The good news is that I’ve just seen some bulbs peeking out of the ground and the forsythia is already starting to bloom. The bad news is that our forecast is calling for snow tonight.  This is February in North Carolina. But you won’t hear me complaining…. I’ve spent enough years in the north to appreciate the fact that, around here, spring arrives in March rather than May.
However, for the time being, step away from those tasteless tomatoes you see in the grocery store and enjoy the wonderful possibilities of winter-time salads.  Here are just a few of my favorites.
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Beet Salad with Grilled Red Onions, Goat Cheese, and Kalamata Vinaigrette

 
This hearty salad is adapted from The Oprah Magazine Cookbook and is attributed to Chef Jim Botsacos.  He suggests Manouri Cheese but any goat’s milk cheese will do.  I used goat gouda.
Salad
4 medium red beets, trimmed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium red onions, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
salt and pepper
6 cups mixed field greens
6 ounces goat’s cheese
Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive brine (from a jar of kalamata olives)
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Cut the beets into bite sized pieces, toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with salt and pepper and roast on the lined baking sheet until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a grill pan and brush the onion slices with remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill over medium heat until evenly charred and tender, 2-3 minutes per side.
To make vinaigrette:  In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, brine, honey, oregano, salt and pepper.  Gradually add oil, whisking in a thin steady stream until blended.
Toss the greens and cheese together and dress lightly with the vinaigrette.  Top salad with the roasted beets and the grilled onion slices.  Drizzle with additional vinaigrette. Serves 6
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Frisee Salad with Egg and Bacon

This is a Bistro classic in France (Frisee aux Lardons) but this particular recipe is from Tyler Florence’s new book, Tyler Florence Family Meal.
 
1small shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large heads or 5 small heads frisee lettuce, washed and dried
10 thick cut bacon slices, diced
6 eggs
Make the vinaigrette:
Combine first 8 ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake until emulsified.
Over medium low heat, cook the diced bacon until it is crisp, 12-15 minutes.  Drain on paper towels.
Place the eggs in a saucepan with cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately remove from the heat, cover the pan and let the eggs stand in the hot water for exactly 14 minutes.  Drain the eggs and cover with cold water,  Once cool, peel the eggs and halve lengthwise (or slice).
Place the frisee in a big salad bowl and add the bacon.  Add the vinaigrette and toss.  Arrange the hard boiled eggs on top and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
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Arugula with Manchego, Roasted Almonds and Quince Dressing

This wonderful little salad, with the flavors of Spain, is from Big City Cooking, by Matthew Kinney.  Quince paste is a firm jelly-like combination of quince fruit and sugar and can be found in the cheese department of many markets.  I bought mine from Fresh Market but have seen it at Whole Foods as well. And of course, it is also available by mail order sources.  Manchego cheese has become much easier to find in the markets lately… and it is one of my favorites.  But if it is unavailable in your area, big shavings of Parmesan will work as well.
Quince dressing
1/4 cup quince paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches fresh arugula, tough stems removed
4 ounces Manchego cheese, shaved
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
To make the dressing:
Put the quince paste and 1 tablespoon of the red wine vinegar in a small bowl.  Use a whisk to break up the quince paste, then whisk the mixture to a smooth consistency.  Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of vinegar, the oil, and the lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  The dressing can also be made in a blender but it will emulsify, making it thicker and opaque.  It will taste the same but you may want to thin it with a bit more red wine vinegar.
For the salad:
Just before serving,  toss the arugula with the dressing and most of the shaved cheese and chopped almonds.  If you are using the thicker, emulsified dressing, toss gently so that the leaves do not get weighed down.  Sprinkle with the remaining almonds and shaved cheese and serve.  Serves 4
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