With the changing seasons, I’m given to an epicurean road less traveled. Namely, creating unique salads for the winter.
With colder weather we crave heartier meals. Beloved crock-pots are unearthed from their summer hibernation and put to use making what are affectionately known in American culinary lore as “Burgoos” or stews, based on recipes passed down through generations.
Unrecognized root vegetables are cooked for a solar cycle until tender and taste of colored glue.
Our DNA does not demand that we have to eat heavy, cream-laden soups and stews for the entire winter. It’s true that the warmer months are best known for garden and farm fresh salads, but just because there’s a bit of a chill in the air, doesn’t mean one has to attempt to turn themselves into a human solid.
The end of autumn into winter is the time of the year when a lot of long growing vegetation comes to fruition, offering amazing flavors and textures. The last few weeks of the farmers markets provide several types of winter squash, cool weather greens, runner beans, peppers (sweet and hot alike), fresh apples and pears.
The bounty — squash, spinach, beans, beets, figs, grapes, apples — this is all great salad stuff. In fact, I’d argue that it’s even better than the zucchini, peppers, corn and asparagus the Piedmont started the season with. So without further ado, here are two nutritionally bloated salads you must try before couch potato season really takes over.
Winter Millet Salad
This is a bit of work but in some cases a fair amount of preparation does make a difference. Its many ingredients fuse well together when complex dressing is added. This is surprisingly filling but the smaller portion packs a pretty significant nutritional boost. As a side dish this is a great way to go.
It’s one of those “I know…but wait until you try it!” dishes.
1 cup raw millet (any color will work)
1 med. butternut squash
¼ cup hazelnuts, chopped
2 med. avocados, diced
1 small broccoli crowns, broken into bite-size florets
1 cup purple grapes, cut in half
2 bunches chard leaves, can also use beetroot leaves
1 lg. pomegranate, seeded
Chunky Herb Dressing
1 small bunch basil, finely chopped
1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1/2 med. lemon, juiced
3-4 Tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
1. Preheat oven on 400 F°. Prepare the butternut by trimming off the top and bottom and cutting it in half crosswise and lengthwise. Cut into 1 x 1-inch dices. Place on an oven tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt.
2. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until soft and slightly brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
3. The last 5 minutes of baking time, place the hazelnuts on a separate baking tray, sprinkle with salt and toast until lightly browned. Remove and let cool slightly.
4. Rinse the millet in a colander with boiling water, then place in a small saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and let gently simmer for 10-15 minutes or until soft and the water is gone.
5. In a small pan bring and small amount of water to a boil and flash boil the Chard for 3 minutes. Drain, chop and add to bowl. Prepare the avocados, romanesco, grapes, green leaves and pomegranate and Herb Dressing. Place the cooked millet in a large bowl, add a small amount of the greens and herb dressing and gently mix with your hands, making sure all the millet is lightly coated with dressing. Remember you can always add more dressing but you can’t take it away.
6. Add all ingredients to the millet mixture and gently fold to combine. Serve in a big fancy bowl!
Salad of Warm Kale, Quinoa & Balsamic Roasted Beets
Beets get a bad rap. This vegetable that is incredible in high dietetic value, low in cost and pleasant in appearance. Beets (of all colors) are either coveted or despised by the general population. There seems to be no grey area when it comes to their consumption. I’m of the opinion its one of the many foods introduced to us as children that was prepared in some post industrial age method giving it both a disgusting look and taste.
If your memory of beets starts with the opening of a can… I’m right there with you.
After extensive research with children of all ages, I had extreme success with the “Tell them they’re big blueberries and bury them with a bunch of other stuff on the plate” methodology.
This recipe is a hybrid from the Chefs of the US Olympic team (who have many vegetarian athletes). Naturally, without the sardines, its thrust is more toward a vegan dish, but its nutritional info is outstanding for any human body type.
2 bunches beets (about 12 beets total, scrubbed and trimmed)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsps. turbinado sugar
2 Tbsps. grape seed oil
salt & pepper
½ cup quinoa, rinsed
1 tin sardines, olive oil well drained
1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
2 Tbsps. grape seed oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp. smoked paprika
salt & pepper
½ cup pecorino shavings (or parm)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large pot of boiling water place the unpeeled beets in and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. Using you fingers remove the outer skin on the beets and place the trimmed beets in a 2 inch deep ceramic or glass dish. Pour the balsamic vinegar and grape seed oil in. Sprinkle the sugar, salt and pepper around the beets.
4. Cover dish with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, stir the beets up a bit and continue to roast, uncovered, for 5 more minutes. They should be quite tender. Remove from the oven and allow dish to cool.
5. In a small saucepan, place the rinsed quinoa and 1 cup of water. Add a pinch of salt. Place pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is mostly cooked and the little tails start to pop out. Remove from the heat and set aside.
6. In a large soup pot, heat the 2 Tbsps. of grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and smoked paprika. Stir around until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa, a splash of water and half of the kale.
7. Stir around until kale begins to wilt a bit. Add the remaining kale and sardines, gently breaking them up into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper and keep stirring. The kale should all be slightly wilted, but still firm. Take off the heat and transfer kale and quinoa mixture to your serving bowl.
8. Arrange roasted beets on top of the greens and quinoa. Drizzle with the balsamic cooking liquid in the pan (there should be about a fair amount left, if not add 3 parts oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar to the mixture). Scatter the pecorino shavings on top and serve.