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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Salad Basics

Occasionally one of the local chains may feature tomatoes even in these winter months at a "bargain" price, and I give into the temptation to buy one to make a nice fresh salad. And almost always, I am disappointed by even the reddest, sweetest looking tomatoes because of the lack of flavor.

Over the years I am learning, thanks in large part to my daughter and daughters-in-law, that I can leave the tomatoes off my shopping list for the winter and still have some great salads--and I don't have to settle for uninspiring lettuce and little else.

The following guide is a substitute for a "recipe" for salad that should help you add variety and crunch to even the the most wintry of menus.


Winter Salad Template

1. Here is the plan. Choose one or two from
each column, depending on what is available and reasonable in cost. Don't skip any column!


Greens
Vegetable
Fruit
Other add-ins
Iceberg lettuce
Shredded cabbage, green or red--try always to include this!
Diced apples
Walnuts, pecans, almonds
Romaine
Grated carrot
Diced pears
Dried cranberries
Red or green leaf lettuce
Bell peppers, diced
Pineapple cubes, fresh or canned (and drained)
Raisins or other dried fruits you choose
Other lettuces of your choice
Jicama, turnip, or rutabaga shoestring sticks
Black, green, or red grapes, cut in half
Cheese--feta crumbles, cheddar cubes, etc.

2. Cut up your chosen ingredients and toss together.

3. Add your favorite dressing and toss again. Balsamic or other vinaigrette dressings are my favorites, and I often mix in a little honey mustard dressing for even more variety.

4. Top with grated parmesan, freshly ground pepper and/or croutons as desired.


The key is to include both some vegetable and some fruit along with the contrast of the nuts and/or dried fruits. This will give you both the color of a summer tossed salad and the variation in texture that will contrast nicely with winter menus that tend often to be "softer" in texture. Soups, chilis, and pasta dishes are all very good for the season, but the addition of one of these winter salads will give you some much needed balance.

Don't be afraid to get iceberg lettuce if that is all that is reasonably available either. We have all been so coached into thinking this is useless nutritionally that we forget it is still a lot healthier crisp side dish than chips for something like a bowl of chili. If you shred in some cabbage, add some red-skinned apple chunks, dried cranberries, and rich brown walnut chunks, you have color and plenty of nutrition even with an iceberg lettuce base. And if the prices mean that you will have iceberg or no lettuce at all, it should be an easy choice!

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