Autumn Tray Bake Salad
This is the perfect salad for a chilly evening when you want something both warm and nourishing, but not too heavy. The grapes, squash, onions and kale all get roasted together on the same pan, then finished with walnuts, thinly sliced apples and Gorgonzola for the perfect ratio of salt, sweet, crunch and tenderness. Autumn on a plate.
VITALITY • SALAD • autumn
A tray bake, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is a meal where you throw everything together on the same tray, pop it in the oven and forget about it until the timer goes off.
It’s the kind of meal I particularly like because a) the cleanup is an absolute breeze and b) the oven does all the hard work for me. All I have to do is chop up a few vegetables, toss them in a dressing and set a timer. What could be better?
Think of it like a template. Add some haloumi cheese and some olives and go Mediterranean or how about some chickpeas and curry spice for an Indian take on the meal? It’s the sort of thing I tend to make when I find myself staring vacantly into the fridge at mealtimes. There are almost always enough random vegetables knocking around in the crisper to throw together a tray bake. And the bonus is that instead of eating chips and stale bread for dinner, I eat a delicious, colorful, healthy meal.
What I particularly like is to turn the tray bake into a tray bake salad by (you guessed it) scattering the tray baked ingredients over some greens or by tossing a roughly chopped bunch of kale over the top of the tray towards the end of the cooking time. I am one of those people who find the consumption of raw, cold vegetables almost excruciating when the temperature dips anywhere below 70 degrees — my body just rebels at the thought. So sneaking my greens under a pile of steaming, spice-laden vegetables and hunks of salty cheese is how I’ve adapted. It ticks all the boxes.
This particular tray bake is built entirely around one of my latest favorite discoveries; the roasted grape. In the spring, I discovered roasted radishes and my mind was opened to the possibilities of unprecedented roasting adventures. The roasted grape is a shining victory — somehow embracing the best qualities of both a raisin and a raw grape but being like neither one or the other. It’s magical. Sweet, tender, juicy, divine.
I’ve paired it with an almost Waldorf salad inspired spectrum of flavors — crunchy apple, toasted walnut, bleu cheese — but also some squash for vivid autumnal color, roasted onion just because and kale for the salad factor. It was everything I hoped it would be — the kind of meal I imagine I might sit down to at the candle-lit table of a French peasant with a glass of good Bourdeaux.
Autumn Tray Bake Salad
Total time: 50 minutes
Serves 4 - 6
For the salad:
1 lb Acorn, Red Kuri or Kabocha squash, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick segments
1 large onion, sliced into segments
1 large bunch of red grapes (2 cups or 350g), removed from the stem
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 pink lady apple, thinly sliced
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup (50 g) gorgonzola cheese
For the dressing:
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dijon mustard
6 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
For the salad:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil a large sheet pan or baking tray or line with a silicone mat or parchment.
In a large bowl, combine the squash, onion and grapes with the olive oil, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss well with your hands until everything is well coated.
Place the vegetables into the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until the squash is easily pierced by a fork.
Meanwhile, place the kale in the bowl you just used to toss the vegetables along with a pinch of salt and allow it to pick up some of the remaining oil clinging to the sides of the bowl. During the final 5 minutes of cooking time, sprinkle the kale over the top of the other vegetables where it should wilt and crisp slightly.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Place the walnuts in a small baking dish and allow to roast for 10 - 12 minutes, or until fragrant.
Combine the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and whisk until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the salad between the plates, top with apple slices, walnuts and the gorgonzola and drizzle with a spoonful or two of the dressing.
Feel free to mix this salad up by changing up your ingredients. Try Marcona almonds in place of the walnuts, chèvre in place of the Gorgonzola or roast some chickpeas along with the vegetables.
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