At a certain point each winter, all the soups and stews start to get on my nerves. Enough heavy meats, enough mellow sauces – I want food that's crunchy, juicy, bracing. But with grape tomatoes coming in at six bucks a clamshell and English cucumbers going for four, I've had to get more creative (read: less lazy) with my salads this winter. Here, some ideas so simple you don't even need a recipe: just a good knife, a few dressing ingredients and an open mind.
Raw salads are as much about texture as they are about flavour, and something familiar can become new if you simply cut it in a different way. For softness, shred the veg. For crunch, julienne.
Brussels Sprouts Caesar: Use a food processor or Japanese mandoline to shred Brussels sprouts. Dress with good quality Caesar dressing. Garnish with crumbled bacon or cooked pancetta cubes.
Kohlrabi Apple Salad: Peel kohlrabi bulbs and a Granny Smith apple and julienne both. Dress with olive oil, cider vinegar, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Cabbage Peanut Salad: Shred green cabbage with a food processor or a sharp knife. Add a shredded carrot and dress with a mixture of seasoned rice vinegar, vegetable oil, sesame oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped toasted peanuts.
Shaved Fennel and Oranges: Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, shave a fennel bulb into thin slices. Combine with orange segments (blood oranges are pretty). Dress with a squeeze each of fresh orange and lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Garnish with fennel fronds and a few pomegranate seeds or pistachios.
Marinating doesn't have to be a big, long production. Sometimes 15 minutes is all you need to completely change the character of a vegetable you thought you knew.
Marinated Radishes and Edamame: Thinly slice radishes, then cover with seasoned rice wine vinegar and a sprinkling of salt. Leave 15 minutes. Drain all but a spoonful of vinegar. Add a drizzle of sesame oil, shelled edamame and bean sprouts.
Spicy Mushrooms: Mix together olive oil, red wine vinegar, a bit of garlic, a pinch of dried oregano and chilli flakes. Pour over button mushrooms and allow to sit for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
Quick Red Sauerkraut: Shred red cabbage in a food processor or with a sharp knife. Sprinkle with kosher salt, white vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a spoonful of mustard seeds. Allow to sit 30 minutes or longer. Adjust seasoning and drain excess liquid before serving.
Roasted Turnip and Parsley Salad: Quarter turnips, drizzle with oil and roast in 400 F oven until tender (sweet Tokyo/Hakurei turnips are nice). Combine with a dash each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and lots of flat leaf parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Beets and Walnuts: Roast beets whole, then peel and cut into quarters. Mix with baby lettuce or baby spinach and dress with walnut oil, a dash of sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve warm, garnished with toasted walnuts.
Roasted Radishes: Cut radishes into halves, drizzle with a bit of oil and roast at 400 F until tender. Dress with a squirt each of lemon juice and honey. Trust me.