We’re in the throes of winter! Actually, we’re not here in Miami. After the ridiculous cold last week, it’s been a crisp and beautiful 70 degrees every day. This is why I live here! But enough bragging. For most of you, it’s still freezing outside and that makes salads really unappealing. Cold vegetables? No thanks. You want something warm and rich, like a lasagna. Or like this warm winter vegetable salad.
You start with rutabaga (or potatoes), carrots, leeks and brussel sprouts. Those get roasted with some olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh herbs and just a little bit of applewood smoked bacon. You know, because it’s winter and you need bacon in the wintertime. Once they’re caramelized and delicious-looking, you toss everything with some whole wheat orzo and drizzle with a balsamic reduction.
This salad doesn’t mess around – it’s bold and rich from the roasted vegetables, woodsy from the herbs and a little smoky from of the bacon. It’s everything you could ever ask for in a salad – except for lettuce.
If you have leftovers, the balsamic reduction will keep in the fridge for a few months. Just make sure to store it in an air-tight container. You may have to reheat it before you use it again.
2 lbs. rutabaga (about 4 small ones), peeled and diced
1 lb. carrots, scrubbed and diced (about 2 cups)
1 lb. brussel sprouts, ends removed and halved
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced (white and light green parts only)
3 slices thick, center cut applewood smoked bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. coarse salt
freshly ground pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 lb. whole wheat orzo
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 375° while you prep your vegetables. Toss the cut vegetables with the bacon, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary and place in a big casserole dish. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The vegetables are done when they’re tender and slightly browned or caramelized around the edges.
While the vegetables roast, cook your orzo according to package directions. You’ll want to make sure it stays al dente. After you drain the orzo, rinse it with cold water in a colander to stop it cooking.
Place the balsamic vinegar in a small pot and cook over low heat until it reduces by about half – 10 minutes or so.
When the vegetables are done, discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs and toss the orzo into the casserole dish and stir everything until well-combined and the pasta is slightly coated with the oil from the pan.
Serve and drizzle with some of the balsamic reduction.
Makes 6 servings.