Another winter salad


winter roots and leaves…

With weirdly warm weather for December in Denver you might be fooled into fixing yourself a light summer salad.

and grilled cauliflower…

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.

a little shaved parmesan on top…

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

after cutting cauliflower it into agreeably sized grilling pieces, I rubbed salt, a little paprika and olive oil and cooked it on an aspen wood fire.

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!

a couple of lamb shoulder cutlets hopped on for the ride for this meal…

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.

10 thoughts on “Another winter salad

  1. I love this salad! I had some kale and arugula in the garden that refuses to think it’s winter so I threw that in too. Had to do bacon of course

    1. Thanks Claudia. It’s amazing how much is still in the garden this late in the year, and our chard made it through last night’s snow just fine. Maybe we’ll have some for Christmas!

  2. Hugh, what kind of olive oil do you use? I keep 4 grades, from Costco to the best I can find–but I’d love to know your choice (s).

    1. Alice, thanks for reading! Nothing special really. Lately we’ve been using the California olive company which you can find in the VC here in Denver. We were in the excellent Santa Fe food coop in NM lately, and found a lovely fruity oil from Argentina. I haven’t seen it here. I’m always on the look out for olive oil produced in Tunisia. It’s good value for the price and the production is small scale and it’s still pressed in the old wood presses which avoids the danger of overheating.
      I usually fry stuff with clarified butter/ghee, coconut oil, butter or rendered duck or pork fat and keep the olive oils for swirling around on top of stuff. But I love to fry eggs in lots of olive oil, something I picked up in Spain. Fry them gently with a sprinkle of pimentón on top and baste with the oil and sop it up with bread!

  3. Hugh. I’m going to make this tomorrow when we visit dad.He loves his veg, as you know. I’ll slow roast my brassica vegetables and my beets in the oven. And toss them with winter greens. Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. HI Catherine and thanks for commenting. Sounds like a great salad. You could probably grow chicories all winter in your glass house! Dad used to grow a lot of Belgium endive (as it is known here). Pump him for the info!

  4. Beautiful writing as usual Hugh but truthfully this is a romantic, “alternative facts” Romantic muddle. The purportedly more seasonal and politically-cum-dietarily correct bitter leaves you (and I!) adore (radicchio, kale, hydroponic Belgian endive, not to mention cauliflower and all the rest) are grown in California or Mexico this time of year – and most of the year, in actuality.

    “Local” in Colorado means June through September; otherwise you live by the kindness (and hard work) of strangers. Do I even need to mention the farmers in Italy who provide the guanciale and pancetta, oil and vinegar and wines to go with that you enjoy? This piece is pure fantasy.

    The only place in the U.S .that even remotely supports locavore pretensions is California, but even then the best stuff you’ll consume comes from across oceans most of the year. I fear you have been spending a bit too much time at Whole Foods. You are always welcome here in Mexico where year round seasonal eating is anything but a Michael Pollan wet dream.

    1. Oh, Mr. Kevin. You’re not reviewing a gotta-be-correct food guy or the latest White House lie. This Hugh post, maybe all Hugh posts here, may be Romantic. I think that’s a good thing to find here. This post is not a muddle, it’s just about a salad. And, even if pancetta or luxurious guanciale is used by Colorado dwellers, do you really think it will come all the way from Italy, or maybe just a pig farmer down somewhere along the South Platte? Goofy Mexico dweller, even if you’re right, I still like you a lot.
      Sincerely, a bison-munching dweller among the yah-hoos somewhere in Central North America.

    2. Kevin—Thank you for your compliment and your engaging commentary on a winter salad. It’s most welcome and you’re absolutely correct: my musings about food and indeed most other things tend to lean towards the romantic. That explains my love for canoes, bedrolls, open fires and the American west!

      Now, I realize you’ve been out of the loop for a while lounging on avocados and Margaritas in Mexico— but local in Colorado these days means beginning in late March and continuing through December. Believe it or not, we’ve got kale, chard, arugula, tatsoi, nettles, scallions, thyme, sage, parsley, oregano and a couple of onions still thriving in our garden. We had grapes up until a month ago. I know, hard to believe, right? And the markets have locally grown purple potatoes, onions, shallots, beets, even some greens and tomatoes grown indoors, but personally, I would avoid them. Like I said, they taste of nothing.

      We can also get pinto beans, quinoa, fresh lamb, aged goat cheese and beef from Carbondale, CO and local pork whose jowls have been transformed into a most beautiful rendition of guanciale in a tiny place that I can walk to called Il porcellino Salumi on Tennyson Street. Next time you’re in Denver you have to pay them a visit. Their pancetta’s pretty good too. And they make a great sandwich, it’s a nice place and sports an alternative romantic vibe.

      But your observation about Whole Foods, is bang on the mark. It’s true! They just opened a new store a brisk bicycle ride from the house. We’ve been gorging on Oregon chanterelle mushrooms all week!

      And, as you correctly point out, those invigorating chicories, endives and brassicas are grown in California—I just think they make a romantic and tasty salad this time of year. That’s what I wanted to say. But, Kellyanne Conway, seriously? Speaking of her, have you seen Randyrainbow’s alternative facts piece on UTube? It’s a crack up!

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