Salads provide a welcome change in the meal, are light, promote digestion, and provide vital vitamins.
During the summer months salad ingredients can be found everywhere and are inexpensive, fresh, and firm, but come winter they come from two sources, imports from California (in the case of Europe mostly southern Italy, and Spain), or Florida, and greenhouses. Green house cucumbers, lettuces, and tomatoes look healthy, firm and very clean. Many of the salads are marketed with their roots still on, tomatoes on the vine. Unfortunately, they taste bland due to the artificial environment in which they grew, but they are popular with people who don’t like to fuss with their salads and wash them several times before preparation.
Imported salads also look anaemic, many are a few days older than they should be, and very expensive. Some have been exposed to freezing temperatures and are limp with slimy leaves.
In winter, at least in our part of the world, you have to use your imagination more than simply taking a salad, chopping and dressing it.
Try Belgium endive, radicchio, watercress, arugula, spinach, carrots, celery, and Savoy cabbage. You can always add a few leaves of romaine of Boston bib. Iceberg lettuce has little or no taste, but keeps much longer than any other lettuce. Other than a little crispness, don’t expect much in the taste department.
Warm salads are popular in France, and surprisingly refreshing. (See bar for recipe).
If you decide to make a carrot, celery and Savoy cabbage salad, try a mayonnaise dressing and add chopped flat-leaf parsley and see how the salad become lively.
Buy your salad ingredients in grocery stores with a brisk turnover, and avoid Mondays and Tuesdays. Fresh produce comes in Wednesday through Friday. Green house-grown salads are freshly picked, generally on delivery day, and throughout the week.
With a little planning you can enjoy refreshing salads throughout the year.
Prepared salad grebes make less work but are hardly worth the extra expense.
Warm spinach salad
2 cups washed and trimmed spinach
2 rashers bacon, diced, and cooked crisp
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ cup sliced mushrooms
pinch dry mustard
2 tsp rd wine vinegar
¼ cup sliced red onion
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
Sautee mushrooms in oil until soft but still not cooked through. Stir in mustard and add vinegar, and onions. Cook for one more minute.
Meanwhile arrange spinach in plates, pour dressing over and garnish with chopped eggs.
Endive and walnut salad
1 Belgium endive
3 walnuts, chopped and toasted for 10 minutes at 170 C and cooled
2 – 4 leaves of radicchio, chopped
1 scallion, sliced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp prepared mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Arrange endive leaves artistically on a platter. Reserve a few and chop. Place in a bowl. Add radicchio to bowl.
Prepare dressing. Dissolve salt and pepper in vinegar first. Whisk vigorously. Add oil gradually while whisking.
use half of the dressing to toss the salad in the bowl, then place salad in the middle of each plate/Drizzle the rest of the dressing over leaves on the plate. Sprinkle walnuts and scallion.