Monday, February 25, 2013

Winter Bright Salad

A while back, I was visiting my friend Ali in Brooklyn, and, when lunchtime rolled around, we got a salad from her friend Anna’s unbelievably good Italian restaurant Al Di La (if you are ever near there, please try to stop by and eat even just one thing from her menu). This salad was called Winter White and if I’d never eaten Anna’s food before, I would not have been enticed by the description of it: raw vegetables, mostly roots (turnips, celery root, and radishes), but also fennel, cauliflower, fennel, and leeks, thinly sliced, lightly dressed, and topped with a bit of crumbled blue cheese. It sounds about as exciting as notebook paper, but it was, of course, extremely, shockingly delicious. And now I’m a little obsessed.
We don't exactly scream "salad". . . 
The fact of that salad, combined with the fact that we continue to reap the grubby, endless root harvest from our CSA share, has inspired me to rethink the way I go about preparing a salad in wintertime. I’m starting to be less about the lettuce and other “boughten greens” (as I like to say, like Ma Ingalls), and more about the veggies that are actually right here, in the house with us, begging to be seen and understood for the bright, crisp sweetness that lies beneath their earthy hides. Hence this recipe.
but we clean up nice!
I tried making it with finely sliced vegetables first (also done on the mandolin), and that was good too, but everyone likes it better this way: everything finely julienned, which I accomplish easily if treacherously on my beloved Benriner. You could grate the vegetables in the food processor or on a box grater, and it would be a little shaggier and juicier as a salad, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing—but I do love the beauty of the distinct twiggy lines of color here.

The salad is good as is—which is how we are mostly eating it—but you could also use it to top a simple collection of green leaves, or as a taco or sandwich filling. You can use any good, sharp vinaigrette (we are still using this, which Ben makes for us in big batches every five days or so) and add cheese or not (a handful of coarsely grated parmesan is our favorite right now). A couple of anchovies would be heavenly—but I defer to the vegetarian in the house.

Oh, and the veggies. As long as they’re sweet and delicious, use any firm friends you’ve got kicking around: carrots, beets, and turnips (like I use here), but also rutabagas, radishes, celery root, or parsnips, in addition to other crisp, hard winter veggies like cauliflower and fennel. And then add some herbs if you like—a handful of parsley just brightens everything up so beautifully, doesn’t it?

p.s. Thank you all for your sweet anniversary (bone-iversary! you remembered!) wishes. xo

Winter Bright Salad
Makes 4 servings (this is a dense salad)

The herbs and cheese are optional here. Leftovers are fantastic.

Enough winter veggies (carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, radishes, celery root, parsnips, cauliflower, and/or fennel) scrubbed or peeled and finely sliced, julienned or grated to make around 2 or 3 packed cups
A good, garlicky or shallot-y vinaigrette, see below (you'll use around 1/3-1/2 cup, or so)
½ cup slivered parsley (or a couple tablespoons of another fresh herb of your choosing)
1/3 cup coarsely grated parmesan or crumbled blue cheese or feta (optional)

Toss the veggies with some of the dressing to taste then, um, taste it. If it needs a little more something to brighten the flavor, consider adding an extra splash of vinegar and/or a pinch of salt rather than more of the vinaigrette. Add the parsley and/or cheese, toss again, and taste. Serve right away, or cover it and eat it later (but taste it again at that point--you may need to drain off some liquid and redress it).

Actually, I'll just re-post the vinaigrette here, for the sake of ease. You won't use it all, but leftovers are so great to have around.

Perfect Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

1 clove garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram (or oregano, if you prefer)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much are you even paying attention?)

Shake it up in a jar. Store it in the fridge.


  1. earthy hides. that's the very best part. and yes, I'm paying attention. xo

  2. Totally paying attention. But what should I do if I use this salt:
    (It's Hain Iodized Sea Salt in case the picture doesn't come through.) I've always wondered because it's "sea" salt if it goes with table salt or kosher salt (as far as the measuring goes). Whaddya think?

    1. I am sorry to leave you hanging, dear craftsister! The issue with salt amounts is how fine the crystals are. I'm guessing that they've made that salt similar to table salt, so "half as much." Helpful?

    2. Yes. thank you! Hope I didn't sound too snarky in the comments down below. (-:

  3. Melanie2:09 PM

    I wish my daughter ate veggies with a smile, the way Birdy does! If I were to take the very same photo of Nattie, there would be a red, grimacing face and plenty of tears, for sure!

  4. I make a similar salad, and it is awesome with a handful of sunflower seeds on top.

  5. Erin K.3:57 PM

    Dear Catherine - What a beautiful salad!

    Unrelated to that lovely salad, I was wondering if you or anyone else here might be able to point me in the direction of some resources to help me help my very smart and sensitive eight year old son develop some strategies to manage his new-found, but painfully crippling social anxiety. I greatly appreciate any thoughts.

    1. Oh, crud, Erin, that sucks. Poor guy. One thing might be to do some reading about introverts--in case it would arm you with some information to pass along that might make him feel less lonely or strange. Do you think he might be introverted? Otherwise, I would probably look into cognitive behavioral therapy, if it is truly a crippling problem. Sending love your way, and ease for your little one. xo

    2. Erin K.6:40 PM

      Thanks Catherine! I didn't mean to hijack the salad comments, I'm just looking into this and thought I'd ask around where the smart and thoughtful mom's hang out :)

    3. Erin - my 7 yr old son has a lot of anxiety and it's been a huge uninvited guest. So much of it has gotten amazingly better, like I couldn't have imagined a year ago. Right now it is triggered by things I can always predict and it's easy to manage through with him, usually short-lived; it does not dominate like it used to. I got this from amazon and I think it's great. I wish I could say we've gotten past chapter 1 but I can just tell the rest of the book is great. I'd also hugely recommend getting help, starting with a therapist who specializes in young kids. That was our starting point. As our therapist said to me, "You have learned a lot about your child, you know him even better than before."

    4. Erin K.7:04 PM

      Thank you RKDT - I appreciate it!

  6. Loved the salad! What a fun one. Added purple cabbage and a handful of arrugula (we're in California, garden not under feet of snow, I"m sorry, it's just the way it is). Served w/ pulled pork sammies, just the right contrast of clean and bright. Also, I was a loyal reader of yours years ago in print, book, magazines, online, I kept finding you and loved it. Then I drifted away. Just this last week I was thinking about you and there you were again, somebody else posted a link about you somewhere, and it was like I hadn't skipped a beat. You were right here all along. Happy to be back.

  7. I know it's not a big life question or anything, but does anyone have any advice about my salt confusion (see above)?
    Loren (-:

  8. I made your salad last week with a beet, a golden beet (so pretty), 2 carrots, and a parsnip. Loved it. The next day I added a turnip to the leftovers and put it all over a bed of spinach and added roasted chickpeas and thought I'd gone to heaven! Super yum! Thanks:)

  9. i've been following you and enjoy your recipes! i made this last week with a cumin vinaigrette, very tasty. a nice change up for us with the beets.

  10. Oh my, gorgeous! Colors just pop off the page… can’t wait to try it. I won’t be satisfied until mine looks just like yours!