Root salad with crispy ginger and pickled cranberry vinaigrette

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This is a very good salad if you are craving fresh vegetables but still want a warming winter meal.

Ginger is a strange part of a plant called a rhizome. Other well-known rhizomes include ginseng and turmeric. Ginger can elevate a lot of fall/winter flavors and it coincidentally helps warm the body. Rhizomes are very tough and fibrous and so their flavor is usually infused into dishes by grating, infusing oils, juicing, or drying and making into powder. But there are a few ways to make their intact flesh edible - namely through pickling or cooking them slowly in oil. This latter method makes ginger into little flavor bombs while simultaneously mellowing it’s harshness by drowning it in fat. It also works beautifully on fresh turmeric.

  • 3 parsnips
  • 2 leeks, cleaned
  • 1 head of bibb lettuce
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and crushed
  • 1 cup seitan
  • 1 large piece of ginger

First make the cranberry pickling liquid by combining the vinegar, water, one sprig of thyme, and brown sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then pour over the cranberries.  Let cool, then refrigerate.  Dice the ginger ½ inch cubes, shaving off any peel.  Place the ginger cubes, along with the ginger scraps, in the smallest pot you have and submerge them with oil. Cover and cook in an oven set on 250 for one hour. Remove and let cool in the sauce pan. Remove the ginger scraps, but keep the cubes in the oil.

Turn the oven up to 350. Slice the leeks into ½ inch sections. Toss in olive oil with plenty of salt and place on a sheet tray, with the cuts flush against the metal.  Chaos cut the parsnips, toss them in olive oil with salt and place them on the same tray.  Scatter some thyme sprigs around the tray. Bake for 20 minutes.

Make a broken vinaigrette by whisking together ¼ cup of the cranberry liquid (along with some cranberries), ¼ cup of the ginger infused oil, ½ cup of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. You may need to add some red wine vinegar if acid is needed.

When you’re ready to serve, tear or slice the seitan into rustic pieces no thicker than ½ inch. Lay it in a single layer, pat it dry and salt it. Heat the ginger in it’s oil over high heat until it is crispy. Carefully remove the ginger with a slotted spoon. Season it with a good amount of salt immediately. Gently place the seitan into the hot ginger-infused oil. Fry the seitan, in batches if necessary, in the hot oil until crispy all around. Remove the seitan carefully with a dry slotted spoon or forceps. 

Toss together the crispy ginger, bibb leaves, crushed hazelnuts, seitan, leeks, and parsnips in the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Plate and serve.