It can take a lot to get excited about a salad, and by a lot I mean the inclusion of a diverse array ingredients that mix bitter, sour, and sweet, soft and crunchy, and you know—just all the adjectives. I am fully down for some plain AF spinach with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, but it’s not going to be something I write home about. (I’m literally writing home about such things these days, because pandemic.)
In the latest episode of Cook with Us, chef Nyesha Arrington of Top Chef fame somehow manages to deliver a salad that is so complex on the palate and yet simple to assemble that I most certainly want to write home—or at least, online—about it. She achieves this using seasonal ingredients, which ensures that the vegetables included will likely be more nutrient-dense than they would be out of season, and that procuring them is better for the environment and your wallet. Plus, in-season produce just tastes so much better. “We’re in this amazing time of late summer going into fall, so we’re using hard squashes, tomatoes, and beets,” she says.
Record scratch for, like, a good percentage of the population: beets are very polarizing (even though they’re extremely good for you). But trust, the way they’re prepared in this roasted beet and delicata squash salad with may just convert you. Arrington roasts her beets with salt, thyme, and olive oil, which is a beet delivery system of which I am personally a major fan. (Just wear gloves when peeling and chopping them, because beet juice can stain like none other.)
The real magic, however, is in combining those soft-and-sweet veggies with roasted delicata squash that just sort of melts in your mouth and tomatoes (anything from grape to heirloom, or your fave), and then topping that with roasted squash seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and an arugula garnish. “When you’re making salads you want to feel satisfied—it’s not just about this super dainty thing,” Arrington says. “So, I tend to use nuts and seeds because they have a lot of texture to them.”
The hearty mixture is then drenched with a lime vinaigrette that cuts the sweetness of the beets, squash, and tomato perfectly, so there are no one-note bites. Instead, each forkful encapsulates this very specific season perfectly, while making you maybe just a little bit excited about fall (pumpkin! squash! oh my!). “Fun, pretty things don’t have to be hard,” says Arrington of her Instagram-ready mix. “We made this in under 30 minutes.” Watch the latest Cook with Us video to get some Top Chef tips on technique, the full recipe, and a healthy appetite.