Roast vegetable salad with a lime & cumin crunch
It’s transition time in Christchurch. The weather is being about decisive as I am about dinner. The only running theme is the decreasing night temperatures, which finally sting a little since you’re shuddering so hard because you’re wearing day time clothes at one in the morning. Outside.
Cheer up. I bring you…roast vegetable salad! I know, I know, not exactly the most original thing in the world, but who cares when it tastes this good and barely takes any effort?! Before you quote me on that, it does take time, but most of this is spent in the oven, not you huddled over a spitting mass on the stovetop. And you may be thinking: Pheh! I’ve had roast vegetable salads, and they’re awful! Slimy, cold, squishy and surprisingly bland. Trust me, I feel your pain. The key to a good roast vegetable salad, as it turns out, is twofold: putting flavours and textures in, rather than assuming that they will appear out of thin air, and eating them fresh, ie. not reheated. The second point is particularly important, because quite frankly, I’ve never had good reheated roast potatoes.
As you’ll see from the ingredients, it’s all very flexible. The recipe is more of a guideline and the lime cumin pumpkin and sesame seeds could be sunflower seeds, or plain roasted cashews. If you don’t have salad leaves, it’s not imperative you rush out to get some. Improvise. Then nom.
Roast vegetable salad
serves 2 as a main, 4 as a light main
1 large roasting dish worth of potatoes arranged on a single layer, chopped into 2.5cm (1″)dice
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
optional: 3-4 cloves garlic, crushed slightly
any of the following, enough to fill another large roasting pan on one layer:
cauliflower, chopped into large florets (5cm, or 2″, wide)
pumpkin, skin removed if desired, cut into 3cm (1 1/4″) cubes
carrot, chopped into 2.5cm (1″) pieces, cut on a slight diagonal
red peppers, chopped into 5cm (2″) squares or thick lengths
Optional: two handfuls of leafy greens, 100g cubed feta or halloumi
plenty of cooking oil, and some butter if you want
Preheat oven to 200C (400F), arranging one rack on the bottom and one rack on the top. Do this before chopping the vegetables. Pour about 1/3c oil (or enough to coat the entire bottom of the pan once oil is hot) in each roasting pan, or use some butter and some oil together. Throw in the oven whilst preheating. Chop vegetables. Remove the tray on the bottom from the oven, and tip the potatoes in (they will sizzle a little), tossing (carefully!) to coat them all in oil. Quickly season with salt and pepper. Immediately put back in the oven, and remove the top roasting dish. Place all the other vegetables plus a light sprinkle of salt and pepper in the hot roasting pan (again, a little sizzling will happen), tossing carefully to coat. Quickly put back in the oven. Let bake for 30 minutes. While these are in the oven you can prep the seeds/nuts.
Cumin lime crunch
a large handful pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
a small handful of black or white sesame seeds
about 1/2 Tbs ground cumin
several splashes of lime juice
sprinkle of salt to taste
about 1 tsp oil
Add oil to a small non-stick or cast iron pan, heating on medium low heat. Swirl the hot oil around to coat the bottom of the pan. Add seeds, and stir to coat the seeds in oil. Add a squirt of lime juice whilst standing back, and stir slightly to coat the seeds in the lime juice – it may spit a little. Add another splash of lime juice and the cumin, and turn down the heat to low, stirring. Once the juice has evaporated and the cumin is evenly distributed, turn off the heat and let the seeds sit in the pan on a single layer.
If using cashews, almonds, pine nuts or pistachios, remove from the pan and add to a baking tray, arranging on a single layer. Put these in the oven for a further 5 minutes when you can fit them in. Or you can roast them plain.
After the 30 minutes the vegetables have been in the oven, remove the potatoes from the oven and shake from side to side. If they don’t budge, put them back, do not try to unstick them. Put the potatoes back in the oven, and remove the top tray of other vegetables, tossing a little to mix. Place back in the oven. Let bake another 20 minutes.
Remove vegetables from the oven, and check for done-ness by putting a knife through one of the vegetables. If cooked to your liking, let cool on the side a little. Then check the potatoes for done-ness by shaking vigourously from side to side. If most of them come unstuck, then get a heat proof spatula to dislodge any that are sticking slightly, and toss them. There should still be a little oil at the bottom, but the potatoes shouldn’t be swimming in oil. If there’s not enough oil, add a few extra Tablespoons, if too much, tilt the pan so the oil collects in a corner and scoop out. Different potatoes do things different. If you had to get a spatula to dislodge some, throw the potatoes back in the oven for another 15 minutes. If when you shook them all of them easily slid around in the pan, then they are done already. Double check by sticking a knife through one potato piece or tasting a slightly cooled piece.
Put cooled veges into a very large bowl and toss with seeds. Add potatoes and feta if using, and mix together. Arrange a handful of leafy greens on two plates, and then distribute the roast vegetable salad on top. Add a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, and serve immediately.
Next up: multilayer Russian honey cake, for those of you who want to procrastinate about your assignments. Or if you’re in a hurry, there’s halvah (sesame) shortbread, as seen at Hungry & Frozen. Tasty stuff. Although if you’re going to grind your own almonds, decrease the butter by about 20g – mine was a little fat-laden, even for shortbread! Also grind the almonds with a little flour to prevent it sticking together (but minus this amount of flour off the amount you add later to the mixture, if you get what I mean).