The leafy greens, any variety from tender lettuce to hearty kale or chicory, provide a voluminous, fresh base. A roasted seasonal vegetable — which may be whatever you have left over from a previous night’s dinner — brings a measure of savory, caramelized flavor. Open a can of beans — pinto, cannellini, chickpeas — to add hearty vegetable protein, and add a sprinkle of toasted nuts or seeds for more protein and satisfying crunch.
Bite-size pieces of fresh fruit — grapes, apple, pear, persimmon, orange — enliven the mix with sweet-tart juiciness, and chunks of soft cheese, such as goat cheese, feta or mozzarella, provide creamy luxuriousness. (You can omit the cheese to make the salad vegan.)
The vinaigrette can be as simple as olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, or it can be gussied up with mustard, minced shallot or onion, and maybe a dash of honey or maple syrup to tie the sweet and savory salad components together.
This salad is one iteration of how this ingredient math adds up — it’s irresistible proof of concept. In it, torn leaves of dark red lettuce are tossed with fresh apple, chickpeas and red onion in a maple-mustard vinaigrette, then served topped with slices of golden, roasted delicata squash — cooked with curry spices and a touch of maple syrup for a compelling sweet-spicy flavor — a crunch of toasted pumpkin seeds and dollops of soft, creamy goat cheese.
It’s a salad that can inspire a multitude of variations, and is sure to brighten any fall or winter day.