I’m a big fan of two-ingredient “salads”—if you’ll allow me to call them that. What makes a salad a salad? It’s not uncommon to see a “tomato salad” with just tomato and dressing. So is the imperative on fresh vegetables? (Not so! What about chicken, egg or grain-based salads?) Does it need to be cold? (No! Warm or room-temperature salads are a typical Moroccan side, like with carrots, for instance.) To me, it seems the word “salad”—and especially if we look at the term “word salad,” a hodgepodge of words—implies that there are many components jumbled up in one dish.
But you don’t need a large number of ingredients to make a complementary blend of flavors and textures. Take a crisp apple, for example. This packs a pleasant crunch—so you can skip the lettuce—as well as sweetness to harmonize with the rest of the flavors. And roast a tender little root vegetable, such as Hakurei turnips, and you have a golden-brown savory edge and slightly bitter, juicy interior. Keep it a little warm and you have many components in this salad already, without even adding dressing.
It might have begun to feel like spring or even summer in spots this year (last Saturday in New York City gave many people sunburns before the weather receded back to the 50s). But the local produce isn’t summery yet—the farmers markets still featured cold storage-kept roots and apples at the farmers markets, lurking sheepishly behind the vibrant spring flowers and plant seedlings.
So let’s make the best of what we’ve got. I picked up some rather greyish Hakurei turnips, coated in dirt. After a rinse at home and a quick roast at 400 degrees, these became the bronzed near-croutons that I was hoping them to be. Have faith in produce, I say, and give them the pampering they may need to shine. I didn’t have to do much to these particular root vegetables, being so small and quick to cook nicely—and I always like keeping the curlicue root strands attached to the bulbs when roasting them, for added crunch.
This duo of sliced apple and roasted radishes could have gotten away with just a squeeze of lemon to finish them off. But if your winter pantry doesn’t usually come stocked with lemons, seize the staples and make something impressively different—in this case, it was hot mustard powder along with a dab of Dijon mustard, honey and some apple cider vinegar, for me.
This golden syrup was drizzled on a pile of sliced apples and roasted turnips, giving it just a kiss of sweet, savory, hot and tart. No, not much fat to speak of here besides the olive oil (sorry, Samin Nosrat). But if you want to crumble some cheese into the salad for that, I won’t stop you.
Maybe the true meaning of a salad is that the combination of ingredients just comes together enough to let their disparate parts shine, bound by an equalizing sauce or dressing of some sort. Or just a sense that what you’re eating was meant to be together. Even though I never would have thought beforehand that these things would—turnips, apples and honey-mustard aren’t as ingrained as, say, tomato, mozzarella and basil—they did. They were put there together, by fate or harmony.
Apple and Roasted Hakurei Turnip Salad with Hot Honey Mustard Dressing
(makes 3-4 side servings)
1 lb hakurei turnips (about a dozen small bulbs)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large apple
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon Chinese hot mustard powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Trim radishes from greens (if any) leaving a small stub of the stems attached. Wash both well to remove dirt. Halve each turnip, or if some are large, quarter them so that each piece is roughly the same size, keeping the long tails intact.
Toss the turnips with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Place flat sides-down in an even layer on a roasting pan. Roast for 5-10 minutes, or just until the bottoms are lightly browned. Toss or flip them in the pan with tongs, and continue roasting another 3-5 minutes, to brown other sides. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a small bowl, whisk the honey, vinegar, Dijon mustard and mustard powder well. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Add salt to taste.
Quarter the apple and trim out the core. Slice into long, thin pieces. Arrange the apple and roasted Hakurei turnips in a plate. Drizzle the dressing over, and serve immediately.
(for 3-4 side servings)
1 lb Hakurei turnips: $4.00
1 apple: $0.50
1 Tb honey: $0.20
1 Tb vinegar: $0.10
1 tsp Dijon mustard: $0.15
½ tsp hot mustard powder: $0.10
3 Tb olive oil: $0.50
Four brownie points: Simplity is a good way to eat healthfully. But you don’t have to be a raw foodist to get there—a light roast on a vegetable can transform it into something satisfying enough to eat a large plateful. Turnips are a great source of Vitamin C, and also fiber and minerals such as copper and iron. Apple will lend natural sweetness along with more fiber, and keeping the skins on will give you more vitamins and minerals.
Eight maple leaves: Pantry ingredients for the dressing, in-season produce from the local farmers market—this dish comes with a very low carbon footprint. Add it to a protein to round out a meal, and think along the lines of two-ingredient salads like this with whatever produce the season brings.