Sunday, April 6, 2014

Roast Green Vegetable Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Eat your vegetables. How often have you heard that in your life-time? As spring turns the outside green again I feel the need to eat green vegetables as well. Asparagus, broccolini, sugar snap peas, and green beans make a healthy salad. Toss in some nuts and it becomes quite hardy. This salad makes eating your vegetables easy thanks in part to the burst of flavor the orange vinaigrette adds.

I like making things easy, so if I am going to turn the oven on to toast the nuts I figure why not just roast the vegetables, too. However, you can blanch the vegetables in boiling water if you prefer. The salad tastes great either way. I just prefer the added intensity roasting gives. If you do choose to cook the vegetables in boiling water, 'shock' them in cold water afterwards to stop the cooking process, so they retain their bright green color.

I used hazelnuts for this recipe because I love the taste and the crunch they add, but any nut will do. Pistachios, cashews or almonds would be fine substitutes. Just make sure to toast them first to bring out the nutty flavor.

I roasted the broccolini whole because it looked so pretty I didn't want to cut it first. But it will roast faster if cut, so do cut before roasting. If you use broccoli instead of broccolini remove the stalks and cut into florets.

My mother taught me a clever way to make sure you never get a 'woody' end of asparagus. If you hold a piece of asparagus in both hands and snap off the end it will break where the asparagus is tender. You may lose a little more of the asparagus than you would have if you cut the ends off and it takes a little more prep time, but you will never bite into a woody stalk again. Which is a sacrifice I think worth making.

Freshly grated orange zest and juice give the vinaigrette a nice bright flavor. Be sure to use good quality vinegar and olive oil. My dear friend Sally gave me a lovely bottle of California Olive Ranch Limited Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is so rich and flavorful I could drink the stuff. The peppery flavor really gives the salad a boost.

Make sure to dress the salad just before serving, as the vinaigrette will cause the vegetables to lose their bright green color if left to sit for too long.

Roast Green Vegetable Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

1 pound (16 ounces/450 g) asparagus, ends removed and cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounces (226 g) broccolini or broccoli, ends removed and cut into bite-size pieces or florets 
8 ounces (226 g) sugar snap peas, stemmed, strings removed
8 ounces (226 g) green beans, stemmed, broken in half or left whole depending upon size
1/2 cup (66 g) chopped hazelnuts
extra virgin olive oil for roasting

Orange Vinaigrette

1/2 cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine vinegar
zest and juice from one orange
1 teaspoon finely minced shallots
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper 

Preheat the oven to 350℉ (180℃). Place chopped hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven until lightly browned about 8-10 minutes. Watch closely so they do not burn. Remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl to cool. 

Toss vegetables with some olive oil and put on rimmed baking sheets. Roast in the oven until tender but still bright green, about 10-15 minutes. A knife should pierce the flesh easily. Roast the asparagus and broccolini or broccoli on separate trays because their roasting time may vary. The sugar snap peas and green beans can be roasted together on the same baking sheet. Rotate the pans a few times to ensure even roasting.

While the vegetables are in the oven make the vinaigrette. Combine shallots, orange juice and zest, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil in a jar with a tight-closing lid. Shake vigorously to emulsify. Set aside.

When the vegetables are done roasting allow them to cool for a few minutes then put them in a large bowl. Sprinkle the toasted hazelnuts on top. When ready to serve shake vinaigrette again to emulsify and toss with vegetables. You may not need all the vinaigrette. Start with half, then add more if desired. Serve immediately. The salad can be served slightly warm or at room temperature. Do not dress the salad until ready to serve as the vegetables will loss their bright green color. 
Serves 6-8. 

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