This blog post is also available in German.
This salad is the perfect starter for the Christmas dinner with the family. It`s packed with seasonal, healthy and nutritious ingredients. Luscious fresh lamb’s lettuce, crispy roasted beetroot and caramelized sweet potato cubes are rounded off with a sweet-nutty walnut maple dressing. An absolutely irresistible combination that you shouldn’t deprive your loved ones of both at Christmas and throughout the winter season.
The perfect winter salad
As you know, I’m a big fan of burgers, pizza, pasta and all that kind of soulfood, but after I’ve enjoyed such a dish, my body is always longing for something green. I regularly feel the desire to eat a salad. Yes exactly, just salad. Over the years, however, I’ve got a little into a salad trot – as I call it. Again and again the same salads and dressings, because it`s just practical and easy. Does that sound familiar to you? Someday you might get a little dull if you cook a lot and tend to prepare the same recipes over and over again. If that’s the case for you, let’s break this habit! Let us try something new!
This Christmas I absolutely wanted to serve salad, but not just any boring kind of salad we’ve eaten umpteen times, but something new. I also wanted it to be as colourful as possible. Outside it’s grey enough already. So I took a little inspiration from the seasonal calendar, the rich pink, yellow and orange of sweet potatoes and beetroot immediately caught my eye. And of course walnuts are a must for some crunch. At the last moment I decided to make a dressing out of the walnuts instead of caramelising them. That’s how the idea for this winter salad was born, which is also the starter for this years Christmas menu.
If salad is not your thing, you could alternatively serve a beetroot sweet potato soup with curry or this vegan carrot lox . Otherwise I can highly recommend this kale salad with pomegranate seeds and radishes.
Winter salad with roasted beetroot & caramelized sweet potatoes with walnut maple dressing
The green base for this salad is fresh local lamb’s lettuce.It`s one of the most popular winter salads here in Switzerland. We call it Nüssler. Lamb’s lettuce is in season all year round, but is eaten frequently during winter, because then many other types of lettuce are out of season. It`s also one of the lettuce varieties with the highest content of vitamin C, A, E, B9 and potassium. In other words, lamb’s lettuce is an excellent and healthy choice for your Christmas starter and a delicious option for your winter salad.
However, since Christmas appetizers are not supposed to be just plain lamb’s lettuce, this winter salad also includes roasted beetroot and caramelised sweet potatoes. You might think now, ughh, that sounds complicated! But that’s not it at all. Since my change to a vegan diet, I`ve been a huge fan of oven-roasted vegetables. Why? Because it’s easy, it’s simple and you can do something else while the vegetables are sizzling in the oven.
You have two baking trays? Even better, then you can prepare the beetroot at the same time as the sweet potatoes. And caramelizing in the oven is super easy as well. I’ll tell you how to do that right away. By roasting both ingredients at the same time, you work much more time effectively.
This winter salad is rounded off with a sweet-nutty dressing using walnuts and maple syrup.
How to keep lamb’s lettuce fresh
In principle, it`s advisable to eat lamb’s lettuce as soon as possible, preferably on the same day. The longer it remains in the vegetable compartment of your fridge, the more vitamins it loses. But sometimes our tight time schedule forces us to shop a few days before Christmas. No problem, because with these tips your salad stays fresh in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Important: when buying, make sure that the lamb’s lettuce is harvested as fresh as possible. If you shop in the supermarket make sure it`s not already laying on the shelves for several days. The fresher it is, the longer it lasts. If possible, buy it with the roots still attached. This also prolongs lifetime.
Before storing the lamb’s lettuce in the fridge, remove brown and rotten leaves. Then there are several options, either put the lamb’s lettuce in an airtight container or wrap it in a damp kitchen towel. In principle, you should never store lamb’s lettuce airtight, so make sure you use acontainer with an opening for air circulation. If possible, put a damp kitchen towel in the container. Check the salad daily and remove rotten leaves immediately. The best storage place in the fridge is the vegetable compartment.
If you buy lamb`s lettuce wrapped in plastic, I would immediately remove the salad from the plastic at home and store it as written above. On the day you eat it, you can also put wilted leaves in water for a short time to make them look better again.
Instead of lamb’s lettuce you can use any other type of lettuce. The winter salad still tastes excellent. In December kale, oak leaf lettuce, garden lettuce, purslane or sugar loaf are in season.
Roasting vegetables properly & caramelising in the oven
Roasting vegetables or caramelising them in the oven is not magic. There are two basic things to keep in mind. First, don’t use too much liquid (oil/maple syrup/honey, etc.) or the result won’t be crispy. Second, give your vegetables enough space on the tray. If the vegetables are on top of each other or too close together, the steam will cook them rather than roast them. To achieve this beautiful brown roast colour, it`s best to put the vegetables on the top groove of the oven for the last 5 to 10 minutes. Do not let the vegetables out of your sight like that they don`t burn.
For roasting, cut the vegetables of your choice – beetroot for this recipe – into coarse pieces and add some oil (approx. 1 tbsp), salt and pepper to the vegetables. Then mix everything well so that the vegetables are evenly covered with oil and spices. Then distribute the vegetables on a baking tray and place in the middle of the oven at 220° Celsius.
When caramelising in the oven, proceed exactly the same way. In addition, add a sweetener in liquid form. I prefer to use maple syrup. Of course you can also use honey – if you don’t eat a vegan diet – sugar beet syrup or date syrup. Caramelised by the sugar, the vegetables brown beautifully. Additionally they get a certain sweetness. You can also push the baking tray onto the upper groove if you want a stronger browning.
You can roast any vegetable for this winter salad, just as you like. It doesn’t necessarily have to be beetroot and sweet potatoes. According to the seasonal calendar you could also use celeriac, carrots, pumpkin, brussel sprouts or parsnips.
Alternative – nut-free dressing
The combination of walnuts and maple syrup harmonises perfectly with the nutty aroma of lamb’s lettuce and the sweetness of the beetroot and sweet potatoes. However, if you are allergic to nuts or just don’t like walnuts, there are other options. Alternatively you can take other nuts of your choice. If you want a nut-free dressing, try sunflower or pumpkin seeds. This also tastes delicious.
Also maple syrup is not mandatory. I personally prefer its caramel flavour, but of course you can also use another liquid sweetener.
Low waste tips for this winter salad
If you – like me – want to produce as little garbage as possible when preparing this winter salad, I recommend to buy the fresh ingredients at the weekly farmers market. There you can get everything unpacked, even the walnuts. You can use beetroot and sweet potatoes scraps for a vegetable broth or paste. The rest of the ingredients are available in most supermarkets packed in glass.
Meal Prep – Preparing in advance possible?
The preparation of this winter salad is only partly possible in advance. I would definitely advise against roasting and caramelising the vegetables in advance. Otherwise, the next day you’ll have a soggy instead of crispy vegetables. However, you can cut the vegetables in advance and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge. Then all you have to do is bake it in the oven on Christmas Day. I would push the preparation of the salad to the end of your Christmas menu prep. The vegetables should be served fresh from the oven. If you don’t want to serve them warm, plan in 10-15 minutes to cool them down. But I wouldn’t let them stand any longer.
Why you should definitely try this winter salad:
- packed with nutrients & vitamins
- low waste
- beautiful to look at
- really colorful
- easily prepared
- simple & nevertheless exquisite
- the perfect starter for your Christmas feast
More simple & quick starters for Christmas:
- beetroot & sweet potato curry soup
- vegan Gyoza – Japanese dumplings
- carrot lox
- Pimientos de Padrón
- kale salad with pomegranate seeds & radishes
If you are trying this winter salad, I would love your feedback here in the comments. If you share your creation of this recipe on Instagram, please don’t forget to link @velvetandvinegar and use the hashtag #velvetandvinegar. So my community and I won’t miss your contribution.
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Winter Salad with roasted Beetroot & caramelized Sweet Potato with Maple Walnut Dressing
This salad is the perfect starter for the Christmas dinner with the family. It`s packed with seasonal, healthy and nutritious ingredients. Luscious fresh lamb's lettuce, crispy roasted beetroot and caramelized sweet potato cubes are rounded off with a sweet-nutty walnut maple dressing. An absolutely irresistible combination that you shouldn't deprive your loved ones of both at Christmas and throughout the winter season.
- 250 g yellow beetroot organic
- 350 g beetroot organic
- 3 tbsp olive oil organic
- 250 g sweet potatoes organic
- 2 tbsp maple syrup organic
- salt organic
- black pepper organic
- 150 g lamb's lettuce organic
- 60 g walnuts organic
- 2 tbsp mustard organic
- 2 tbsp maple syrup organic
- 2 tbsp canola oil organic
- 3 tbsp cider vinegar organic
- salt organic
- black pepper organic
Preheat oven to 220° Celsius.
Peel beetroot and sweet potatoes. Cut the beetroot into slices and the sweet potatoes into small cubes.
Place each vegetable in a different bowl. The yellow and red beetroot separately, otherwise the red beetroot discolours the yellow. Add 1 tbsp olive oil in each of the three bowls. Season with salt and pepper and mix well so that the vegetables are evenly covered with oil and spices.
Add the maple syrup to the sweet potatoes and mix well again.
Place the diced sweet potatoes on a baking tray. Spread the beetroot slices on another baking tray as well. Yellow beets on one side, red beets on the other.
Push both trays into the middle of the oven. Bake the sweet potatoes for 20 minutes, 5-10 of them on the top groove. Roast the beetroot in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes. Bake the last 5 - 10 minutes on the top groove. Take both trays out of the oven after half time and turn the vegetables. Take care that nothing burns, especially when baking on the top groove.
Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a blender and chop into a homogeneous cream. Add spoonfuls of water until the sauce has the right consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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