In Season: Hale and hearty

Winter salads will help balance out your cold-weather menu.

By ERICA MARCUS
February 21, 2012 14:47
Green salad with walnuts

Green salad with walnuts 390. (photo credit: Courtesy of 'Gat' ( Damiel Layla))

 
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Maybe cavemen refrained from eating salad during the winter, but modern Homo sapiens should not give up their fresh greens during the year’s coldest months. That said, there is such a thing as a “winter salad.” It’s heartier than the warm-weather variety, perhaps containing some cooked elements such as roasted parsnips, a robust cheese or a creamy dressing.

No matter the season, making a salad requires some basic know-how. Before you embark upon our three recipes, consider these tips: Buy a salad spinner if you don’t have one. A wet salad is a bad salad, and there’s no better way to dry washed greens than to spin them in a spinner. Try to get a spinner with a closed bottom (no holes) so that you can soak your greens in it as well.

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Make salads in advance. You can soak greens for hours in cold water. If you don’t have room in the refrigerator, add a few freezer packs to the soaking water. Once you’ve spun them dry, place greens in a resealable plastic bag lined, on one side with a paper towel. Greens stored this way will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days.

You need a big bowl to toss a salad. The tossing bowl should be able to accommodate at least twice the amount of salad you plan to use. If you are cooking for company, you may want to transfer the salad from the tossing bowl to a smaller serving bowl or serve it on individual plates.

ROASTED ROOT SALAD Makes 4 to 6 servings We made this salad with parsnips, carrots and a turnip, but you could use almost any combination of root vegetables. Consider celery root or kohlrabi or beets – or just one or two. A mandoline or the slicing blade of a food processor is handy for getting nice, even, thin slices.

✔ 2 parsnips, peeled ✔ Extra virgin olive oil ✔ 2 carrots, peeled ✔ 1 small turnip, peeled ✔ 1⁄2 to 1 cup halved or chopped walnuts ✔ 2 heads watercress ✔ 30 to 60 gr. blue cheese ✔ Sherry or balsamic vinaigrette (see dressing recipes below) Preheat oven to 180º. Slice parsnips into very thin discs and place on a non-stick (or parchment-lined) baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and toss with hands, coating with oil and arranging into one layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until slices are lightly browned. Repeat with carrots.

Quarter the turnip through the root end, then thinly slice the quarters. Roast the vegetables individually, as they cook at different rates. When they are all roasted, set aside to cool.

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Place walnuts on a baking sheet and bake at 180º until fragrant and lightly brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.

Cut the top leaves off the watercress and immerse in cold water. (Save the stems to sauté later with olive oil and garlic.) Spin dry.

To assemble, place watercress in a large bowl and add roasted vegetables and nuts.

Drizzle with a few spoonfuls of vinaigrette and toss, adding more dressing if needed.

Crumble half of cheese on top and toss gently again. Transfer to a serving bowl or individual dishes and top with remaining cheese.

SUPER DUPER TRE-COLORI FATTOUSH

Makes 6 to 8 servings Quantities here are flexible; just make sure there are roughly equal amounts of endive, radicchio, arugula and fennel. It’s also important to use really good olive oil. Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad with pita chips.

✔ 1 small fennel (shumar in Hebrew)
✔ 1 small endive
✔ 1 small *radicchio
✔ 1 to 2 cups baby arugula or mature arugula, sliced into ribbons
✔ 1 small red onion
✔ Pita croutons (see note)
✔ Salt and pepper
✔ Extra virgin olive oil
✔ 1 lemon, halved

Radicchio is not always available in Israel. It can be replaced with other leafy sharp-tasting greens or red cabbage.

Trim fronds from fennel and reserve for another use. Trim any brown spots from base and sides of fennel, then slice in half, through base. Slice bulb very thin, parallel to base – i.e., into half rings. (A mandoline or food processor slicing blade is handy here.) Immerse sliced fennel in a large bowl of cold water.

Slice endive and radicchio into 1⁄2-cm strips. Place in cold water with fennel and add arugula. Spin dry.

Slice onion very thin and immerse in cold water, separate from the other vegetables.

To assemble salad, drain onion and pat dry. Place endive, radicchio, fennel and arugula in a large bowl. Add onion and pita croutons. Sprinkle with a good amount of salt and a good grinding of pepper.

Drizzle on olive oil and squeeze the lemon half. The proportion you’re going for is 3 parts oil to 1 part lemon. Toss and taste, then adjust seasoning.

NOTE: To make pita croutons, cut pita into bite-size pieces with scissors. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 180º until they are crisp but have not browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.

CREAMY AVOCADO-ARTICHOKE SALAD

Makes 4 to 6 servings Look for oil-preserved artichokes with the stems attached rather than in vinegar.

Or cook fresh ones: Remove hard parts and soak in olive oil. It’s important that the artichokes and avocado be at room temperature.

✔ 1 small bunch parsley
✔ 1 head round lettuce
✔ 250 gr. oil-packed artichokes
✔ 1 ripe Haas avocado
✔ Mustard-shallot vinaigrette (see dressings recipes below)

Remove leaves from parsley. Immerse in cold water. Discard any browned or cracked lettuce leaves and tear remaining leaves into bite-size pieces. Soak lettuce with parsley leaves, then spin dry.

Cut artichoke stems into 2-cm segments.

Slice the artichoke heads, through the hearts, into quarters.

Cut avocado in half lengthwise. Remove pit and skin. Cut halves in half again, lengthwise, and then slice into 1⁄2-cm slices.

Place greens in a large bowl with most of the artichokes and avocado. Drizzle with a little vinaigrette, toss, and then add more dressing if necessary. Pour into a serving bowl or platter or onto individual serving plates and garnish with remaining artichokes and avocado pieces.

SALAD DRESSINGS

The simplest dressing involves drizzling olive oil and either lemon juice or wine vinegar directly on the salad, along with some salt and pepper, but you also can make it in a separate container. I find a screw-top jar the perfect tool for making salad dressing. Make sure it will hold double the amount you plan to make: The headroom is necessary for proper shaking.

Simple vinaigrette: In a screw-top jar, combine 1 part vinegar or lemon juice with 3 to 4 parts good extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper. Shake.

Mustard vinaigrette: Shake the vinegar with a spoonful of Dijon mustard before adding the oil.

Shallot vinaigrette: Add a small amount of minced shallot to the vinegar.

Garlic vinaigrette: Soak a cut clove of garlic in the vinaigrette. Remove after a few hours or it will get too strong.

Sherry vinaigrette: Use sherry vinegar for a mellow, full flavor.

Balsamic vinaigrette: Use balsamic vinegar or, for a less sweet dressing, a mixture of balsamic and red wine vinegar.

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