When you’re tasked with bringing a side dish to a holiday dinner, it pays to be a little strategic. The ideal dish ticks a few boxes: It must be sturdy and stress-free to transport. It should require minimal-to-no further prep work once you’ve reached your destination. Ideally, it would be a dish that doesn’t require reheating so that you needn’t take up any of your host’s oven space or burners. Bonus points if it’s also colorful and festive.
My recommendation? A roasted vegetable salad. Vibrant and palate cleansing, salads bring welcome freshness to a spread of rich holiday dishes. And upgrading from simple dressed greens to heartier vegetables makes them even better to bring to a party: Roasted vegetables are delicious at room temperature, and they can stand up to dressing, so the dish won’t wilt as it sits. Plus, they make a filling, robust option for vegetarians in the crowd.
Use Your (Whole) Head
Well-browned, nutty-sweet roasted cauliflower florets may form the base of this salad, but the brassica’s core also plays a key role. We shave the core paper‑thin and then steep the shavings in a brine of vinegar, coriander, and clove, transforming scraps into bright, punchy pickles.
As the base of my holiday salad this year, I chose hearty, neutral cauliflower florets, roasted until their pungence softens into delicate nuttiness. The deeply roasted vegetables need a contrasting light, lively component for balance, so I crafted two types of quick pickles: bright, rosy shallots and some shavings off the cauliflower’s core, making use of a scrap already on my cutting board. A couple handfuls of arugula add vivid pepperiness and volume, and some small chunks of Bartlett pear contribute crispness, mild sweetness, and juiciness. I top it all with a simple dressing of Greek yogurt (which keeps the dressing emulsified even after resting in the fridge for a day), more arugula to suffuse the mix with freshness, olive oil, and the pickling solution (no need to reach for more vinegar when a punchy, plenty-flavorful liquid is already on hand).
Roast the cauliflower, pickle the shallot and core shavings, and blitz the dressing up to a day ahead. Once you’ve made it to your destination, assemble: Dress the cauliflower and spread it over a serving platter. Then, toss the arugula, pickles, and pears together (the small amount of liquid clinging to the pickles will season the greens) and mound the crisp, colorful mix atop the deeply browned florets. There you have it: your perfect holiday party plus-one.