Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

This fall salad incorporates roasted root vegetables, squash seeds, brown rice, spinach and a balsamic reduction. Feel free to mix and match with what's on hand!
This fall salad incorporates roasted root vegetables, squash seeds, brown rice, spinach and a balsamic reduction. Feel free to mix and match with what's on hand!
This fall salad incorporates roasted root vegetables, squash seeds, brown rice, spinach and a balsamic reduction. Feel free to mix and match with what’s on hand!

I’m not sure where the inspiration for this salad came from, because until I made it I was pretty sure I didn’t like beets. I’ve tried the pickled kind at salad bars several times over the years, but just can’t not think about how much they taste like dirt. I’m happy to report that the roasted variety are much more palatable, if still a bit “earthy.” The roasting process brings out beets’ sweetness, and the balsamic reduction adds a necessary pop to bring the flavors to life.

You can use whatever vegetables and grain you have on hand, of course, but I highly recommend including the seeds for a little bit of crunch. Mine came from a butternut squash. I tossed them with olive oil, salt and a little cayenne pepper and roasted them at 350F in the toaster oven for about 10 minutes (watch carefully so they don’t burn). Walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds would also be a great addition.

Full disclosure: I had also planned to add chickpeas to roast with the vegetables, but discovered I was out. I don’t think the salad needs them, but they’d probably be good in it.

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, sliced into half-moons
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 medium beets, peeled
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • about 1 tsp of sage, thyme or oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin or squash seeds
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice, quinoa or barley

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Slice the onions into 1/2-inch-thick half moons and place in a large bowl. Peel the parsnips, sweet potatoes and beets and cut into pieces that are roughly equivalent and add them to the onions, keeping the beets separate if desired. (My vegetable chunks were about 1″ x 1″ x 1/2″.)
    Cut the parsnips and sweet potatoes into chunks.
    Cut the parsnips and sweet potatoes into chunks.

    I kept the beets separate because I wasn't sure if I was going to like them and was afraid they might stick to the pan. You should be able to mix everything together though, if you want.
    I kept the beets separate because I wasn’t sure if I was going to like them and was afraid they might stick to the pan. You should be able to mix everything together though, if you want. I also peeled and cut them on a glass cutting board (visible in the background) to avoid staining my wood board.
  2. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil, salt, pepper and sage (or herb of your choosing). Spread them across two large cookie sheets. Place the beets on a piece of foil spread over part of one sheet, if keeping them separate.

    The onion, parsnips and sweet potatoes went directly on the baking sheet, while the beets got their own piece of foil (optional).
    The onion, parsnips and sweet potatoes went directly on the baking sheet, while the beets got their own piece of foil. This is optional, but it did keep the beet juice from staining the other vegetables during cooking and made for easy clean up.
  3. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring and switching the baking sheets every 10-15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, make a balsamic reduction: Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to a syrupy consistency. Set aside.

    I had a hard time getting a good picture of the balsamic reduction--it should have the consistency of a thin syrup.
    I had a hard time getting a good picture of the balsamic reduction. It should have the consistency of a thin syrup, slightly thick but still easily poured–think chocolate syrup-ish.
  5. Warm the grain, if desired/necessary.
  6. To plate, add about 1 cup of spinach to each plate and top with 1/2 cup of the cooked grain. Add 1/4 of the roasted vegetables and top with 1 tbsp roasted pumpkin or squash seeds. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over top.
    After about 40 minutes in the oven, the vegetables are tender but not mushy and somewhat caramelized.
    After about 40 minutes in the oven, the vegetables are tender but not mushy and somewhat caramelized.

    Kick back, relax and enjoy fall–and maybe treat yourself to an adult beverage because hey, you’re eating salad for dinner. (Bonus: It’s even a vegan salad at that.)

    Pairs well with a fall beer like pumpkin ale!
    Pairs well with a fall beer like pumpkin ale!

    Leftover vegetables and rice can be reheated in the microwave for lunch the next day. I tossed the leftover vegetables with the unused balsamic reduction before storing them.

Leave a comment below!