Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winter Salad

Green salads are not just for summer lunches. What goes nicer with hot soup or a hunk of fresh bread?

Way back when I was a young and going to school in Jersey, there was a snow storm that dumped something like four feet of snow, and stopped everything for days. Suffering from serious cabin fever, I hiked to a friend's house for dinner.

This was not an easy task, since plows hadn't come through at all, and drifts were taller than me. A walk that usually took fifteen minutes took me at least an hour and a half. Tired and wet when I got there, I thought it would be the soup or the tea or the whiskey that would win my heart, but it was a green salad with lime dressing, topped with avocado, pepitas, and lots of pomegranate seeds.

I grew up in the desert eating pomegranates and kumquats like they were going out of style, but I had never thought to put either of them in a salad. Nearly twenty years later I remember that salad and evening fondly. I don't remember my friend Matthew's boyfriend's name—the smart guy responsible for the salad.

Now my salads are always an experiment. If I'm craving something, I put it on a salad, or, in the dressing. (Tequila, no problem! Jicama, good idea! Flax seeds, sesame seeds, and peanuts, great! Pickles, well, all right. Peanut butter, yes, excellent with sesame oil and soy sauce.)

In winter this often means I'm putting hot foods on top of my greens: roasted beets and parsnips, wild rice, curry sauce, mashed potatoes, half burned spicy green beans, bean thread, squashes. Nuts and fruit are great on top of the hot layer. Obviously I use big bowls for these monster creations. Half of the time there's so much good stuff in there, I don't need dressing at all.

Today's salad had chopped raw fennel (the whole thing, bulb to fronds), haruki turnip, walnuts, and an apple. This sounds a little sad, but here it is anyway: It was the highlight of my day.

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