Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fun times with winter salads

The stereotypical American restaurant salad usually involves lettuce (iceberg in chunks for the especially unlucky) and tomatoes in combination with a few other possible veggies like little strips of carrot or purple cabbage, strewn confetti like, and topped with too big croutons or (the horror) shredded american cheese.

Luckily for me I usually eat my salads at home and I like to avoid stereotype. I also like to avoid tomatoes in the dead of winter: they can't possibly be from anywhere near Bloomington Indiana in these frigid times (no greenhouse farmers in this neck of the woods) and they arent near as good, usually, as the fabulous local tomatoes I had last August.

In the winter-time there are a lot of other options for salad experimentation: some of the best U.S. grown citrus is in the grocery stores, winter squashes are waiting to be cooked, diced and added to the salad bowl, and a variety of greens, beyond the lowly lettuce, may be around.

The salad pictured above was the first of two recent creations. This one involved chickpeas, red onion, locally grown spinach from the winter farmers market, feta cheese, carrots and a tahini-garlic dressing. In retrospect I decided that the grapefruit and garlic DID NOT match, but I think the salad would be a real winner if the garlic was omitted and the tahini lemon dressing retained.

The second salad that I threw together was a real winner AND did, I am afraid, involve both tomatoes (at least they were US grown) and avocado (also US grown, yay California!). I'm afraid local foods were totally out on this one, but it was very tasty. Chickpeas (yes, again, I had just cooked a big pot of them, so sue me!), avocado, feta cheese, red onion, tomato and lettuce with a squeeze of lemon ( I didnt have a lime in the house), salt, a touch of hot sauce and some fresh cilantro made for a great post-workout lunch.

So the next time you go the salad route, think about trying something new. Maybe some grapefruit. Maybe some chickpeas. Or try out my other awesome citrus winter salad, guaranteed to stave off any common cold: Butterhead Lettuce and Orange Salad. Live it up! Iceberg lettuce will only take you so far...