I never think of salad as “diet food”. Ever. Instead I prepare them with the mindset of celebrating the seasons. And so I make no apologies that this salad is on the sweeter side. No . . . not in a dessert kind of way. But in a rich, luscious chewy roasted veggie & dried fruit drizzled in honey kind of way!
Colorful thyme roasted rainbow carrots mingle with sweet roasted red pearl onions, plump tart dried cranberries, protein greens, and a splash of honey vinaigrette. Best served with a couple of slices of herbed goat cheese and a sprinkling of chopped pistachios!
The star of the show are these lovely rainbow carrots. I just love the variety of colors. If you slice them really thin on a mandolin, they will curl as you roast them. They remind me of little flower petals. So pretty!
You can certainly serve the carrots on their own as a side dish. And they do shrink a lot. But when mixed with some light greens, no one flavor is overwhelming. It’s just so nice and lightly sweet.
For this winter carrot salad, I like to use baby red pearl onions. I cut them into little wedges so they are about the same size as the carrots. And you know, if you cut a bit of the root so the onion sits flat, and then make 4-6 slices into (but not all the way) the onion, when you roast them, they will open like a little flower bud. I like to do this with a few of the onions as a pretty garnish to the salad. Plump the cranberries in some warm water so they will be an extra chewy element to the salad!
While this salad is on the savory sweet side, it’s surprisingly light and refreshing.
I have no affiliation with Organic Girl. But I love their greens! I particularly love this protein mix. It’s a blend of sweet pea leaves, baby spinach, baby bok choy, baby kale and mizuna. I love how these light greens become all entangled and entwined in the roasted veggies. The dressing is EVERYTHING here. It’s light and sweet with honey and cinnamon and pairs so well with the roasted carrots and onions.
This is one of my all time FAVORITE salads and I wouldn’t change a thing. But here’s how you can MAKE IT YOUR OWN:
- Can’t find rainbow carrots? Regular carrots would work just as well. Or how about a combination of carrots and parsnips?
- You can also use spiralized carrots, squash or sweet potatoes. I often find these already prepped in my local markets.
- I love using dried cranberries in the winter. But any dried fruit would be fantastic. I like the idea of golden raisins and dried apricots as well!
- I roasted the carrots with some fresh thyme. But use your favorite herb. Maybe that’s tarragon or rosemary?
- Use your favorite greens. I recommend hearty greens like arugula that will hold up to the olive oil roasted veggies. But if butter lettuce is your thing, who am I to judge? Go for it!
- Add herbs to the honey vinaigrette. Or substitute maple syrup for the honey. Maybe it’s just a lemon vinaigrette that you prefer.
- I like to toss some chopped pistachios into the mix for a crunchy element. Use the nut you’re nuts about!
- I like to serve this with some tangy goat cheese to complement the sweetness. But ricotta salata or blue cheese would be great. Or how about some smoky gouda?
- FOR THE SALAD:
- 2 pounds of rainbow carrots, peeled and sliced thinly on a mandolin (the thinner the carrots the more they will curl)
- 10 ounces of red pearl onions, cut into wedges (*See note below for onion flowers*)
- ½ cup of dried cranberries
- 8 ounces of protein greens (I used Organic Girl)
- ¼ cup of chopped pistachios
- 4-6 ounces of goat cheese
- 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
- salt & pepper to taste
- FOR THE DRESSING:
- ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup of white wine vinegar
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 Tablespoons of honey
- ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide the carrots and onions between the 2 baking sheets, trying to spread them out as evenly in one layer as possible, though some will overlap.
- Drizzle each pan of veggies with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil.
- Sprinkle each pan with 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves.
- Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.
- Bake for 10 minutes, stir, spread the veggies out evenly again and bake for an additional 10-12 minutes until the carrots become tender and start to curl.(The longer you cook them, the better they will curl, just be sure they don't become crisp like chips!)
- Meanwhile whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or mason jar
- Season to taste.
- If desired place the cranberries in a bowl and cover with hot water to plump them, draining before adding them to the salad.
- Place the greens in a serving bowl.
- Lightly dress with a tablespoon or two of dressing.
- Add the carrots, onions and cranberries and toss gently.
- Sprinkle with pistachios.
- Sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese or serve slices of goat cheese on the plate with your salad.
- Serve with extra dressing on the side.
All of my salads and dressings are just a starting place for your imagination. So feel free to add or swap ingredients and do what works for you!