Roasted beet salad with butternut squash and arugula
Organized chaos. That’s what I see when I look at this photo. Ironically, that’s also what I see when I look at my life. Sometimes the pieces fit together in a way that seems unbalanced, but upon looking closer we realize that everything is more or less okay, even when we’re hanging off the edge a little bit.
Reflecting on the last three months, it’s inspiring to see my growth as a photographer (can I yet call myself that?). For instance, I would have plated this entirely different. The arugula would be neatly laid out, the veggies cut into similar shapes and sizes, and we both know those splashes of balsamic would have never made it into the frame. Shout out to my fellow type A friends who consistently strive for perfection, which includes wiping up excess salad dressing off of plates. Yes, it’s a problem, and of course I’m working on it.
I’m trying to let go of the ‘rules’ — which, turns out, is easy when you don’t know what the rules of photography are — and style food in a way that I would want it presented to me. This recipe… it screams fall. If you’re usually wary of beets and don’t at least want to try this salad after scrolling through, I have failed you.
As a cook, I know the importance of contrasting textures; it’s no big surprise then that food photography requires the same fundamental elements to pull us in. Cliché, yes, but come on, we really do eat with our eyes first! And from a photographer’s point of view this was a dream to shoot. Texture, height, color. And none of those captured the best part of this dish: the flavor! It’s the perfect plate — appetizer or entrée — to welcome fall.
Added bonus? This is one of those amazing interchangeable meals you might find at my house for a dinner party, yet simple enough for solo diners. As a point of protest, I make beautiful meals such as this even when my husband is out of town and I’m cooking for myself. Why not eat beautiful things always? You deserve it.
If you’re looking to recreate this, I recommend sticking with arugula as the base. It’s an especially good pairing with sweet counterparts like roasted beets, butternut squash, and goat chesese. My current favorite arugula is packaged by Gotham Greens. It’s really peppery, which I adore, but honestly it’s just the most beautiful arugula I’ve found. If you’re in the Tri-State area, you can grab a package almost anywhere — from Whole Foods, to Fairway, even Target!
Guys, make this. For yourselves and for your loved ones.
- 1 bunch of beets ((red, yellow, candy cane – whatever you can find))
- ½ butternut squash, (peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ lb string beans, (trimmed)
- 1 (4.5 oz) package arugula
- ¼ – ½ cup goat cheese, (crumbled)
- ½ pomegranate, (seeded)
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- Heat oven to 400 F. Wrap whole, unpeeled beets in aluminum foil (1 large or a few small beets per package). Place on a baking sheet and roast until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool, then remove skins by rubbing them off with a paper towel. If large, cut beets into halves or quarters (think bite size!).
- At the same time, place butternut squash on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, cinnamon, and garlic powder. Toss to coat. Roast until tender, about 35-40 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with 1 tablespoon salt. Add string beans and cook for 2 minutes. Remove immediately and place in ice bath. Cut into bite-size pieces before plating.
- To serve (either on one large platter or individual plates): layer arugula, string beans, and beets. Top with goat cheese and pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.