Let’s face it. Salad doesn’t get a lot of press during the dark days of winter. For sure it’s the stews, chowders and chilis that hog the limelight for much of the colder months of the year.
That being said, I still eat salad during the winter and the fact of the matter is that I simply craft my winter salads differently than my summer ones. In the summer, tender refreshing cucumbers, homegrown tomatoes, aromatic basil and light dressings rule the roost.
During January and February, I sharpen my chef’s knife and hunker down to use heartier produce like cabbage, kale, chard, carrots, red onions, apples, and pears. Over the years, I’ve learned that a winter salad can be downright satisfying when dressed with a more robust dressing and served with a warm soup.
Here are some tips on how to create and compose a satisfying winter salad:
Use the Boxed Mixed Lettuces as a Base
During the winter, I can’t grow enough lettuce to meet my family’s salad needs so I rely on the large boxes of mixed organic greens or spinach sold at Sam’s and Costco. These lettuces offer tons of convenience because they are pre washed and make a solid foundation for building my salad. To prevent the greens from going mushy, I’ve learned to pull some out of the big box and store them in separate plastic bag. By aerating and fluffing the greens I find that the greens keep better overall.
Go for Color
We all need more color in our lives during the winter months so when you start to plan a winter salad, seriously consider adding items like red cabbage, dark green kale, or colorful chard. The trick to using these sturdier brassicas is to sharpen your knife and slice them thinly. This can take some practice but it makes a huge difference. When working with chard or kale, stack the leaves, roll them up like a cigar and slice them crosswise, which will result in an array of thin ribbons. As for cabbage, cut the head into smaller manageable hunks and slice thinly over the leaves.
Add Some Crunch
Create some crunch by adding croutons, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and even chow mein noodles. This might seem like an obvious tip but items like sunflower and pumpkin seeds can add a significant nutritional boost and a welcome nutty flavor that complement the whole shebang.
Get a Big Bowl and Toss
Don’t underestimate the power of a big wooden salad bowl and an energetic salad toss. Yes, you can make a salad in a small bowl but during the winter months it’s a lot more fun to do it in a large bowl. After all, all of the winter salad ingredients are more robust than those found in a summer salad and they can certainly take the heat of a few hefty heave hos with the salad tongs. Furthermore, the added value of using a big bowl is that the salad dressing gets distributed more evenly and you thus have to use less salad dressing!