable pouches of dressing to toss together. While we haven’t used too many of these shortcuts, knowing they’re out there is reassuring. Sure it’s cheaper to buy a bunch of green beans and top and tail them yourself, but sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day and you can throw together some pretty impressive meals in a short time using pre-prepared ingredients.
Case in point: this salad. Trader Joe’s sells steamed beets and pre-cut butternut squash right next to its bags of salad mix. A little farther down the aisle are the cheeses, I grabbed smoked mozzarella because the kids love it. Nab some bread (oh, and maybe some of the chocolate-covered almonds, them’s healthy fats) and head home to your new favorite salad.
- 3 medium beets
- 1 medium (1-2 lb.) butternut squash, or one package of pre-cut squash
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 4 ounces (115 grams) smoked mozzarella cheese, diced
- 6 ounces (170 grams) arugula, three or four big handfuls
- salt and pepper
- 1 Tbs + 1 tsp good-quality olive oil
- 1 Tbs + 1 tsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
- ½ clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
- salt to taste
- Prepare a pot with a steamer insert. Remove the tops and scrub the beets so they’re nice and clean, then chop them into about ½-inch cubes, and steam for 10-12 minutes or until they are just beginning to get tender (stick a fork one in to check).
- Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C) and lightly coat/spray a baking sheet with vegetable oil. While the beets are cooking, prepare your squash: if you have a whole squash, cut off the “neck”, peel it and dice it into ½-inch cubes. (You can also peel and cut up the bulbous part and clean out the seeds, but I usually save that for another time.) If you’re using pre-cut squash, just make sure the pieces are all about the same size as the beets. Toss with the teaspoon of olive oil to coat, and spread on the prepared baking sheet.
- When the beets have steamed, put them on the baking sheet with the squash. They’ll color the squash where they touch, but I consider that a feature, not a bug. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper, and slide into the oven to bake for about 20 minutes, tossing once halfway through.
- While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the dressing: whisk together the mustard and oil, and stir in the garlic. Add the maple syrup, and then the vinegar, tasting to see that the proportions are as you like. Add salt as needed.
- Rinse and dry the arugula.
- When the vegetables are tender and starting to brown, take them out of the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes.
- In the biggest bowl you have, toss the vegetables, arugula, and mozzarella with the dressing and serve.