Saturday, January 19, 2008

winter salads

Salads and winter have never gone together well for me. I've always been completely happy to be salad-free between about November and April. Maybe March if it's sunny. But salads have always been kind of a summer thing - light, crunchy, cool... not what one needs on a cold and blustery January day.

At least, that's what I thought. Then I started on this no-starch-no-sugar thing and had to get creative about lunches when a certain someone took all the leftovers to work for lunch on a regular basis. No starch means no bread which means no sandwiches, which have always been my default lunch. So, a couple weeks ago, I caved and bought a bag of salad greens from Dave's farm, and I discovered that salads CAN work in winter.

The trick is that they have to be seasonal, and they have to be challenging. Dave's salad mix is made up of stuff that's still growing at this time of year, and it's picked fresh every day. It contains much chewier greens in winter than it does in summer, and they all taste a lot stronger. Especially the arugula, which takes "peppery" to a whole new level. Yowza! I could eat a plate of those greens with a yummy dressing containing lots of mustard, and maybe a spoonful or two of sauerkraut, and be content. But that's not exactly a balanced lunch, so I supplement. We usually have some sort of leftover meat, roast chicken or sausage or beef or something, so I slice some of that into my salad, and grate some of Dave's amazingly wonderful fabulous oh-my-god-that's-the-best-carrot-I've-ever-eaten carrots in, and slice a hardboiled egg and put that in, and maybe some pickled whatever that's hanging about in the bottom of the fridge, some cheese if we've got enough, some tomatoes if I've been naughty enough to buy them, and some fruit, just for contrast - usually half an apple or pear. And I made some delightful pesto the other day with wild fennel and chickweed, so that goes in the dressing along with mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of honey or maple syrup and a sprinkle of salt. Today I had smoked salmon and I threw some of that in instead of cheese.

Now these are salads I can totally get into, even if it's freezing outside. The spicy greens warm me up, the protein keeps me full and the zing from everything else is just, well, dressing on the salad. (The phrase "icing on the cake" seems sort of really wrong there.)

I think the key here is that all the ingredients are SEASONAL. Tough, chewy, spicy strong greens are what's growing right now, so that's what really works for me right now. I tried using some more "standard" grocery-store organic spring mix but it wasn't as satisfying, and I just didn't want a salad made out of it the next day.

Obviously, if you live in a place where there's no way in hell that there are any greens growing at this time of year, then you're just going to have to respect your body's desire to steer clear of raw green leafy bits. I think that our bodies, if we listen to them carefully enough, do provide some clues as to how we can feel good in the environment we're in... and on the west coast, the environment provides fresh greenery you can eat and enjoy at this time of year. Give it a try!


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