During the colder months I find myself craving warm, filling, hearty comfort foods. I make lots of soups, stews and curries and enjoy them by the bowl-full for lunch and dinner. One thing that I struggle to incorporate into my cold-weather meals, however, are salads. Not only are salads cold and crispy, but they are also not often filling enough for me during Winter. While I happily enjoy a salad nearly every day in Spring and Summer, as soon as the temperature dips towards freezing my craving for any cold and refreshing foods are replaced by the desire for hearty bowls of root vegetables and grains.

It is at this time of year, however, that my body needs salads most. After all the indulgent eating of the holiday season, I crave easily digested, fiber-rich foods that will reset my body for the year to come.

This quick and simple warm winter detox salad is the perfect meal for getting your body back on track. The bed of peppery baby arugula brings out the sweetness of the steamed sweet potatoes and beets and the salty kalamata olive dressing adds a wonderful creamy component to the dish. This detox salad provides the best of both worlds–it nourishes the body with raw greens while providing a warmth and heartiness not found in warm weather salads.

To take this salad to a new level of deliciousness and beauty, you can add edible flowers as I have done here. There are many different kinds of edible flowers which have a wide range of flavors and textures. For this salad I chose pansies, which have a subtle flavor and texture so as not to overpower any of the other strong flavors already in this dish. I buy edible flowers from my local farmer’s market and especially love the Windy City Greens products for their wide range of edible flowers, unique herbs and beautiful lettuces.

With so many components of this dish, the flavor combinations may seem a bit strange; give them a try though, you won’t regret it!

Salad ingredients:

  • 1 large handful of baby arugula, washed and dried
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 small beets, peeled and cubed
  • 3 thick slices red cabbage
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Pinch high quality garam masala
  • 1 small scallion, sliced into rounds
  • Small handful parsley, roughly chopped
  • Sprinkling pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • 1 large spoonful sauerkraut
  • 2 Tbsp Ne Chèvre live cultured cashew cheese (or other soft vegan cheese you prefer)
  • Pansies or other edible flower to garnish (optional)

Dressing ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp kalamata olive tapenade
  • 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp tahini
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Begin by preparing the root vegetables. Place your sweet potato and beet cubes in a steamer basket over an inch or so of water and allow to steam with the top on for 10-15 minutes. Sweet potatoes cook faster than beets so if you want your veggies to be equally soft, cook the beets for 5 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes and allow them to steam together for the remaining 10 minutes. I like the different textures of the super soft sweet potato and slightly harder beet so I put them both in at the same time.

While the veggies steam, make your cabbage. Heat a small pan on low heat with a few drops of olive oil. Add the minced garlic to the pan and allow to crisp a bit before adding in the red cabbage. Stir this well, coating the cabbage pieces in the garlic and oil. Sprinkle the garam masala over the cabbage and place the top on to steam for a few minutes. After 3-5 minutes, uncover the pan and turn up the heat the medium-high. Quickly sautée the cabbage for 2 more minutes until the edges become slightly crispy. Turn off the heat and cover the pan once more until you are ready to assemble the salad.

In the remaining time, make the dressing. Measure everything into a bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. You may want to add a bit more water depending on how thick you like your dressing. You can also make this in a blender for an extra creamy version. This dressing makes enough for two to three servings of the salad. You can store your leftovers in a small jar in the fridge for up to a week.

Once the sweet potatoes are soft and the beets can easily be pierced with a fork, it is time to assemble the salad. Gather all your ingredients and begin by placing a large handful of arugula in a shallow bowl. Top this with the steaming root veggies before adding the rest of the salad ingredients. Sprinkle over the scallion, chopped parsley and seeds; place a generous forkful of sauerkraut on the side; and distribute pieces of the cashew cheese evenly around the bowl. Generously pour the dressing over the salad, garnish with the pansies and voilá!