Even though there’s a wide variety of salad greens available year round, it’s not always easy to come up with salad ideas in the winter that are robust enough to suit the season. Here are three that I hope pique your interest.
As I was making both the lentil salad and the Moroccan orange salad, I was torn about what garnishes to add. The lentil salad is delicious without beets and feta, particularly if you’re serving it with an entree like chicken or pork or salmon. It’s also good with a garnish of crisp bacon or rounds of sausage. There are many versions of the orange salad – some sweet, some savory, all delicious. With this in mind, I’ve decided that it’s time to be more flexible with my recipes. From now on, look for a “Variations” section within select recipes that I feel can be made more than one way.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Egg and Bacon
This is not one for which I would offer alternative garnishes – adding chopped hard-boiled eggs and crisp bacon to the Brussels sprouts is just the ticket. The only variation I would suggest is that if you’re too lazy to roast the sprouts, you can boil them. You can also separate the leaves if you prefer but I like the crunchiness of the sprouts just cut in half. Roasting them until they’re a bit blackened at the edges definitely enhances their flavor.
1 lb. Brussels sprouts
2 hard boiled eggs
4 strips bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
for the Vinaigrette:
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon diced shallot (or other mild onion)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Trim the ends of the sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves. Halve the sprouts and toss them with the oil, salt and pepper. Put them in the oven on a baking sheet, cut side down, and roast 30-35 minutes until they pierce easily with a skewer and are crisp and brown round the edges.
To make the vinaigrette: Crush the shallot with the salt. Add the mustard, then the vinegar and oil.
When the Brussels sprouts are cooked, toss them with the vinaigrette.
Meanwhiile cook the bacon strips until crisp and then dice. Chop the egg yolks and whites separately.
Mix some of the chopped bacon and egg in with the sprouts and garnish with the rest.
French Lentil Salad with Beets and Feta
The best lentils for this are the green French lentils du Puy, now readily available at most grocery chains. They hold their shape better, don’t go mushy if you overcook them slightly, and are low in fat, high in protein – and cheap.
1 cup lentils (washed and picked over)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (or half parsley, half mint)
2 medium sized beets
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
for the Vinaigrette:
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot (or red onion)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Add the lentils to a pot of boiling water to cover by a couple of inches. Simmer until tender, adding more water if necessary. This can take between 30 and 40 minutes depending on the freshness of the lentils. They should not be bitey. Drain well.
Crush the shallot with the salt, then stir in the vinegar and olive oil. Toss the lentils with 2/3 of the vinaigrette. Add freshly ground pepper and the herbs.
Wrap the beets in foil and bake in the oven until they pierce easily with a skewer or fork (about 45 minutes). When they are cool enough to handle, peel and dice them and dress them with the remaining vinaigrette.
Assemble the salad. Place the lentils in a shallow bowl, top with the beets and then the crumbled feta.
Variations: Instead of the feta, mix the beets with a diced orange from which you’ve removed all pith. Or, as suggested earlier, top the lentils with diced crisp bacon or sausage of your choice.
Moroccan Orange Salad
This is light and refreshing and, after a somewhat heavy or rich main course (like Moroccan couscous), it can serve as either salad or dessert. I like it best with black olives and mint, though you might prefer it on the sweeter side with orange flower water and dates and/or walnuts. I sprinkle the oranges with Piment d’Espelette, a red chili pepper powder from the Basque region of France. I always bring a bottle of it back from France because I can’t bear to be without it, but I recently discovered that you can order it online from Amazon.com and other food suppliers. It isn’t cheap (a 1.4 oz. bottle costs $9.99), but if you’d like to add a sweet, smoky, mild chili pepper note to just about anything, this is more subtle than paprika or cayenne or any other chili powder.
3 large navel oranges
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
About a dozen black olives (preferably Kalamatas)
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1/2 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette (or paprika)
Put the sliced onion in a small bowl, cover with the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Leave to macerate for 10-15 minutes, tossing frequently, to soften the onions. Drain, saving the liquid. Add any juice you have over from slicing the oranges to it ,as well as the olive oil and another pinch of salt.
Peel the oranges, removing all traces of pith. Slice into thin rounds and arrange in circles on a large plate.
Pour the saved dressing over the oranges, decorate with the onions, mint, and olives. Sprinkle with Piment d’Espelette, if you have it, or a light dusting of paprika. If the olives are large, cut them in half so that you don’t have too much olive on your fork when you compose a celestial bite of orange, onion, mint and olive. This will also give you the opportunity to pit the olives.
Variation: An alternative is to sprinkle the oranges with orange flower water if available, a half teaspoon of cinnamon mixed with a half teaspoon of sugar and garnish the plate with chopped dates and/or walnuts. A light and easy dessert.