If you are located where winter has kicked in and cold weather has taken over in exchange for mild temperature then tender salad greens are not happening anymore! Local farms are not selling many of these greens now but many of my guests still want the salad experience.
(mache & radicchio with William pear, pomegranat seeds with carrot ribbons)
We still have mesclun greens at the local supermarket which has traveled far too many miles and frankly I have had it -- for the past10 years those pre-cut mixed greens have dominated every salad. Granted it’s easy to fix a pretty salad with a minute by tossing some bottled salad marinade over some pre-washed mesclun. All that defeats the purpose to me if I compare it to a local, seasonal salad if you have the option to get your hands on it.
Tender Boston bibb lettuce, hearty winter spinach, tiny Brussels sprout heads, radicchio, purple baby Kale, mache, green-yellow veined Romaine leaves are just few winter greens. These guys can’t wait until the warm season is over and flourish in the cooler time of the year. They are often harvested in their baby stage making them more tender.
(Winter spinach with pickled, schaved red cabbage with French blue cheese)
Tricks & Tips
• Radicchio and endive can sometimes be quite bitter, so soak them for ten minutes or so in a mixture of luke-warm water (4 cups) and powdered sugar (1 tablespoon), so their natural bitterness will be mellowed.
• Slice Brussel sprouts with a knife or a slicer such as a Mandolin thinly then sprinkle lemon juice, salt and extra virgin olive oil over it. This will soften the Brussel sprouts.
• Mix tender purple baby Kale with Boston bibb lettuce and endive for a nice color palette.
• A blue cheese such as French Fourme d’ambert or a sharp sheep’s milk cheese such as Manchego from Spain is a satisfying counterpoint to a sturdy winter salad.
• Introduce pomegranate seeds, grapes or pears -- all are good companions and add another dimension to your salad.
• I love textural contrast in my salads so I am a sucker for large pretzels which I thinly slice and then bake and then sprinkle in my salads. Also nuts such as fancy Marcona almonds crushed in small pieces are lovely too.
(sliced pretzels to add texture to salads)
What Should Your Salad Wear
This is the part where a lovely salad can go haywire with imbalanced or overpowering flavors or a dressing that does not make your salad pop. Here is my stand-by favorite dressings.
Every Day Mustard Vinaigrettere
(recipe to dress four salads)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon warm water
1 teaspoon sea salt
5 grindings black pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon-style grain mustard
2 tablespoons vegetable oil such as canola or grape seed oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1. Combine rice vinegar, warm water, sea salt, black pepper grindings and mustard in a Tupperware-style container then cover with a lid and shake vigorously for twenty seconds or so.
2. Combine oils with vinegar/spice mixture then shake container to combine ingredients.
(heart of romaine with purple heirloom cauliflower and coriander croutons)
I have a repertoire of winter salads which I revisit in my kitchen every year but one question remains: why are radicchio, endive and such considered greens? Let me know!