Winter Salads Don’t Need to be Boring

Granted, it is more challenging to come up with interesting, seasonal salads this time of year, but it is quite possible to make something inspired and delicious. Oven roasting is a technique I use frequently to draw out the natural sweetness and intensify the flavors of vegetables. Roasted vegetables, caramelized, slightly browned with crisp edges are far more appealing visually than steamed. They're easy to prepare, too. Simply toss with a little olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and whatever seasonings or herbs you like, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, and you’re done. I’ve discovered this winter that roasting fruit – fresh or dried – has the same impact to liven up a salad or create an easy dessert.

I wanted a first course that was hearty enough for the veal shanks I was making osso bucco style, and I was determined to use what we had in the ‘frig and panty so that I didn't need to go to the store. I was going to employ "cooking by instinct" technique versus by a recipe. The resulting salad is a wonderful combination of textures and tastes. The bacon adds salty and savory flavors, balanced by the sweet complexity of the roasted figs. Blue cheese provides a creamy but sharp pungency. The toasted walnuts give it a little crunch, and the dressing is simple with a slight tang because I added my favorite sherry vinegar. I love how the warm bacon and figs mixture softens the greens.

2011 Winter Amazing Salad #2
Serves 4

6 dried figs, stems removed and cut into quarters (depending on the size of your figs)
1 1/2 sprigs rosemary, stems discarded, finely minced
1 t honey
2 T sherry vinegar
1 T water
1 t Dijon mustard
1/8 t salt
1/8 t freshly ground black pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
1/4 C walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 t garlic, finely minced
Red pepper flakes
6 ounces (about 3 large handfuls) mixed greens or arugula
1/4 C high quality blue cheese
Preheat the oven to 350. Place figs on a baking sheet and roast five minutes or until heated through. Turn off the oven but leave figs inside.

In a food processor or metal bowl, combine rosemary, honey, vinegar, water, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Slowly blend in the oil.

Cook bacon in a medium size skillet until crisp. Remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Add walnuts and cook until browned, about two minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add a few red pepper flakes and stir. Add the warmed figs to the pan and gently toss.

Combine greens and bacon/walnut/ fig mixture in a salad bowl. Give the dressing a final whisk and gently toss until the greens are well-coated and begin to soften. Divide salad onto four plates and garnish with blue cheese.

1 comment:

  1. Craig EvansMarch 17, 2011

    An amazing salad to complement the veal. If you though figs were only for newtons you have to give this one a try.



Related Posts with Thumbnails