I had a hard time coming up with a title for this salad recipe, as I couldn’t decide to showcase the roast veggies in the name or to emphasize the (very mildly) Asian aspect of it. It’s a riff on a salad available from Panera, which is a soup-and-sandwich joint in my neck of the woods. A co-worker bought a salad from there for lunch one day, and it smelled so good that I had to replicate it on my own.
The salad base (as I re-envisioned it) is a mixture of romaine lettuce and spinach, which is then tossed with oven-roasted veggies, shavings of real parmesan, mandarin segments, and sesame seeds, and then finished with a homemade Italian dressing.
The roast veggies are what take this salad to the next level — ever had eggplant, zucchini, baby tomatoes, all oven-roasted and tossed with slightly charred roast peppers? Oh, so good! If you’re thinking blech, roast veggies, then you DEFINITELY need to try this dish, as it will change your mind and make you a roast veggie convert for life! The roasting of the veggies caramelizes them and makes them soft and crispy and sweet and savoury all at the same time. I could happily eat roast veggies on toast with a dash of salt for many a meal (and have done so).
But aside from tasting really, truly yummy, the dish is obviously healthy and a great way to get a whole lot of veggies packed into a single plate. So let’s make some!
Eat-The-Rainbow Roast Veggie Salad, with Asian Flair
- 1 head romaine lettuce
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- 1 pint baby tomatoes
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 bunch baby spinach
- 2 red peppers, halved
- shavings of (real) parmesan to taste
- 1 can mandarin segments
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1/2 c. vegetable oil, plus two tbsp. oil
- dressing of choice (Panera uses a sweet onion dressing, but I used a homemade Italian dressing)
The first (and very important) step is to slice the eggplant into thin slices and salt them liberally. Stack on a plate and wait for an hour or so for the salt to draw out all the bitter juices. Then rinse off the salt and bitter juices.
Place all the vegetables (except the lettuce and spinach) on two cookie trays, and put 1/4 c. of the oil on each tray. Toss veggies to coat. Bake in a 400 degree oven until crispy and golden, about 30-40 minutes, making sure to flip the veggies with a spatula halfway through the cooking. When you flip the veggies, brush the remaining two tbsp. of oil on the veggies. When fully roasted, the eggplant and zucchini will look golden and caramelized, the peppers will be slightly charred, and the tomatoes will look shrunken. Let cool.
While veggies are cooling, toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium high heat until golden brown (very quick). Let cool.
Slice romaine and toss with baby spinach and mandarin segments. Divide over four plates and divide veggies and place on top. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top, and top with parmesan shavings. Add dressing of choice.
This salad is SOOOOO good! I served it for dinner this weekend, and while it looks all healthy and light (and is!), it was also enough to keep my taste buds happy and my stomach full.
I imagine it would taste even better with a sweet onion dressing, and plan to try that next time. I honestly didn’t think roast veggies would go well with mandarin segments, but it really, truly does. Plus, the vitamin C in the mandarin segments helps your body absorb the iron from the spinach, so win-win! If the health benefits of this salad don’t convince you to try it, do it because it just tastes so darn good! You’ll thank me, you’ll see!
Next Post: Three-Ingredient Blue Cheese Pasta…or Strawberry Custard and Cream Cake? I’m leaning towards the cake because of my sweet tooth, but…I do like my carbs, so it’s a toss-up! Any preferences? Let me know in the comments!