Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

New Year…New Salads

Although the winter season is typically when food magazines trumpet the making and eating of stews, soups, roasts, and other hearty, bone-warming dishes; I find that it’s the time when I’m most craving salads. Maybe it’s the lack of direct sunlight, or the fact that I never was a huge fan of stews (this could have something to do with watching too many Dinty Moore commercials as a kid in the ’80s), but lately I’ve been making winter salads non-stop.

Now there is a difference between what I consider a “regular” salad, and a winter salad. Flexibility is key and so is a reliance different kinds of seasonal vegetables and ingredients. So summer delights like heirloom tomatoes are just not an option, and instead of using vegetables from my weekly CSA, most everything needs to come from the produce aisle at my local mega supermarket.  This isn’t so bad, it can actually be quite good, especially if you’ve ever roasted some mushrooms, butternut squash, and beets, and eaten them over lettuce with a sprinkling of goat cheese and toasted sunflower seeds, along with a tart-sweet maple syrup-apple cider vinaigrette. Winter salads are more about texture, flavor-packed dressings, and add-ins that can elevate greens to meal status. Here are three of my favorites:

  • The salad pictured above, a Kale Pomegranate Concoction, is one of my go-tos: Baby kale, lightly massaged with some salt and olive oil. Then topped with shaved cheddar (sue a vegetable peeler instead of a grater), avocado, toasted coconut and pumpkin seeds, pomegranate, and a simple vinaigrette of pomegranate juice-grapeseed oil-chopped shallots-maple syrup and salt and pepper. Crunchy, tangy, sweet, salty…the salad has everything going for it.


  • IMG_2303Then there’s the always classic—Chicken Caesar Salad. For this, I use a version of the egg-free dressing used in the Frankie’s Spuntino Cookbook, substituting mayo for the eggs, and then whisking in a few splashes of worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, chopped anchovies, red wine vinegar, a minced clove of garlic, grated pecorino, and salt and pepper (if you’re using a blender to combine, adding a little bit of water is good too). Toss this with crisp romaine and add either grilled or pan-roasted chicken (or your supermarket rotisserie would do fine as well). Extra grated pecorino on top and I dare you to find a more satisfyingly simple salad.


  • IMG_2111Lastly, I have become a little obsessed with adding citrus to my winter salads, specifically oranges (cara cara, navel, mandarin) and grapefruit (pink and ruby red). Citrus and Fennel go particularly well together, lots of sharp, bright, juicy flavors all together. The only real “trick” with using citrus in a salad is removing the wedges from their pith and skin. This is called supreming and although I was a little intimidated when I first learned how to do it, I now actually really enjoy the process (“So do ou want that tangerine cut into lovely juicy wedges? Then here, HERE, give it to me!!”). HERE’S A LINK to a little instructional video, just remember to do it over a bowl or mixing cup that can collect all the juices that fall so that you can use them in the dressing; also a good sharp knife nice is a must tool to have, it doesn’t have to be a big chef’s knife though. I do something of a composed salad, layering oranges and grapefruit, thin shavings of fennel (a Benriner, which is a Japanese mandolin, is the perfect tool for the job), with the fronds chopped to sprinkle on top, perhaps a little baby arugula as well, and then drizzling it all with a very herby dressing (packed with so many herbs, that it’s almost the consistency and color of a pesto but without the nuts/cheese/garlic), using handfuls of parsley and cilantro, and blending it some rice wine vinegar and grapeseed oil (or something fancy if I have it around like avocado or hazelnut oil), salt and pepper. Sweet, juicy, and refreshing, no matter what the temperature is outside.