Seasonal Salads: Winter

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I realized something funny recently. Long after I started branching out into seasonal fruits and vegetables, my salads remained stuck in the rut of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions. Sure, the lettuce had morphed into “mesclun mix” and the tomatoes had turned into heirlooms, but it took some time before my insistence upon seasonal produce progressed into my salad bowl.

seasonal-salads-winter-postIt hit me that when I defaulted to my comfort zone in colder months the cost was a triple whammy: the taste wasn’t that inspiring (virtually none of the ingredients were in season, which means that they were being shipped from afar and likely of a variety that was bred more for durability than for taste), it took a heavy toll on the environment (with the miles those ingredients traveled, I could rack up a free airline ticket) and it was expensive (have you ever noticed how expensive cucumbers are outside of summer?).

When I finally started to toss together more seasonal options, my world opened up . . . as it tends to do when you “limit” yourself to what’s available locally or what’s in your CSA box. Here’s a list of ingredients to inspire you while the weather is still chilly, along with an example that’s become a winter staple on our table. Try a few mix and matches, throw in a crumble of cheese or toasted nuts, and play around with different dressings. Most of all, enjoy!

Winter Salad Ingredients

  • Bitter greens like escarole, frisée (a type of escarole), radicchio, etc.
  • Fennel
  • Celery (if you can find locally grown celery—or grow your own—do . . . you’ll be amazed by how flavorful and fresh it is)
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Citrus (like blood oranges or grapefruit)
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Roasted squash and root vegetables
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Fennel and Granny Smith Salad with Blue Cheese

A mandolin makes easy work of this salad. Use the flat blade to slice the fennel and onion as thinly as possible, and the julienne blade to cut the apples; or slice the apple and then cut lengthwise into long planks. I like to use Point Reyes Blue Cheese, which is a farmstead cheese made locally in Marin County.

fennel-granny-smith-apple-salad-recipe ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 pound bitter greens, such as escarole, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 fennel bulbs, sliced as thinly as possible
1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium Granny Smith apples, halved, cored and cut into matchsticks (or cut into slices 1/8-inch thick and then cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch planks)
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Shake together oil, vinegar, honey, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper in a tight-sealing jar.

Toss together greens, fennel, onion and apples. Drizzle dressing over top and toss well. Divide mixture among 4 plates. Scatter pine nuts and blue cheese over top.

Serves 4