With weirdly warm weather for December in Denver you might be fooled into fixing yourself a light summer salad.
But tomatoes are a sorry season now. Trucked in hard as a golfer’s balls and green as limes, held sub rosa in holding facilities on the edge of town, gassed repeatedly with ethylene, they emerge vacant and shadowless, they taste of nothing, or next to it, but at least they are red.
And cucumbers — restricted from their natural wanderings — are confined indoors to corporate sod boxes and force-fed a cost-effective hydroponic diet, then shipped in BPA tainted plastic wrap, they taste of little more than nothing, but at least they are green
Lettuce suffers too: a case of getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Look at the insipid piles of imported red and green leaf in the produce case; they look like they just don’t belong: washed up and withered on the wrong side of multi national trade agreements. Depressed, disengaged, a bunch of limp empty heads that taste of less than nothing. What a contrast to the perky, sprightly, local lettuces of early summer!
Better ignore these out of season blow in’s and move on. Better go for the hardier winter chicories like frisee, Belgium endive, escarole and radicchio. To these you can add whole leaves of parsley, shredded nappa cabbage, winter radish like watermelon or daikon, shaved fennel or roasted red and yellow beets, a bulb of garlic separated and roasted in its skin.
To make a bigger meal out of it roast off, or grill a bunch of salt seasoned florets of broccoli or cauliflower or both, If you’re a bacon woman or man, dice some pancetta, or guanciale, if you can find a jowl, or good old bacon and throw it in to the roasting pan and while you’re at it you could tear up a few leaves of kale and add them at the end. They’ll wilt in the hot roasting oil. For this salad I used roasted red and yellow beets cut into wedges, thin slices of watermelon radish, grilled cauliflower and shaved parmesan cheese.
Add these to your mix of hardy leaves, here I used radicchio Treviso and Belgium endive. pour on the olive oil, add a squeeze of lemon and you’ll have an energetic salad of color and crunch to celebrate your season with.