With at least one big turkey dinner not too far in the past and at least a couple more coming down the pike, not to mention the hams and overloaded buffets to be enjoyed before the month is out, wouldn’t a little respite from gluttony be nice?
Something light would be nice, something easy, maybe quick but above all, not traditional. How about a salad? A warm, winter salad that’s hearty enough to make a meal? That certainly ought to fit the bill.
Following are several recipes for salads that can stand up to winter. Made with a lot of seasonal root vegetables and served them warm or room temperature, they give a perfect rest in preparation for the face stuffing to come as the month progresses.
Don’t think of these recipes as blueprints that have to be followed exactly. Think of them as guidelines or even suggestions. Mostly they consist of some kind of green, something interesting to make the salad a meal, like roasted root vegetables or shrimp or mushrooms or potatoes and it’s all bound together with a dressing.
Take those components and mix and match. Be creative. Can’t find beets with the greens attached, use plain beets. No radicchio at the market. Get some spinach or endive. Don’t feel like springing for overpriced fresh rosemary, use dried. It’s winter. Who cares? It’s not science, it’s a salad. If precision were required, the salad bar would not exist.
So have some fun and enjoy yourself while you let your tummy rest up for that next big turkey dinner.
Warm Winter-Vegetable Salad
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 small sweet potato (about 8 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrot, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 bunch small beets with leaves and stems
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup walnuts
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 ounce feta, crumbled (1/4 cup)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut tops from beet roots. Peel beetroots and cut in half if small or quarters if larger. (Pieces should be about the size of other vegetables.) In a medium roasting pan, toss the onion, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery root and beet with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots.
Cut beet stems and thick veins from beet greens. Wash stems and leaves separately. They can be sandy. Chop stems into small dice and sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil. While cooking, julienne leaves into small confetti-like pieces. When chopped stems are almost soft, add clove of garlic. Cook 1 minute more and add greens. Toss with oil and stems just until they start to wilt. Remove from heat. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a work surface and coarsely chop.
In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the lemon juice, mustard and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and fold in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vegetables and walnuts to the dressing and toss. Plate the beet greens and stems. Add the roasted vegetable mixture over them and top the salad with the feta and serve warm or at room temperature.
The roasted winter vegetables and dressing can be refrigerated separately overnight. Rewarm the roasted vegetables before serving.
Warm Mushroom Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 head of garlic, cloves crushed but not peeled
1 pound mixed wild mushrooms, such as oyster, enoki and shiitake—thick stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup pecans
1/2 pound thickly sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 leek, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp. sorghum or molasses
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
6 ounces sturdy baby greens, such as arugula, mustard or spinach
3 ounces cold fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 425°. In a saucepan, bring both oils to a simmer with the garlic. Cook over low heat until fragrant, 15 minutes. Strain the oil and discard the garlic.
In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms with 6 tablespoons of the garlic oil and season with salt and pepper. (Reserve the remaining garlic oil for later use.) Spread the mushrooms in a baking pan and roast for 35 minutes, stirring once or twice, until crisp and golden. Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast for 7 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool.
In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel–lined plate. Strain the fat into a heatproof bowl and return half of it to the skillet. Add the leek to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the vinegar and simmer until reduced to 3 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sorghum, lemon juice and the remaining bacon fat.
In a large bowl, toss the greens with the vinaigrette, mushrooms and pecans. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Sprinkle with the bacon and goat cheese and serve.
Warm Spinach Salad with Cannellini Beans and Shrimp
1/2 pound baby spinach (7 cups)
3 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Spread the spinach on a large platter. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and cook it with the bacon over moderately high heat until just white throughout, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper and toss until heated through, about 1 minute. Scrape the shrimp and beans onto the bed of spinach.
In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 1 minute. Add the mustard to the skillet and whisk in the red wine vinegar, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, pour it over the salad and serve.
Warm Potato Salad with Bacon and Brown Butter Dressing
2 pounds fingerling potatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 ounces thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 shallot, minced
One 2-inch rosemary sprig
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tbsp. grainy mustard
Freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. snipped chives
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook over high heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, shaking off any excess water.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until just beginning to brown and has rendered most of its fat. Drain off fat and add the butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is cooked and the butter is just beginning to brown. Add the shallot and rosemary sprig and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and discard the rosemary sprig.
Whisk the vinegar and mustard into the pancetta mixture; season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and the chives and toss until evenly coated. Serve the potato salad warm or at room temperature.
Squash, Apple and Warm Lentil Salad
For a more dramatic presentation, you can roast the squash halves and serve the salad mounded inside.
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 medium shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups French green lentils (14 ounces), rinsed
3 thyme sprigs
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. chopped chives, plus more for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 medium acorn squash (3 pounds)—scrubbed, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1 Golden Delicious apple—quartered, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 small head radicchio, leaves torn into small pieces
Parsley sprigs, for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Stir in the lentils, thyme and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs. Transfer the lentils to a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of chives and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, whisk the butter with the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, toss the squash with 5 tablespoons of the spiced butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the squash on 2 baking sheets and roast for 10 minutes. In the same bowl, toss the apple with the remaining 1 tablespoon of spiced butter. Turn the squash wedges and add the apples to the baking sheets. Roast for about 10 minutes longer, until the squash and apples are tender and golden. Arrange the squash, apples and radicchio on a serving platter. Spoon the lentils on top and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with parsley and chives and serve.
The squash and apples can be roasted up to 6 hours ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature. The lentils can be refrigerated overnight; bring to room temperature before serving.
Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.