Don’t get me wrong: I love rich, once-a-year holiday foods. But for balance in both taste and texture – to say nothing of waistline — I crave salads. We’re not talkin’ lettuce and tomato at this time of year though. We’re talkin’ winter vegetables — shredded, roasted, sautéed, and raw.
There are plenty of options. For example, you can tweak classic summer slaw with new combinations: shredded cabbage (red or white or both), beets, and broccoli stems; or turnip, carrot, and daikon radish; or rutabaga, jicama, and spaghetti squash. Add chopped apple, pineapple, or sliced clementines for a little tart sweetness, or pickled hot peppers for heat, season with abandon, and dress with a mustard vinaigrette. Classic Waldorf salad is another retro staple that cries out for new variations: Turnip, celery and apple tossed with yogurt-and-fig-vinegar dressing with poppy seed; radish, sprouts, and pear with white-wine-and-orange-juice vinaigrette with coriander. Add nuts, cheese, and dried cherries, blueberries or raisins to any of the above and you’ve got lunch. Try raw Broccoli Salad with scallion, toasted walnuts and dried cranberries dressed with a creamy mix of half plain yogurt/half mayo thinned with a little red wine vinegar, or Warm Red Cabbage Salad. Sautee some chopped red cabbage in olive oil for about five minutes, splash in some cider or balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Add some crushed garlic and sauté another three minutes. Turn into a salad bowl, and add a chopped apple, fresh parsley, toasted pine nuts, and crumbled goat cheese or gorgonzola. Drizzle with extra vinegar and oil.
Roasted vegetable salads are terrific this time of year too; the oven’s warmth is welcome, and what’s cookin’ makes the house smell great. You can roast beets, turnips, carrots, parsnip, winter squash, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, eggplant, (which is great dressed and served room temp with sautéed mushrooms, scallions, and shaved parmesan) and more.
One of our favorites is French lentil salad with roasted veggies on arugula. Peel and chop some winter squash or some carrots and parsnips. Toss with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, a bare dusting of sugar, and whatever seasonings strike your fancy — smoked paprika and chili powder are nice. Slow roast on a pan at 325F for 20-30 minutes until just tender and brown-edged. Meanwhile, cook lentils in broth until barely tender. Drain. While still warm, season them with salt and pepper, some chopped garlic and a splash each of red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. Arrange all on a plate with fresh arugula and a little crumbled goat cheese, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil just before serving. Unlike summer salads, most winter salads stay good in the frig for days so you can make a bunch on Sunday and eat ‘em all week.