I never used to like salads. As a kid, being bombarded with subpar garden salads as side dishes at chain restaurants ruined them for me. One of the first salads I ever had that really blew me away was called the Tuscan Harvest Salad served at Gusto in Moncton.
Although simple, this recipe is incredibly fulfilling, well-rounded and always a crowd-pleaser. There's a few hacks to make it come together quicker, but even if you don't take shortcuts it's done in about 30 minutes.
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Time Saving Tips
If you don't want to roast and peel your own beets, the pre-roasted ones from the grocery store aren't a terrible alternative. They're always better roasted from scratch but I won't tell if you just buy the ones from the produce section.
If you are going to roast them yourself, I love the roasted beets recipe from Cookie and Kate! Kate always puts out really good recipes and you're usually safe to try one of hers.
Another great tip I've been using lately that's upped my salad game is to use an immersion blender for combining the dressings. I've used shaker bottles and they do work, but I love the emulsification that a blender (especially an immersion blender) gives to dressings. It's the same technique I use for my Subway Copycat Mayonnaise recipe.
Substitutions and Ingredient Suggestions
As with all of my recipes, I always recommend using the best ingredients you can get your hands on. This is especially true for recipes like this that don't contain many ingredients. You want the simplicity of the dish to shine through. Make sure your produce is in season and you get trusted brands of oil/vinegar.
I love the balsamic vinegars from the Liquid Gold Tasting Bar - this is not sponsored or an affiliate, but they genuinely have some of the best local balsamic you can get your hands on. I recommend the 18-Year Aged Balsamic - just a bonus they have free shipping over $75 in Canada.
For maple syrup, I'd say it's mandatory to use real maple syrup and not the maple style corn syrup or table syrup. I exclusively use Wabanaki Maple Syrup in my house as I work for them, but I used them before I started there. Real maple syrup, especially their barrel aged syrups, add a delicious and complex flavour to any dish. It's also used in my Maple Curry Penne if you need more maple in your life.
For my salad, I always include roasted beets, toasted walnuts, goat's cheese and red onion. Other great additions include:
- Green Apples (Granny Smith is a great choice)
- Grilled Peaches
I also recommend adding in a choice of protein if this is your main dish. My favourites include fried tofu, baked chicken or grilled shrimp. It's perfectly fine without protein, especially if it's only a side dish.
You can also use pretty well any nut instead of the walnuts - I'd recommend macadamia, pine, pecan or slivered almonds.
If you love dishes inspired by local restaurants, make sure to check out these other Maritime favourites that show love to local establishments!
- Maple Curry Penne (Brewbakers)
- Yellow Thai Curry (Number One Noodle)
- Dave Matthews (The Capitol Complex)
- Butternut Squash Soup (540 Kitchen and Bar)
- Maritime Donair Sauce
- Elderflower Gin and Tonic (Inspired by 540 Kitchen and Bar)
Tuscan Harvest Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrettte
- Immersion Blender or Shaker Bottle
Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
- ½ cup Olive Oil
- ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
- ¼ cup Maple Syrup Real Maple Syrup
- 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 8 ounces Salad Greens spring mix or spinach
- 2 Beets roasted
- ¼ cup Red Onion
- ¼ cup Walnuts roasted
- ¼ cup Goat's Cheese crumbled
- ½ cup Maple Balsamic Dressing or to taste
- Combine all of the ingredients for the salad dressing with an immersion blender, shaker bottle or with a whisk. You want to ensure that the dressing is emulsified - note that you will have more than required for the salad. Set aside.
- If you have fresh beets, roast them until they're cooked through. Quarter them and slice them very thinly. Set aside.
- Take your walnuts and chop them roughly. Place them in a dry non-stick pan and saute them until they are fragrant.
- Start to assemble all of the ingredients; roasted beets, crumbled goat's cheese, roasted walnuts and red onion. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and mix to combine. Continue to add the dressing to taste.
- Serve immediately. This recipe is good for 4 main dishes or 6 side salads.