Food & Drink

Salads in winter: You can do it

Shave Brussels sprouts very thin and they can become a crunchy version of a winter salad.
Shave Brussels sprouts very thin and they can become a crunchy version of a winter salad. Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/TNS

Winter is upon us. So are the New Year’s resolutions we made to try and eat better this year.

With that in mind, here is a healthy option summed up in one word: salad.

Salads in winter? Sure.

“Winter is definitely the time of year where you have to be creative with your salads but I find that there are still lots of great locally grown items out there to be adventurous with,” said Brandon Velie, chef and owner of Juniper restaurant in Ridge Spring.

“What I look for in a winter salad is first and foremost what I can get locally,” said Velie. “Green leafy lettuces like arugula and romaine are hard to come by this time of year, so I tend to think more along the lines of kale, collards or mustard greens for my salads. If it is a really cold day, I might make a warm potato salad with a mustard/ bacon vinaigrette or maybe a winter squash salad.”

Start with the greens. Don’t be afraid to mix up a variety of non-traditional greens since that is what’s available: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards and kale. You can still find baby spinach, arugula, romaine and red or green lettuces in grocery stores.

Don’t forget the root vegetables, such as turnips, carrots, beets, onions and potatoes. These can be roasted and tossed in green salads. Roasted carrots, onions and beets add a mild sweetness to salads while potatoes and turnips bring a bit of earthiness to the greens.

You can easily make a salad into a meal by adding about 4 ounces of a protein, such as cooked meat or fish or cheese per person. With our lists of greens and add-ons, you should be able to keep it interesting well into spring.

Make your own winter salad

Pick your greens:

  • Brussels sprouts, raw: Shave them using a mandolin or thinly slice with a very sharp knife. Or roast them and add them whole.
  • Cauliflower and broccoli: Uncooked, shave or chop fine; cooked, roast, saute or blanch segments.
  • Romaine lettuce: Try cutting in half lengthwise and grilling or saute in a tablespoon of olive oil or butter until just wilted.
  • Cabbage (green, red, Napa, bok choy): Uncooked, slice thin or julienne for added crunch; cooked, saute or steam until just tender.
  • Kale: Tear and toss. Or saute, steam or make kale chips by roasting (toss with oil, season with salt or garlic powder, place on baking sheet in a 400-degree oven for 7-10 minutes).
  • Collards and turnip greens: Remove the main stem and cut leaves into strips. Use raw, or saute or steam.

Pick your proteins:

  • Bacon or pancetta: fry or bake to render/reduce fat.
  • Shrimp: Boil, broil or saute with a bit of olive oil or butter
  • Pork or beef: Find the least expensive cut and cut into cubes, as if you were making a stew. Saute with a bit of oil, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, then toss on top of a salad.
  • Fish: Open that can of tuna, try some anchovies, or pick up some fried catfish or whitefish from a fish market.
  • Poultry: Pick up a roasted or fried chicken from the grocery deli and chop it up into bite-sized bits.
  • Cheese: Crumble or shave feta, blue, Parmesan, Asiago, cheddar or Gouda.

Extras for texture and flavor:

  • Citrus: segments of oranges, tangerines and/or grapefruit.
  • Apples, pears, seedless grapes, pomegranate seeds.
  • Nuts: Dry-roast in a hot skillet for crunch and flavor.
  • Croutons: Remove crust from stale bread slices or pita bread. Brush with melted butter. Cut into small cubes. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until browned. Cool before serving.

Baby Kale, Toasted Pecan and Goat Cheese Salad With Cranberry-Ginger Vinaigrette

From chef Brandon Velie at Juniper near Columbia.

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon cranberry sauce

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon orange juice

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups baby kale, rinsed

1/4 cup toasted pecans, slightly chopped

1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Place balsamic vinegar, cranberry sauce, honey, ginger and orange juice in a blender or food processor and blend. Slowly drizzle in oil with motor running. Once all oil is in, blend for about ten seconds longer.

In medium bowl, toss kale and 2/3 of the dressing. Divide kale on four plates, then sprinkle with goat cheese and pecans. Drizzle with remaining dressing.

Yield: 4 servings.

Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad

From “A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen,” by Hugh Acheson (Clarkson Potter).

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon walnut oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 quart Brussels sprouts, shaved thinly by hand or on a mandolin

1 cup roasted peanuts

1 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley

Put the mustard in a heavy bowl. Slowly add olive oil and walnut oil while whisking. Add lemon juice and sherry vinegar. Finish with chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Toss Brussels sprouts, peanuts, cheese and parsley in a salad bowl with the vinaigrette, to taste.

Yield: 6 servings.

Warm Shrimp and Radicchio Salad

From Charleston chef Mike Latta, in “The Charleston Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Heart of the Old South,” by Holly Herrick.

1/2 cup sherry vinegar

4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

4 shallots, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, canola oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound thinly sliced pancetta, julienned

1 pound white shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 heads raddichio, cleaned and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips

2 bunches green onions, thinly sliced

1 pint (about 2 cups) grape tomatoes, rinsed and halved

Whisk together the sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, shallots and salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually incorporate the oil in a slow drizzle, while whisking, until emulsified. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and pancetta. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the pancetta becomes translucent. Add shrimp and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are nearly cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and toss to warm through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl and toss lightly with vinaigrette, using just enough to lightly coat the salad. Divide salad among four salad plates, serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.