In the fall, a foodie’s flights of fancy turn to comfort: casseroles, mac €™n€™ cheese, bubbling stews, another helping of mac’n cheese. But in Gather, the new cookbook from Vancouver catering hero and cooking school The Dirty Apron, chef David Robertson proves that, done right, the humble salad can satisfy those cravings for hearty, homey dishes. So this season, we’re tossing veggies in creamy, nutty dressing, throwing handfuls of grains in with spicy greens, and finding comfort, flavour and, yeah, maybe even something vaguely healthy, in every bite.

Broccolini and Snap Pea Salad with Tahini-Soy Dressing

Serves 4

Broccolini is a little sweeter and more tender than broccoli, with a subtle asparagus taste. This is a perfect year-round salad: It’s light and refreshing, but can hold up to roasted meats, grilled prawns or pan-seared fish.

2 bunches broccolini
1½ cups snap peas, strings removed
Pinch of kosher salt
1 carrot, shaved
1 radish, thinly sliced
1 tbsp toasted black and
white sesame seeds
1 cup Italian parsley leaves

Tahini-soy dressing

¼ cup tahini
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp togarashi

In a large bowl, combine all tahini-soy dressing ingredients and whisk together until creamy in consistency. Set aside.

Cut broccolini into thirds. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add broccolini and snap peas. Blanch for 15 seconds, then immediately transfer to the ice water bath. Using a salad spinner, spin blanched snap peas and broccolini for 15 seconds, or until excess water is removed.

Add broccolini, snap peas and a pinch of salt to the tahini-soy dressing bowl and mix until evenly coated. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with carrots, radish, toasted sesame seeds and parsley.

Pan-Seared Halloumi Cheese and Caramelized Fennel with Orange Pomegranate Reduction

Serves 4

Halloumi is a salty Middle Eastern cheese that handles heat well. Pomegranate molasses (which is essentially reduced pomegranate juice) can be found in any specialty shop; It’s a versatile condiment that you’ll want to add to your pantry.

6 cups canola oil
4 pitas
12 oz halloumi cheese, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
2 oranges
4 bulbs fennel, cored and cut into 1-inch-thick slices
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup sherry vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying
1 bunch watercress, harder stems removed

Heat oil in a large saucepan to a temperature of 350°F. (Use a thermometer for an accurate reading.)

Using a 1¼-inch ring cutter, cut out rounds from pitas. Carefully lower pita rounds into the oil and deep-fry for 45 seconds, or until pita turns golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined tray.

Put cheese in a bowl of cold water and soak for at least 1 hour.

preheat the oven to 450°F. With a small knife, carefully segment both oranges and set aside. Squeeze out all possible juice from the leftover membranes of the oranges into a small bowl.

In a bowl, toss fennel with maple syrup, vinegar and oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange fennel on a roasting pan and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the fennel is golden brown and caramelized. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and reserved orange juice and toss lightly until the fennel is evenly coated. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Pat halloumi dry with a paper towel. Heat oil in a frying pan over high heat. Gently place halloumi into pan and sear for 15 seconds, until golden brown. Flip over and cook for another 15 seconds.

Scatter watercress on a serving platter, then top with pan-seared halloumi, roasted fennel, orange segments and deep-fried pita chips.

Brussels Sprouts Salad

Serves 4.   

As a kid, Robertson hated Brussels sprouts (“They were often overcooked,” he says). But the vegetable’s versatility has won over the chef in adulthood, and helped it make its way onto many a menu. These ones are crispy fried goodness.

1½ litres vegetable oil
6 cups Brussels sprouts
1 cup Thai basil leaves (divided)
Kosher salt, to taste
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp sesame seeds (divided)

Sriracha-honey-lime vinaigrette

1½ tbsp honey
1½ tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Sriracha
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil

Heat oil in a deep-fryer or a deep saucepan over low heat to 300°F. (Use a thermometer for an accurate reading.) Line two baking sheets with paper towels.

Meanwhile, prep the Brussels sprouts. Trim off the tip end of each Brussels sprout and discard the outer layer of leaves. Peel off the second and third layers and reserve them in a small bowl. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half.

Carefully lower ½ cup of Thai basil into the oil and cook for 10 seconds, until leaves crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer Thai basil onto a prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt.

Increase the temperature of the frying oil to 375°F. Carefully lower half of the halved Brussels sprouts into the oil and deep-fry for 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer Brussels sprouts onto the other prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining batch of halved Brussels sprouts.

In a medium bowl, combine all Sriracha-honey-lime vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until well mixed. Set aside. Dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

In a large bowl, combine fried Brussels sprouts, reserved layers of Brussels sprout leaves, ½ cup Thai basil, cilantro, 1 tbsp sesame seeds and vinaigrette. Mix until well combined and transfer into a serving dish. Garnish with remaining 1 tbsp sesame seeds and fried Thai basil.

Kabocha and Wild Rice Salad

Serves 4.  

The beauty of this dish is you can easily switch out the kabocha squash for butternut or acorn. This is a substantial salad, particularly great from late fall to winter when the weather starts to cool and we want something hearty. And the spiced pumpkin seeds are also a tasty snack on their own.

Spiced pumpkin seeds

¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds
½ tbsp curry powder
½ tsp chili powder
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp sherry vinegar
Pinch of salt

Roasted kabocha squash

Small kabocha squash, unpeeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Wild rice

1 cup wild rice
1 tsp kosher salt

Cranberry-champagne vinaigrette

¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup champagne vinegar
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste


Italian parsley leaves, for garnish
Shaved parmesan cheese, for garnish

To make the spiced pumpkin seeds, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Set aside for 30 minutes, or until pumpkin seeds soak up the liquid. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking sheet and spread out. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the roasted kabocha squash, preheat oven to 425°F. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and toss until the squash is coated. Transfer squash mixture to a baking sheet and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until squash is cooked through and slightly caramelized.

Place wild rice in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water. In a deep saucepan, combine rice, salt and 2 litres cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour, until cooked through. Drain wild rice and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine all cranberry-champagne vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until well mixed.

In a bowl, combine wild rice and vinaigrette and mix well. Add roasted squash and spiced pumpkin seeds. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with parsley and shaved parmesan.

Quinoa Nourish Bowl

Serves 4.   

This is fun and playful, good-for-you food without rules. Sub out the vegetables of your choice and hit it with a bit of Sriracha, or any kind of hot sauce.

4 cups cooked quinoa (divided)
2 tsp kosher salt, plus extra to taste
4 cups canola oil
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
8 asparagus spears, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ leek, white part only, cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4 leaves Swiss chard, finely torn
4 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 cup loosely packed sorrel, chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce
Juice of 2 lemons
¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted
¼ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
8 radishes, thinly sliced

Place 4 cups of quinoa in a bowl and rinse with cold water. Drain and repeat until water runs clear. Drain quinoa. In a small saucepan, combine rinsed quinoa, salt and 3 cups water. Bring to a light simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside, covered, for another 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or deep saucepan to a temperature of 350°F. (Use a thermometer for an accurate reading.) Line a baking sheet with paper towels and have a small, fine-mesh sieve on hand.

Carefully lower 2 cups cooked quinoa into oil and deep-fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy. Reserve the rest of the cooked quinoa. Using the sieve, transfer deep-fried quinoa to the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and asparagus and cook, untouched, for 3 to 4 minutes, until browned. Flip over, then add garlic and leeks. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in plain cooked quinoa (setting deep-fried quinoa aside), carefully folding into the sautéed vegetables. Turn off heat.

Add Swiss chard, green onions, parsley, sorrel, soy sauce and lemon juice and fold in. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1 cup deep-fried quinoa and the seeds. Serve in individual bowls or family style. Garnish with radishes and the remaining 1 cup
deep-fried quinoa.


Excerpted from Gather: A Dirty Apron Cookbook © 2019 by David Robertson,
photographs by Kevin Clark. Reproduced by permission of Figure 1 publishing. All rights reserved

This article was originally published October 25, 2019.