Try a trio of hearty winter salads

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Maybe cavemen refrained from eating salad during the
winter, but modern homo sapiens are loath to give up their fresh greens
during the year’s coldest months.

That said, there is such a thing as a “winter
salad.” It’s heartier than the warm-weather variety, perhaps containing
some cooked elements such as roasted parsnips, a robust cheese or a
creamy dressing.

No matter the season, making a salad requires some
basic know-how. Before you embark upon our three recipes, consider
these tips:

Buy a salad spinner if you don’t one. A wet salad is
a bad salad, and there’s no better way to dry washed greens than to
spin them in a spinner. Try to get a spinner with a closed bottom (no
holes) so that you can soak your greens in it as well.

Make salads in advance. You can soak greens for
hours in cold water. If you don’t have room in the refrigerator, add a
few freezer packs to the soaking water. Once you’ve spun them dry,
place greens in a resealable plastic bag lined, on one side, with a
paper towel. Greens stored this way will stay fresh in the refrigerator
for a few days.

You need a big bowl to toss a salad. The tossing
bowl should be able to accommodate at least twice the amount of salad
you plan to use. If you are cooking for company, you may want to
transfer the salad from the tossing bowl to a smaller serving bowl, or
serve it on individual plates.

ROASTED ROOT SALAD

We made this salad with parsnips, carrots and a
turnip, but you could use almost any combination of root vegetables —
consider celery root or kohlrabi or beets — or just one or two. A
mandoline, or the slicing blade of a food processor, is handy for
getting nice, even, thin slices.

2 parsnips, peeled

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 carrots, peeled

1 small turnip, peeled

1/2 to 1 cup halved or chopped walnuts

2 heads watercress

2 to 4 ounces blue cheese

Sherry or balsamic vinaigrette (see box)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice parsnips into
very thin “coins” and place on a nonstick (or parchment-lined) baking
sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and toss coins with hands,
coating with oil and arranging into one layer. Bake for 15 to 20
minutes, until slices are lightly browned. Repeat with carrots. Quarter
the turnip through the root end, then thinly slice the quarters. Roast
the vegetables individually as they cook at different rates. When they
are all roasted, set aside to cool.

2. Place walnuts on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees, until fragrant and lightly brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.

3. Cut the top leaves off the watercress and immerse
in cold water. (Save the stems to saute later with olive oil and
garlic.) Spin dry.

4. To assemble, place watercress in large bowl and
add roasted vegetables and nuts. Drizzle with a few spoonfuls of
vinaigrette and toss, adding more dressing if needed. Crumble half of
cheese on top and toss gently again. Transfer to a serving bowl or
individual dishes and top with remaining cheese. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

SUPER DUPER TRE-COLORI FATTOUSH

Quantities here are flexible; just make sure there
are roughly equal amounts of endive, radicchio, arugula and fennel.
It’s also important to use really good olive oil. “Fattoush” is a
Middle Eastern bread salad; I find that pita chips make any salad more
substantial. But you also could substitute shards of Parmesan (shaved
with a vegetable peeler) for the pita.

1 small fennel

1 small endive

1 small radicchio

1 to 2 cups baby arugula or mature

arugula, sliced into ribbons

1 small red onion

Pita croutons (see note)

Salt and pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 lemon, halved

1. Trim fronds from fennel and reserve for another
use. Trim any brown spots from base and sides of fennel, then slice in
half, through base. Slice bulb very thin, parallel to base, i.e., into
half rings. (A mandoline or food processor slicing blade is handy
here.) Immerse sliced fennel in a large bowl of cold water.

2. Slice endive and radicchio into 1/4-inch strips. Place in cold water with fennel and add arugula. Spin dry.

3. Slice onion very thin and immerse in cold water, separate from the other vegetables.

4. To assemble salad, drain onion and pat dry. Place
endive, radicchio, fennel and arugula in a large bowl. Add onion and
pita croutons. Sprinkle with a good amount of salt and a good grinding
of pepper. Drizzle on olive oil and squeeze the lemon half. The
proportion you’re going for is 3 parts oil to 1 part lemon. Toss and
taste, then adjust seasoning. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

NOTE: To make pita croutons, cut pita (regular or
whole wheat) into bite-size pieces with scissors. Place on a baking
sheet and bake at 350 degrees until they are crisp but have not
browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.

CREAMY AVOCADO-ARTICHOKE SALAD

Look for fancy artichokes with the stems attached
and packed in oil, rather than in vinegar. Many Italian grocers stock
these in their prepared-food cases. It’s important that the artichokes
and avocado be at room temperature.

1 small bunch parsley

1 head Boston lettuce

1/2 pound oil-packed artichokes

1 ripe Haas avocado

Mustard-shallot vinaigrette (see info on dressings, below)

1. Remove leaves from parsley. Immerse in cold
water. Discard any browned or cracked lettuce leaves and tear remaining
leaves into bite-size pieces. Soak lettuce with parsley leaves, then
spin dry.

2. Cut artichoke stems into 1-inch segments; slice the artichoke “heads,” through the hearts, into quarters.

3. Cut avocado in half lengthwise. Remove pit and
skin. Cut halves in half again, lengthwise, and then slice into
1/4-inch slices.

4. Place greens in a large bowl with most of the
artichokes and avocado. Drizzle with a little vinaigrette, toss, and
then add more dressing, if necessary. Pour into a serving bowl or
platter or onto individual serving plates, and garnish with remaining
artichokes and avocado pieces. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

SALAD DRESSINGS

The simplest dressing involves drizzling olive oil
and either lemon juice or wine vinegar directly on the salad, along
with some salt and pepper, but you also can make it in a separate
container. I find a screw-top jar the perfect tool for making salad
dressing. Make sure it will hold double the amount you plan to make:
The headroom is necessary for proper shaking.

Simple vinaigrette: In a screw-top jar, combine 1
part vinegar or lemon juice with 3 to 4 parts good extra-virgin olive
oil, a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper. Shake.

Mustard vinaigrette: Shake the vinegar with a spoonful of Dijon mustard before adding the oil.

Shallot vinaigrette: Add a small amount of minced shallot to the vinegar.

Garlic vinaigrette: Place a cut clove of garlic in the vinaigrette, but remove it after a few hours or it will get too strong.

Sherry vinaigrette: Use sherry vinegar for a mellow, full flavor.

Balsamic vinaigrette: Use balsamic vinegar or, for a less sweet dressing, a mixture of balsamic and red wine vinegar.

(c) 2010, Newsday.

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