Forget the resolutions. They went up in smoke the minute you opened the fridge or pantry door and saw all the Christmas leftovers that just can’t be wasted. The gifts of cheeses, sausages, candy and dip seasonings give their siren call and you will respond. So, instead of beating yourself up about it, try eating something fresh and light in between. Yep, time to return to that salad that seemed so out of place on the Thanksgiving or Christmas buffet, the salad that got passed over for a mess of greens on New Years Day.
You can find all sorts of great things to throw on lettuce, even in the winter. In fact, you need to rethink the lettuce. Skip the watery crunch of iceberg that’s so refreshing during sweltering weather. Switch to earthier greens, like arugala (or, my favorite nickname for it, rocket). Try deep purple lettuces or romaine. It should be lettuce with a backbone that can take heartier toppings.
For the rest of the ingredients, build the majority of the salad with vegetables and fruits. I know, this sounds obvious, but think about it. The reason so many restaurant and fast food chain salads have as many calories and sometimes more fat than a burger and fries is the layer of stuff thrown on top of the salad — the cheeses, bacon, nuts, croutons and dressing.
For a salad to count, you have to embrace the carrot, cucumber, orange, grapefruit and avocado slices. You must pile on the celery, the grapes, the grape tomatoes. Just forget about regular tomatoes for now– no matter how good they look, they will taste like wet socks.
But, you say. I must have crunch, a soupcon of sweetness, the mellow hit of cheese. Sure, sure. But think around that too. For crunch, why not make vegetable chips? Make paper-thin slices of parsnips, beets and carrots or cut kale into bite-size pieces and bake them until they are crisp. Stick with hard cheeses, like grated parmesan or romano, that pack a whallop of taste in a small helping.
With so much going on in the bowl, no one will miss the heavy dressings or meat that could turn a dinner salad into yet another indulgence. Make a big salad serve as your entire dinner twice a week and you can face upcoming Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day extravagances with your head — and plate held high.
Baked Kale Chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Rinse a bunch of kale thoroughly and dry. Tear kale off stems into bite-size pieces. Place in a bowl with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 tsp. or less of sea salt. Toss to coat. Spread on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until edges start to brown. Cool completely to get the full crunch.
For carrot or other root chips, peel the vegetable and use a mandoline or sharp knife to make very thin slices. For cool, curly chips, slice the vegetable length-wise. Use the same technique above, but bake for 45 minutes.
Simple Winter Salad for four
1 bunch arugela
1 bunch leafy purple lettuce
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 navel oranges
juice of one lemon
4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. crystallized ginger, minced
3 Tbsp. grated romano cheese
3 Tbsp. toasted, unsalted nuts
Toss the greens with the carrots and celery. Peel and section oranges and cut each section in half. Slice avocado into bite-size pieces and drizzle with some of the lemon juice. Add oranges and avocado to salad. Sprinkle salad with remaining lemon juice,olive oil and ginger. Toss lightly. Top wtih cheese and nuts.