The Spring Supper Salad

Greetings, friends! For fun I am resurrecting one of the blog posts I wrote back in 2010 – a warm butter bean salad bowl, garlic-roasted carrots and wild rice. Why I am re-publishing a decade-old recipe? Well, for one I thought that there are a bunch of new followers around here who have never even seen this delight (hello, by the way)! Second, most of you who have been here since the beginning may have forgotten about it. Third, it’s the ideal pantry staple recipe. And lastly, because it’s very, very delicious. Creamy butter beans, golden garlic-y carrots coins, chewy wild rice, crisp and bright pickled onions, silky kale, and refreshing dill, all coming together with a lick-your-lips mustardy dressing that is divine on just about everything – this salad and beyond.

I’ve also re-named it the Spring Supper Salad because it’s the perfect seasonal transition meal (yea baby, it’s definitely a meal) incorporating both winter and spring produce and flavours, as we make our way into the light of the upswing! Hooray!

This recipe brings back so many memories for me. It was around this time that I had been working in restaurants in Copenhagen for about 3 years. I loved my job, and could hardly believe that someone actually paid me to spend all day in a hot, cramped kitchen, cooking a dozen new dishes every day without a menu or recipes – definitely still in the honeymoon phase. I felt confident in the food I was making, applying my deep understanding of nutrition to recipe development, and I used every day to push myself creatively, keenly aware of how fast I was learning and growing. I was certainly in the vortex, and it was a very exciting time of my life. 

I started my shift around 8 am, and the majority of my dishes needed to be ready at 12 noon when we opened the doors for lunch. This is a relatively short window of time to pump out 200 servings of anything, but after some years, I developed short cuts that would deliver a lot of flavour in a hurry. One of these short cuts, was garlic oil – the first thing I would make after tying my apron strings, that would act as a marinade, a roasting medium, and a base for soups, stews, dressings and sauces for the entire day. In fact, I don’t think that there were many dishes coming off of my station that didn’t have garlic in them back then (such an easy way to make things taste good!). This oil sat on my bench and it got tossed into all the things, and all the people kept coming back for more. 

One thing I loved using the garlic oil on, was winter veggies. I could toss them in said liquid gold, crank up the oven, and in half an hour, I’d have a blistered, glistening pile of roasted rainbow roots to serve, only needing a squeeze of lemon juice and a smattering of fresh herbs to make it presentable. Who wouldn’t want to dive into that?! Plus, it was cheap. Like most restaurants, we were always looking at the bottom line and how we could make even the most humble foods taste exquisite. Garlic oil was the ticket. 

At the restaurant, my signature move was combining veggies, grains, and beans in exciting ways (which was very novel at the time!) so this dish emerged from a commercial oven’s worth of garlic-roasted carrots needing a home. With some tender and creamy butter beans coming off the stove, and some day-old, steamed wild rice calling out to me from the fridge, this combination came together very organically, taking the varied textures, colours, and flavours into consideration. 

The secret to this dish is the consistency of the garlic in the oil. Different from mincing garlic and adding it to oil, here you must must must grate it or blend it up together so it becomes almost paste-like. This way, the garlic goes everywhere the oil does, and evenly caramelizes into the most divine, delectable gold, that’s mellow and sweet and roast-y. You will not hate it.

Stop! Fiber time.

Fiber is probably the least sexy and alluring of all the nutrients we hear about. It’s all about Protein! Fat! And if you hear about carbohydrates, it’s probably something ignorant and unfair (I really hate jerks picking on macronutrients, back off!). Fiber seems pretty boring and something only your grandmother cares about, so why do you need to?  

One reason that plant-rich diets are so health-sustaining, is not only due to their high fiber content, but their potential for fiber diversity. In the past, fiber has been broken down into two main categories: soluble and insoluble. What’s new and exciting in this field of research, is that we can see that fiber can be broken down into several more categories (viscous, non-viscous, non-starch polysaccharides, resistant starches etc.) each one bringing forth the potential for diversified food sources for our gut bacteria. In short, the greater the diversity of plants we eat, the greater the diversity of our microbiome. 

Why does this matter? Because our gut is the foundation for our overall health. If we’ve got a wide range of troops on the front lines of our immune system, the better our chances are for not just surviving, but thriving. The fiber we eat also feeds our good bacteria, and specific types of fiber feed specific types of bacteria. Enjoy eating the widest variety of plants you can, to ensure that you’re supporting the widest variety of good guys in your digestive system. They will repay you in spades I’m tellin’ ya! 

The foods with the highest amounts of fiber are beans and lentils, vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts and seeds (remember that there is no fiber in animal-based foods). Different proportions of soluble, insoluble fiber, as well as viscous / non-viscous fiber, and fermentable fiber can be found in all of these food groups, it is highly recommended that you eat from each of them. And instead of focusing on grams (the minimum daily recommended intake is a measly 25g, not that we’re talking about that…), we need to focus on diversity. Enjoy as many plant-based foods as you can, and experience the terrain of your body slowly begin to change. Everything comes back to the gut, and not just what you are eating, but what your gut-bacteria are eating too.

With this dish, you’ll be feeding those good guys with fiber from six different plants! Talk about a solid mix. Beans, whole grains, 3 different veggies, plus herbs, add up to serious fiber diversity. Good, good, good fiberations! 😉

The fun thing about revisiting this recipe, was seeing if there was anything I would change this time around. I have learned so much and grown incredibly as a cook in the past ten years, so I was surprised that I didn’t have many tweaks to make. The only two things I felt this salad needed was a dark leafy green and a pickle – classic Sarah B moves at this point! Since we still don’t have any spring greens happening yet, I decided kale was the winner, and obviously it needed to be massaged! I turned the red onions in the original recipe into a quick pickle, as this is another indispensable kitchen technique that I’ve learned since posting the first time around.

This salad-meal has everything you need and crave from a single bowl: it’s super flavourful and filling, with all of the textures in the mix to satisfy your noshing desires. The elements can all be made separately, even on separate days, if it seems like too many things to cook at once for a single dish. If you go the rollover route, boil the beans and rice a day or so before (and make extra while you’re at it, because meal prep is for winners), and pickle the onions up to a week ahead. The kale can be prepped / massaged a day or so in advance, but the carrots should be roasted right before serving. 

If you don’t have butter beans, any white bean would work (navy, cannellini, Great Northern, or baby lima beans are some varieties) and if you want to switch up the grain, any kind of rice would work – even millet or quinoa would be delicious! Instead of carrots, use any root veg you have kicking around your crisper: beets, sweet potato, turnip, or winter squash would taste great in the garlic oil. And if dill isn’t the herb of your dreams, try substituting it with flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, basil, or tarragon. 

I really hope you enjoy this delicious and satisfying meal soon. These days are asking so much of us, and I continue to come back to the kitchen for grounding, clarity, and connection. There are no answers, just presence. And in that presence I find myself over a cutting board, being grateful for just what is front of me, slicing a carrot, then another, saying thank you for simple things.

Love to you all. Stay well and safe out there.
xo, Sarah B

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