Food & Drink

Craving something Crunchy? Winter salads provide a cool-weather crunch

Lisa Williams photos 

Belgian Endives with Walnuts, Dates, Pear and Blue Cheese
Lisa Williams photos Belgian Endives with Walnuts, Dates, Pear and Blue Cheese
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Salads are not the comfort foods I usually reach for when nights are long and temperatures dip to record lows.

But along the way, after so many stews, casseroles and roasts, I start craving vegetables raw and crunchy. And flavors that are a little piquant and vinegary.

The bouncy green salads of summer won’t do the trick. They’re out of place in a seasonal palate and cruel reminders that it’s still winter and will be for quite some time.

I look instead to seasonal vegetables that are at their peak and keep well in the refrigerator.

Celery is beautiful this time of year — bright green stalks, firm and juicy. We’ve unfairly relegated celery to a supporting role in chicken soup and stuffings, and we’ve made it a free diet food, which lessens its appeal even more.

Celery can hold its own with other assertive flavors. You’d be surprised how refreshing it is tossed with nothing more than lemon juice and olive oil.

Another favorite winter vegetable is Belgian endive. I love its delicate, slightly bitter flavor. Truth be told, I like endive because its compact heads take up hardly any room in the refrigerator and it keeps for days and days. There’s minimal prep involved, too: I just cut the ends off, remove any bruised outer leaves and proceed with my recipe.

Other good winter keepers are radishes and turnips.

While most people think of turnips as vegetables to be roasted or boiled, I’ve always liked them raw. They have a slight peppery flavor. Radishes carry some heat, too, but most supermarket varieties are on the tame side. Thinly sliced with a dressing to balance their flavor, radishes and turnips can be the star of their own salad show.

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So if you’re craving a little cool-weather crunch, here are three easy salads that will help you make it to spring.

Celery Salad with Anchovies and Green Olives

20 green pimento-stuffed olives, drained

4 cups diced celery, with leaves

1 cup parsley, minced

1 teaspoon minced oregano

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 jar or can of oil-cured anchovy filets, drained and wiped dry with paper towel

In a bowl, combine olives, celery, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and olive oil. Toss to blend.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to two days. To serve, mound the salad onto individual serving plates. Divide the anchovies into four servings and place them atop each salad.

Source: Salad as a Meal by Patricia Wells.

Belgian Endives with Walnuts, Dates, Pear and Blue Cheese

4 Belgian endives, halved lengthwise, then chopped crosswise

1 cup English walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1 medium-ripe pear, cored, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise

3-4 Medjool dates, pitted and sliced crosswise

1/2 to 2/3 cup Roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled (see note)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoon white wine or rice vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil, walnut oil or canola oil

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons of minced parsley for garnish

In a small bowl, mix mustard, vinegar and olive oil until emulsified.

Put endives into a large bowl. Drizzle over dressing and toss. Add salt to taste. Add cheese, walnuts, pears and dates. Gently toss one more time. Garnish with minced parsley. Divide onto 4 to 6 serving plates.

Note: Use your favorite blue cheese, including Iowa’s Maytag. Point Reyes Blue from Sonoma County, Calif., is one of my favorites, as is the raw milk Bayley Hazen from Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm. If you don’t care for blue cheese, try the nutty, buttery Prairie Breeze from Milton Creamery.

Source: Lisa Williams

Shaved Radish and Turnip Salad with Hummus Dressing

For paper-thin slices of radishes and turnips, use your mandoline or food processor.

10 radishes, very thinly sliced

4 small turnips, very thinly sliced

1/4 cup minced parsley

1 heaping tablespoon plain hummus, homemade or store-bought

2 tablespoons lemon or grapefruit juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

pinch of salt

To make the dressing, stir hummus, citrus juice and olive oil in a small bowl until mixture is smooth.

Arrange sliced radishes and turnips on a serving platter.

Drizzle dressing over turnips and radishes. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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