Salad days

Holidays are over. Let's eat plants.

I've been accused of being a bit of a Scrooge whenever I climb onto my soapbox and pontificate about the evils of sugary holiday treats. I promised my wife that over the holidays I would stop telling the grandkids that every sugar cookie or piece of candy they consume brings them one step closer to developing juvenile diabetes and just let them enjoy the magic of Christmas. (Full disclosure: I allowed myself to indulge in one cup of brandied eggnog and a couple of pieces of my toffee. And a not-so-tiny wedge of Stilton Blue cheese with a couple glasses of port.)

But the holidays are behind us and now I am ready for a period of atonement. For the next several weeks the meat and sweet-centric menus of the holiday season will give way to a diet of predominately root- and leaf-centric winter salads. I'm not talking about a plate of lettuce topped with a few cherry tomatoes and some bottled dressing, but rather hearty, flavorful, crunchy, nutrient-dense plant-based complete meals.

These are some of the dishes I'll be making during the month of January.

Roasted Squash and Mushroom Salad

Serves 4


1 small butternut squash

12 sage leaves

4 garlic cloves, sliced

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon butter

8 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

1 bunch arugula

½ cup crumbled blue cheese

For the dressing

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel squash, cut in half, and remove seeds. Cut into one-inch cubes and place in a large bowl with sage, garlic and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and lightly browned.

In a skillet over medium-high heat melt butter with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the mushrooms until they have cooked through and their moisture has evaporated, about 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl or jar combine mustard and balsamic vinegar. Whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl combine the squash and mushrooms with the arugula and cheese. Add enough dressing to coat and gently toss together.

Celery Root, Parsley and Apple Salad

Serves 4


4 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1 lb. celery root, peeled, julienned*

2 medium tart apples, cored and julienned*

Leaves from 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, rinsed and dried

1 tablespoon roughly chopped tarragon

Zest of 2 lemons

Freshly ground black pepper

*Place into a bowl over water with a little apple cider vinegar to keep from discoloring.


In a blender, purée 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt with lemon juice, mayonnaise, maple syrup and jalapeno. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it emulsifies.

Scrape dressing into a large bowl and add the celery root, apples, parsley, tarragon and lemon zest. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.

Quinoa, Beet, and Goat Cheese Salad

Serves 4


For the beets:

4 medium beets with tops and stems

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the quinoa salad:

1 cup quinoa

2 cups vegetable broth

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, diced

Freshly ground black pepper

Juice of ½ lemon

4 ounces crumbled goat cheese


Wash the beet tops well and separate the stem from the leaves. Reserve the leaves. Slice the stems crosswise into a small dice, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the beet roots in a shallow roasting pan. Add a ¼-inch of water. Drizzle the beets with olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper

Cover pan tightly with foil. Roast the beets until tender, about 45-60 minutes. Let the beets cool slightly and peel.

Combine the quinoa and vegetable stock in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the shallot and beet stems and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shallot and beet stems are tender, 3-5 minutes, then add the beet greens. Using tongs, turn the leaves over until wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Peel the roasted beets, slice into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.

Add the sautéed greens and stems into the quinoa and mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Divide the quinoa salad into 4 serving bowls.

Toss the roasted beets with the lemon juice, salt, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Top the quinoa salad with the beet roots and top with the crumbled cheese.

An ironic footnote: While Dr. Peter is trying to adhere to a predominately plant-based diet for the month of January, he has 60 pounds of world-famous Benton bacon taking up half of his refrigerator. When his boss at the restaurant said that he could order Benton bacon from one of their suppliers, Peter asked him to order six packages, assuming they were one-pounders. When the order came in, to his shock and dismay, he discovered that he had received six restaurant-sized 10-pound packages at the wholesale cost of $480.

Illinois Times has provided readers with independent journalism for more than 40 years, from news and politics to arts and culture.

Now more than ever, we’re asking for your support to continue providing our community with real news that everyone can access, free of charge.

We’re also offering a home delivery option as an added convenience for friends of the paper.

Click here to subscribe, or simply show your support for Illinois Times.

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment