One of the least exciting aspects of my eating habits is my propensity to want to eat salad for every meal. Not with every meal, for every meal. I find this desire of mine to be no less normal than the desires of those who insist on eating meat with every meal, only, when I admit to people that, in my mind, salad is no less important than meat, I tend to be the recipient of a lot of quizzical looks.
Sometimes I wonder if this response is based on a very demure idea of what constitutes a salad. To be honest, I am not entirely sure myself what magically transforms a mixture of several ingredients into something that one could call a salad. To me, a salad is a bunch of fresh vegetables—some cooked, some not—a bit of protein, a lot of texture, and some sort of dressing or citrus drizzled over the top. Or, rather, those are the qualities I look for in a salad of my own (not to totally exclude those salads that might boast a creamy dressing, a ton of protein, and perhaps even no vegetables—see how confusing this can get?).
If I were to choose a salad to eat every day, perhaps even at every meal, it would be this one. Nutty quinoa piled on top of crunchy, spicy arugula, earthy roasted beets, a handful of toasted nuts with just a hint of sweetness, and a kicky, citrusy dressing, all together on one plate. This is my favorite whole-meal salad. Unfortunately, it is also the salad that contains every single ingredient that my son finds absolutely repellant (save for the sweetened walnuts), so it is a salad that I tend to consume only when I know that I will be eating alone, and thus in charge of pleasing only myself. It is my hope that my son will one day discover the joys of beets and quinoa (or, shall I say, rediscover, since that kid ate both of those things when he was a baby, but won’t go within five feet of them now, of course—not that I am trying to make him feel guilty or bad or…where was I going with this?), but if he does not, maybe that’s not entirely awful since, of course, less salad for him logically means more salad for me.
Quinoa, Arugula, and Roasted Beet Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing
These ingredients, as listed, will make two large, whole-meal salads. If you wish, you can also make four smaller side salads with this amount of ingredients.
2 beets, trimmed, with leafy tops removed and reserved for another use
1/3 cup walnuts
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
2 cups cooked quinoa (tip: quinoa is most delicious when cooked in a 50/50 mixture of vegetable stock and water), warm or at room temperature
2 or 3 large handfuls of arugula
¼ teaspoon finely grated or mashed garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap beets tightly in foil. Roast beets for 40 minutes, until cooked completely through. Remove from oven and carefully unwrap to allow steam to escape, then leave beets—still in foil—to cool. When beets have cooled enough to touch (about 15 minutes) rub the beets in their foil wrapper to remove skins. Voila—you have just avoided staining your hands with the diabolically stubborn juice of your beets.
While the beets are roasting, place the walnuts in a pan set over medium heat. Toast the walnuts for 2 or 3 minutes, until they just begin to emit a nutty aroma. Sprinkle the sugar around the walnuts, allowing as much of the sugar as possible to sit on the bottom of the pan. Watch the sugar carefully as it begins to melt, then just begins to turn amber. Stir the nuts and sugar together, then immediately remove from heat and pour onto a plate to cool.
To make dressing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until thick and emulsified. Taste for seasoning, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Place a large handful of arugula on a plate. Place 1 cup of cooked quinoa on one side of the arugula. Slice the beets into rounds and place beet slices on the other side of the arugula. If desired, generously pepper the beets (this is what I always do, because I like the beets extra peppery). Drizzle the dressing over the arugula, quinoa, and beets. Top with toasted walnuts. If desired, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.