In the peak of the season, it’s easy to stress the importance of fresh local vegetables for a salad. But let’s face it. Nothing is at its peak right now. But there are a few simple tricks for bringing those wintry carrots, cabbages and radishes into sharper focus with boldly seasoned dressings. First, chop up those vegetables.
For me, a chopped salad of brilliant colors all jumbled together is happiness in a bowl. The vegetables wilt just a little as they absorb the dressing’s snappy acid. Because the vegetables fit neatly together on the fork, each bite is a blast of contrasting flavors and firm crunch.
I’m a big fan of the winter carrots from nearby Featherstone Farm that are available in most co-ops. They are a variety — Napoli — that becomes sweeter as their starches convert to sugar, yet they remain firm through storage. Especially tasty right now, they’re great for eating raw, and terrific roasted and sautéed.
Those pretty watermelon radishes, with their pale green skins and shocking pink interiors, add a peppery bite to the mix and work beautifully with the slightly nutty flavor of celeriac and the bright cabbage. That said, just about anything crunchy will work nicely in this toss-up — red and green and yellow bell peppers, celery, bok choy, radicchio, cucumbers, jicama, apples, Asian pears, as well as toasted nuts and coconut.
I like to make up a big batch of chopped vegetable salads for munching over the course of several days. Once the ingredients are prepped and ready, think about ways to extend and vary the mix with nubs of creamy fresh goat cheese one night, a good sharp Cheddar, or nose-tingling blue the next. Add leftover cooked chicken, steak or pork for a satisfying lunch.
The two dressings here — one sweet and sharp, the other hot and tangy — are great to have on hand. I brush the honey-mustard vinaigrette over chicken, pork and lamb, as well as sweet potatoes and carrots as they roast. It makes a nice finish to pilafs of wild rice, farro or barley. The chile-lime vinaigrette is especially good in a black bean salad, drizzled into a stir-fry of chicken or shrimp, and brushed on grilled steak.
When the weather is still wintry, a simple salad is cheery and brightens up the plate.
Winter Chop Chop Salad
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: From Beth Dooley.
• 3 to 4 carrots, scrubbed and diced
• 2 c. chopped red cabbage
• 1 c. chopped radishes (preferably watermelon radishes)
• 1/2 c. chopped celeriac
• 1/2 c. sweet onion, chopped
• Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette or Chile Lime Vinaigrette (see recipes)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, toss together the carrots, cabbage, radishes and onion. Toss in about 1/2 to 3/4 cup vinaigrette to coat the vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information per each serving of 6, with half recipe of Honey Mustard Vinaigrette:
Calories 170 Fat 12 g Sodium 110 mg
Carbohydrates 14 g Saturated fat 1 g Total sugars 10 g
Protein 1 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, ½ carb, 2 ½ fat.
Makes a generous 1 cup.
Note: You’ll have more vinaigrette than you’ll need for the chopped vegetable salad below. Keep extra on hand for glazing roasted meats and vegetables. From Beth Dooley.
• 1/4 c. white wine vinegar
• 2 tbsp. chopped shallots
• 2 tbsp. coarse Dijon mustard
• 1/4 c. honey
• 2/3 c. walnut or vegetable oil
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place vinegar, shallots, mustard and honey into a blender. Process until the shallots are finely chopped. Add oil in a slow, steady stream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Chile Lime Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 cup.
Note: Tangy and hot, this vinaigrette is delicious on grilled chicken and shrimp or drizzled over black beans and rice.
• 1/2 c. vegetable oil
• 1/4 c. fresh lime juice
• 2 tbsp. agave syrup or honey
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
• 1/4 tsp. cumin
• Salt and pepper to taste
In a glass jar with a lid, shake together the oil, lime juice, agave or honey, garlic, red pepper flakes and cumin. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.