Top: Mixed greens with apples and pecans.
Second: Shaved Brussels sprouts,
watermelon radishes on greens, topped with
feta from Good Eggs. Third: Edamame, diced
red bell pepper and black beans top greens
at Betty Crocker. Bottom: Thai celery salad
with sliced hot chiles and peanuts. Photo
courtesy Bon Appetit.
Over the weekend we had the occasion to meet friends for two different restaurant meals. At both, the side salad we ordered was boring: monotonously green with no contrast, but for dull croutons on one and a crown of thin-sliced red onions on the other.
These were not free salads; they were overpriced sides. When we mentioned our disappointment to the servers, both mentioned the “limited selection” in winter.
Limited choices, NO. Lack of imagination or sheer laziness, YES.
There’s just as much opportunity to pack green salads with color and texture as any other time of the year.
It’s just as easy to balance the flavors and textures with something bright-colored, something crunchy, something tangy, something peppery and something sweet.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to sprinkle with colorful, crunchy pomegranate seeds or some mandarin segments.
And it doesn’t have to cost more: Use pricier ingredients sparingly and they’ll still add interest.
Here’s how to add interest to winter salads while Mother Nature is taking a nap.
Plan for something crunchy, something colorful and something sweet in each salad.
Incorporate two colors besides green—red cherry tomatoes and orange bell peppers, for example.
Any salad can be turned into a lunch or dinner main when topped with a protein.
Don’t overlook your leftovers, from beans to grains and pasta. Toss them in!
START HERE TO BUILD YOUR WINTER SALAD
Pick something from each group, and no one will find your salads boring.
Salad Greens: Beyond Everyday Lettuce
Cabbage (especially Savoy cabbage)
Lettuce, beyond iceberg and romaine
Brussels sprouts, shaved
Cherry or grape tomatoes
Hearts of palm
Mushrooms, raw or marinated
Radicchio or red endive
Squash, roasted and diced
As you go up and down the produce aisles, look for other ingredients you’d like to try, whether as a principal ingredient or an accent.
A Touch Of Fruit
You don’t have to add fruit to every green salad, although most people will enjoy the touch of sweetness.
Diced, sliced or segmented, you’ve got great choices:
Citrus: kumquat, mandarin, orange, pink or red grapefruit
Dried fruits: apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, figs, raisins, dates
Pear, Asian pear
Cheese: crumbled, shaved, shredded
Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, parsley
Nuts, toasted or candied
Baby potatoes or sunchokes
Plus A Touch Of…
For The Dressing
We’re fans of vinaigrettes rather than heavier dressings (although we do have a weakness for a great blue cheese dressing).
Vinaigrettes are lighter, lower in calories (in that you use less), and most importantly, offer so much variety in terms of which oils and which vinegars you use.
Top: Quinoa, arugula, red onion and sundried tomato at California Pizza Kitchen. Second: Mesclun and burrata atop beets, garnished with cherry tomatoes and a jumbo garlic crouton, at Duplex On Third. Third: Spinach salad with apples, beets and sliced almonds from Butterball.
Anyone can mix three parts of oil with one part of acid. Take a look at:
Flavored vinegars and balsamic vinegar
Layered viniagrettes: add Dijon mustard, fresh lemon or lime juice, honey, horseradish or wasabi, orange juice, maple syrup
These options should keep you busy…until the spring veggies arrive, and beyond.