Thursday, March 5, 2009

Should we even eat green salad in winter?

I know we have no pretension of doing the kind of one hundred percent local and seasonal that would ever completely rule out a whole category of food for a whole season, but where reasonable substitutions can be found, I wonder if it’s worth considering. The basis of fresh green salad as I understand it is completely un-seasonal and/or non-local in New England in the winter.

We could make fresh green salads that are as seasonal and local as possible by following some of Renée’s suggestions to include garnishes or add-ins like nuts, dried fruits, and beets, or to use greens like spinach that grow well in cooler temperatures and might come from a little closer than California. We could build salads around ingredients that we can or dry when they are seasonal (dried tomatoes, canned roasted red peppers, canned pickled green beans…), so that the only thing out of season is the lettuce.

But what if we just went with New England winter ingredients in New England winter? One of the benefits of always having a fresh green salad with every meal is that it often boosts the veggie section to two dishes. For example, if you make a roast chicken with roasted potatoes, carrots, and beets and then serve a side salad, you now have one meat dish, one carb dish, and two veggie dishes. So is there a way to keep the concept of the salad, a kind of light, mostly cold, little extra dash of veggies, without any of the things like lettuce, tomato, and cucumber that usually make up any salad base, and without other yummy but un-seasonal treats like green beans? What veggies ARE seasonal in February in New England? Drumlin Farms, with one of the few fully local full-year CSAs, had carrots, beets, potatoes, rutabaga, and turnips in its last pick-up. What “salads” can you make with that?

Roasted Veggie Salad

Roast root vegetables as if you were going to serve them as a side dish. For four people, try four carrots, 4 small or two large beets, one potato and one rutabaga.
Prepare an ample portion of balsamic vinaigrette (recipe follows), about a cup for four the amount shown above, in a sealable container (pyrex, Tupperware…). As soon as you remove the veggies from the oven, dump them into the container with the vinaigrette. Seal, shake, and refrigerate. If you don’t want everything to turn pink, keep the beets separate. Nice topped with goat cheese and toasted walnuts or pecans.

Carrot Salad

Peel and grate about 2 carrots per person. Add ½- 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins. Toss with ½ cup light vinaigrette (recipe follows). Serve immediately or keep in refrigerator up to 3 days. Nice topped with sunflower seeds.

Carrott and Red Onion Salad
(in a root cellar, or even a brown bag in a cool dry section of the basement, onions will easily keep all winter). Peel and very thinly slice one red onion per person. Put the onions into a tightly sealed container with enough water to cover, 1 Tablespoon sugar, and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Let sit in refrigerator at least an hour and up to several days. Peel and grate about 2 carrots per person. Drain onions and toss with carrots in a light vinaigrette (recipe follows). Serve immediately.

Raw Beet Salad

Peel and grate 2 small or 1 large beet per person. Toss with ½-cup light or balsamic vinaigrette (recipes follow). Serve immediately or keep in refrigerator up to 3 days. Wonderful topped with feta or goat cheese and toasted walnuts or pecans.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. mustard
A few drops of water

Light vinaigrette
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
A few drops of water

1 comment:

maamypatom said...

Yay winter salads! Besides raw beet salad there are lots of ways to use cold cooked beets to make a salad. Personally when the weather is cold I don't have much interest in lettuce salads--the kinds you mention are what tempt me. Also don't forget sprouts grown right on your own windowsill!

I love the Drumlin Farm site! Have you been to visit?