Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lunch Week 4: Roasted Vegetable Salad

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Roasted Vegetable Salad
There are a couple of things that I look forward to every winter: large roasted meats, and tons of roasted vegetables. I really enjoy the squashes and hearty veggies that come out when the weather turns cold. I think that they pack a lot of flavor, pretty hearty, and they're relatively affordable. So this week, I decided to roast up a bunch of my favorite ones and throw it all on top of some fresh arugula with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.

To start, you know I need to have brussel sprouts. I love these nuggets of goodness. Yes, it's a cabbage. However, when you roast them in the oven at 400oF for about 30 minutes, then they develop a delicious caramelized flavor that is so rich and sweet. It's indescribable and yet addicting. Just remember to season them salt, pepper, and oil before roasting.
While those beauties became utterly delicious, I worked on another roasted delicacy: butternut squash. This bell shaped pumpkin is also equally delicious when roasted. The high heat draws out the liquid; therefore, concentrating the flavors and natural sugars of the flesh. It ends up being something special that only really comes around in the winter.

The first step to prepare a butternut squash for roasting is to cut off the end. This way, you'll have a flat surface to work with. Then, take a sharp vegetable peeler and remove all of the thick skin. For more ease, you can also cut the squash in half horizontally before you peel it.
Once peeled, I sliced the pumpkin in half vertically. Here you can see where the seeds lay. Take a spoon and scoop all of that away. Even scrape along the sides to get all the stringiness out.
Then chop up the remaining pulp into small bite sized pieces. Season with salt, pepper, and oil. Into the oven at 400oF for about 45 minutes until caramelized and golden brown all over.
Like so. You can see that they've shrunken due to the roasting which releases the water.
Next up, a beet. I would say most people dislike beets. But it's actually quite tasty when roasted fresh. It develops a really nice and rich flavor that no other root vegetable can replicate. And this is what a beet root looks like. It's kind of ugly isn't it? But the good stuff is under that peel. But first, you need to roast it. Rinse the beet thoroughly to remove any residue. Then wrap it tightly with aluminum foil. Into the oven at 400oF for about an hour or so. It's ready when a fork goes through easily.
And this is what the beet looks like when roasted and peeled. Be careful when peeling it while still hot. It can and will burn you. If you don't want to wait for it to cool, hold it down on the cutting board with one hand using an oven mitt, then take a spoon and carefully scrape off the peel.
So tomatoes aren't really in season right now but when you roast them, they become quite good. The roasting just really helps intensify the flavor.
I took the cherry tomatoes and sliced them in half. Again, season with salt, pepper, and oil.
With that, I sliced up some red onions as well.
And to complete the roasting, here are some peeled garlic cloves.
All onto a baking sheet with the same seasoning. Into the oven at 350oF for about 30 minutes until slightly charred the the tomatoes are bursting with their own juices.
One of the other fresh elements besides the arugula that I decided to add to the salad is carrot. I took a vegetable peeler and just ran it over and over the carrot until I had thin strips.
And lastly, the protein. I decided to make some breaded chicken cutlets. Here you have some chicken thighs patted dry with paper towels. This helps the breading adhere and also creates a nice crust.
Then I set up my bowls of breading ingredients: all purpose flour, beaten eggs with a splash of milk, and seasoned bread crumbs.
First, I seasoned each of the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper, then into the flour, shake the excess off, then into the egg, and last into the bread crumbs. Again, shake the excess off. Onto a sheet pan and into the oven at 350oF until golden brown. You can flip the chicken over halfway through in order to get both sides nice and golden.
Take all those components and throw it on top of some fresh baby arugula with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
This is one really hearty salad. Everything is super rich in flavor. The sweetness from the roasted veggies is slightly cut with the balsamic vinegar. I can't believe I'm going to say this but this is an awesome salad that I would gladly eat over and over again.


  1. that is a helluva salad. yum!

    i usually cut off the bottoms of the brussel sprouts when i roast them. sometimes they are super brown and not appetizing.

  2. Looks like my kind of salad!! I love butternut squash, but it takes me so long to prep and roast, I get frustrated! (I'm kinda impatient)

  3. @TT: I've started to leave them on because it keeps the sprout leaves together. However, I do a small trimming if it looks weird.

    @CT: For the lazies, many markets now have pre-peeled and chopped fresh squash. I've also seen frozen squash too.

  4. Salad, I hardly knew you...

    Good thing there is MEAT in that bad boy. And cherry tomatoes!!! Mmmmmm.


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