I love this recipe because I believe that cooking a bunch of vegetables is one of the most luxurious things you can do for someone. And I love showing people that simple, humble ingredients can be extraordinarily delicious.
Swap options: In the winter substitute broccoli, sweet potatoes, turnips or any other root vegetable for the cauliflower, romanesco, and/or Brussels sprouts. In the summer, substitute with zucchini, sweet peppers or eggplant. If you can’t find za’atar at your local Middle Eastern grocer, make your own. Coarsely grind 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, ¼ teaspoon dried marjoram, 1 teaspoon ground sumac (if available), and a large pinch of salt together in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Don’t over-grind — there should still be lots of sesame seeds left whole. Store in an airtight container in a dark, cool spot for up to 3 months.
Technique tips: Roast different vegetables separately — they’ll cook at different rates and this way you can make sure they are all properly cooked. When roasting vegetables, space them out so they don’t touch. Overpacking the pan will cause the vegetables to steam and get mushy instead of crisp and brown.
For the vegetables and salad:
Place oven racks in lower middle and upper middle positions. Preheat oven to 425°F.
Halve Brussels sprouts through the stems, then place in a large bowl. Toss with enough oil to coat, about 3 tablespoons. Season with salt and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Place the carrots in the same large bowl and toss, adding more oil as needed to coat. Season with salt and place in a single layer on a second baking sheet.
Lightly trim the root end of the cauliflower and romanesco, then cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices through the root. Drizzle about 2 tablespoons oil onto another baking sheet and lay slices in a single layer, keeping cauliflower on one side of the pan and romanesco on the other side. Avoid overcrowding the vegetables—they should not touch. (If needed use another pan for overflow.)
Place vegetables into oven and cook until tender and caramelized, about 26 to 30 minutes. Check on the vegetables after about 12 minutes. Rotate the pans and switch their positions to ensure even browning.
When the roasted vegetables are brown on the outside and completely tender when pierced with a knife, remove them from the oven. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Reserving the cooking liquid, drain beans and place into large bowl. Dress with 3 tablespoons vinaigrette and season with salt and 1 teaspoon za’atar. Add a little bean liquid to make it juicy. Taste and adjust dressing and seasoning as needed.
To assemble salad, layer cauliflower, romanesco, carrots, and Brussels sprouts on a large platter. Drizzle with vinaigrette, sprinkle with za’atar, then spoon beans over vegetables. Sprinkle with large crumbles of feta. In a medium bowl, lightly dress cilantro, dill, and mint with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette and salt. Place atop salad and serve immediately.
For the Red Wine Vinaigrette:
In a small bowl or jar, let the shallot sit in the vinegar for 15 minutes, then add the olive oil, a generous pinch of salt, and a small pinch of pepper. Stir or shake to combine, then taste with one of the vegetables and adjust salt and acid as needed. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.
A little note about cooking beans:
Cooking beans, whether dried or freshly shelled, is as simple as can be. In fact, the basic recipe for Simmered Beans can be summed up in one short sentence: Cover with water and simmer until tender.
While fresh shelling beans can cook in about 30 minutes, it can take several hours for dried beans to transform into their most tender selves. To reduce the cooking time, soak them overnight.
I’m a tireless champion of soaking beans in advance. And since one measure of any properly cooked starch is whether or not it’s absorbed enough water to become tender, think of soaking as a head start. It’s the easiest kind of cooking you’ll ever have to do.
When soaking beans, keep in mind that 1 cup of dried beans will triple in size when cooked, yielding about 6 servings. Add a palmful of salt, and a generous pinch of baking soda, which will tip the pH of the pot toward alkalinity and help coax even more tenderness from the beans. Soak beans in the same vessel in which you plan to cook them, to save yourself a dish, and either refrigerate or keep in a cool spot on the counter overnight (or over 2 nights, for chickpeas or big, creamy beans such as gigantes).
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