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Composed Salad

On a day when temperatures are supposed to be up near 100 degrees F, I can’t think of anything better than a dish that is cool, calm, and collected.  Composed salad definitely fits that bill.  An array of cooked vegetables, nicely presented and served at room temperature, it works as a do-ahead meal, if you prepare (roast and parboil) the vegetables the night before, refrigerate them, and then just take them out to bring them to room temperature before serving.  For a bit of extra pizzazz, I added a few slices of goat cheese and toasted walnuts.  With crusty bread or a bit of pasta, it’s a whole meal, and satisfying too.

The best thing about this salad as that every ingredient is optional – at least in the sense that you can use any combination of vegetables that appeal to you.  My only guideline is that there should be enough color, shape and texture variety to make an interesting array when all are put together.  (By the way, until I opened the beets, I had no idea that they were striped!  Interesting color but same sweet taste, which was fine with me.)  The number of servings and cost of this salad are variable, depending on what vegetables you use.  My baking sheet of roasted vegetables and handful of green beans (with cheese and nuts) and made more than enough for 2 people.  The total cost was $5-8.

composed salad on plate

I prefer to roast at least some of the vegetables.  The roasting process intensifies flavor and roasted vegetables are excellent at room temperature.  My oven is modern and miraculously does not heat up my whole house.  If you don’t want to turn on the oven, you can steam or parboil the veggies instead.  And of course, you can roast the red pepper on the stovetop.

Composed Vegetable, Cheese, and Toasted Nut Salad

Ingredients

  • An array of vegetables, e.g.Beets, potatoes, red pepper, broccoli, string beans
  • Cheese, preferably one that slices well – I used a goat cheese log with ash rind.  
  • Nuts – I used walnuts. Pecans and pine nuts work well too.
  • Oil for roasting – Use a type with high smoke point, e.g canola or  grapeseed.
  • Rosemary or other herbs
  • Salt and pepper

Equipment

  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Baking sheet with low sides for roasting
  • Tongs or large fork for turning vegetables while roasting
  • Pot with cover for parboiling (for steaming, you'll need an insert that holds the vegetables out of the water)
  • Strainer for draining parboiled vegetables
  • Toaster oven tray

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
  • Cut vegetables into medium size pieces.  The important part for roasting is that the pieces should be relatively uniform, so that all of them cook at approximately the same rate.  If they vary widely in size, some will get done way before others and it is difficult to figure out when to take them out.
  • Spread about 2 tablespoons of oil on the baking sheet and roll the vegetable pieces in the oil so that all sides are moistened.  If you need a bit of extra oil, that’s fine – just take care not to douse the vegetables in oil.  The pan bottom and vegetables should just have a light slick of oil on them.  Leave enough room in the pan so that the vegetables are not crowded.  Add herbs – I used a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.
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  • Roast them for a total of approximately 30 minutes, turning them with tongs or a fork once or twice during that time.  When done, sprinkle with kosher or coarse sea salt and pepper.  Let vegetables cool on the pan until they are warm, but not hot.
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  • Meanwhile, boil water in saucepan, add green beans to boiling water, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes until cooked but still crunchy. 
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  • When the beans are done, immediately drain them into a colander and run cold water over them to stop cooking process.  Set aside.
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  • Roast the red pepper over an open gas burner on the stovetop until blackened, then take it off flame and put the pepper in a paper bag for at least 10 minutes.  When cool, take the pepper out of the bag, rub the blackened part off, run it under water and cut the pepper into strips.  If you don't have a gas burner, you can broil the pepper and get the same effect.
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  • Preheat toaster oven to 325 degrees F and toast walnuts for approximately 10 minutes, shaking or turning them once (after 5 minutes.)
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  • Slice cheese and arrange the vegetables and cheese on a platter.  
  • Sprinkle toasted nuts.
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