The inspiration for this salad comes, from all places, a train station quickie mart in Scotland.
I just got back from a wedding in Glasgow. My housemate from culinary school Katie married her fiancé Nick at the Arches, a moody, electric venue underneath the central train station. It usually functions as a nightclub. The opportunity to go to a Scottish wedding in a legendary club, complete with men in kilts, bagpipes and a late night DJ set by the groom himself was not to be missed.
(Photo credit goes to Rob, another of our housemates. Great shots Rob!)
After days of feasting, drinking and dancing, I was ready to clean up my act a bit. But that can be difficult when you’re traveling… particularly in the land of haggis and whiskey. On my way out of the city, I popped into the little market by the train station, expecting to find a selection of meat-flavored crisps and perhaps a toastie if I was lucky. Instead, I found an incredibly out-of-place “Rainbow Salad” – one of the tastiest lunches I’ve had in ages.
The salad is a great balanced bring-to-work lunch, with roasted beets, sweet potatoes and squash, protein-rich quinoa, fresh spinach and avocado rounding everything out. Perfect to atone for some post-wedding weekend mischief.
A note on beets - I used a mix of red and pink chiogga beets. If you use a lighter pink or golden beet, marinate with a splash of champagne or white wine vinegar rather than balsamic, to preserve the color.
Roasted Roots and Quinoa Rainbow Salad
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 20 min Cook Time: 1 hour Total Time: 1 hour 20 min
1 lb beets
salt and pepper
1 small delicata squash, halved, seeds scooped, cut into 1/4" half moons
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz / 225 g quinoa, rinsed
1 2/3 cups / 400 mL water
4 handfuls baby spinach
6 oz / 170 g roasted red peppers, sliced into strips
2 oz / 60 g sunflower seeds, toasted
3 Tbs olive oil
1.5 Tbs balsamic vinegar plus a splash
1.5 Tbs orange juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 425F / 220C.
Remove beet tops, rinse beets, and place in a small roasting pan. Drizzle on some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cover with aluminum foil tightly. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until beets are tender when pierced with a knife.
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss squash and sweet potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake alongside beets for final 20-30 minutes til tender. Let cool.
Heat water and quinoa in a saucepan til boiling. Reduce heat, cover and cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Combine 3 Tbs olive oil, balsamic vinegar, orange juice and mustard. Whisk, taste and season with salt and pepper. Once quinoa is finished, stir in about a Tbs of dressing.
Once beets are cooled, remove skins with a kitchen towel or paring knife. Dice into large chunks. Add to a bowl and add a splash of balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Let marinate for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut avocado in half and remove pit. Dice avocado or slice into long strips.
To serve, place a layer of quinoa in a serving dish. Arrange quinoa, beets, squash, sweet potatoes, avocado and red pepper on top of quinoa, then drizzle with dressing. Top with toasted sunflower seeds.