Fall Salads: An Unlikely Blend of Flavors
Although I often think of salads as a summer affair, fall and winter are really when my most amazing mixtures of flavors are discovered. Beets, celery root, carrots and other root vegetables provide earthy tones, while persimmons, pomegranates, pears, apples and satsumas provide natural sugars and seasonal flavors.
Local greens are harder to come by, so kales, dandelion greens, and hardy arugula become another component, instead of the main bed – if they are not forgone all together. As the flavor profiles become more earthy, what was once a lighter citrus vinaigrette, becomes heavier with the introduction of aged balsamic and truffle oil.
Beets are one of my favorite winter vegetables. Roasted they are soft, sweet and earthy. Roasted and pickled, their rich sugars become bright with vinegar. Thinly sliced, their crisp texture and satisfying crunch works well with softer fruits, nuts and salty cheeses. A versatile root, which adds both color and depth to winter salad dishes, the Chiogga variety also adds visual appeal—its alternating rings of white and magenta create a satisfying unity and continuance in the concentric patterns of its flesh.
This simple salad plays the earthy sugars of roasted beets with the tart sugars of Satsuma mandarins. The aged balsamic vinegar adds a dark and syrupy note along with the fragrant and woodsy truffle oil. For a brighter finish and a playful crunch I added chopped mint and pomegranate seeds – letting the juice of the cut pomegranate drip down over the salad.
It is at once simple and complex — the flavors familiar, wintery and fruitful, sugary and sweet, with just enough acid from the citrus and vinegar to bring balance.
It may not be my favorite of the season (it’s still hard to beat the persimmon, roasted walnut and blue cheese salad from last year), but the season is young and there are many more flavors to come.
- 3 Chiogga beets, roasted, peeled, cooled and cubed in 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 Satsuma mandarins, peeled, segments separated and halved
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh mint, minced
- Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
- 1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp truffle oil
- Salt to taste
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine first three ingredients. Cut pomegranate in half over bowl, letting juices fall into the mixture. Peel and add seeds of half the pomegranate. Drizzle with vinegar and oil, sprinkle with salt to taste. Let chill for 30 minutes, allowing flavors to combine. Serve as is or over chopped arugula or spinach.