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#1022 - Winter Salads
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Wintertime is that portion of the year when our dedication to eating locally can clash with our need for fresh, nutritious produce. I for one have no qualms about buying fresh, out-of-state vegetables during the winter, but I don't intend to abandon our local growers entirely. Although much of our farmland is non-productive during the winter, there is still a surprising flow of salad greens. This is made possible by the use of old fashioned greenhouses (translucent surface with artificial heat), high tunnels (translucent surface, passive heat) and hoop houses (translucent plastic surface draped over big semicircular "hoops").
We have a large number of farms growing this way including Gardners Gourmet, Chesepeake Greenhouse, Cottingham Farm, Hummingbird Farm, and Jerry's favorite, Big City Farms, to name a few. During winter months, the naturally cooler air is very congenial for salad greens: arugula, escarole, radicchio, mustard greens, beets and beet greens, fennel, spinach, mache and rocket all do well. Because the water economy of the plants are different in winter, the flavors are more intense and less diluted. And this is the backbone of the winter salad: darker, more pungent greens; more cooked vegetables included; and stronger flavored dressings.
Such things as baby beets are in great supply, along with onions and root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips. It's also a great time to use pickled vegetables: asparagus, peppers, shallots, cucumbers, and gherkins. Nuts are a good component: walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts in particular. Grated cheese, or crumbled cheese is wonderful, with the hard Italian cheeses, and blue cheeses being particularly good for winter salads. Finally, don't forget that cured meats can also be used: prosciutto, salami, and pates. Here is a recipe inspried by our friends down at the Tilghman Island Inn.
Tiglhman Island Inn Winter Salad
assorted winter salad greens
4 pears, peeled, seeded and quartered
1 dozen baby beets, peeled, cut in half lengthwise
2 ounces prosciutto ham
crumbled goat cheese
candied pecan halves
For the dressing:
4 ounces virgin olive oil
4 ounces red wine vinegar
2 ounces orange juice
1 tsp brown mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash the salad greens, and dry thoroughly. Keep in a cool place.
2. Place the pear and beet section on a cookie sheet, and drizzle a little olive oil on them. Bake in a 350 oven. After about 10 minutes, cover the pears with slices of prosciutto, and continue baking for another 5 minutes.
3. Make the dressing by whisking the ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
4. Assemble the salad by piling a serving of greens in the middle of the plate, and arrange 4 prosciutto wrapped pear slices around the compass points, interspersed with the beet sections. Drizzle the dressing on the salad and garnish with the crumbled goat cheese and pecans.