The other day I took my dog for a midday walk, as I normally do during the week. I've walked our same path so much that we move at a good clip and I'm often distracted, thinking ahead to what is coming next in my day. Yet, the other day, I looked up and realized spring had arrived, practically overnight. The trees had burst into bloom and the air had the freshness that seems to come only with the change of season. In college, those were the days I'd park myself on the quad and not leave until dark -- and even today I find myself lingering outside for longer periods of time.

The seasonal transitions are my favorite times of year for produce, too. The last lingering root vegetables and sweet potatoes cozy up to the freshness of spring produce, allowing for some unique pairings. This salad is my farewell to winter and welcome to spring. The earthiness of the root vegetables pairs nicely with the lightness that comes from the spinach and lemon. The pearl couscous has a very low flavor profile and soaks up the lemon-tahini flavor beautifully (but quinoa or millet would work just as well -- when it comes to salads, I use whatever I have on hand). As for the rutabaga and parsnips, usually I would just roast them for 40 to 45 minutes, but blanching them first helps speed up the cooking process.

Sacramento blogger Erin Alderson writes Naturally Ella (naturallyella.com), a seasonal, whole foods and vegetarian-centric recipe site for the whole family.

Root Vegetable Salad with Couscous and Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Serves 2 to 3 as an entree

2 cups peeled rutabaga, cut in 1/4-inch cubes

2 cups peeled parsnips, cut in 1/4-inch cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

Pinch each salt, pepper

1 cup pearl couscous

1 1/4 cup water

2 cups packed baby spinach

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled

Dressing:

2 tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoon honey

Pinch each salt, pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the cubed rutabaga and parsnip; blanch for 4 minutes, drain, and transfer to a roasting pan. Toss with olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Roast until tender and starting to brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine the pearl couscous with 1 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, until the couscous is tender (like an al dente pasta) and all the water has been absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and let cool slightly.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as desired. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to thin the dressing.

5. To assemble the salad, toss the roasted root vegetables, couscous and spinach together. Transfer to serving bowls. Drizzle dressing over salad and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and goat cheese.