Kitchen Focus

By the time February rolls around, I'm already itching for more fresh produce in my life. However, a frigid Wisconsin winter makes catering to that a difficult challenge sometimes. That said, there's no reason that we can't enjoy creative winter salads this time of the year. Seasonal produce is nearly limitless in the summer, but consider now to be a great time to explore new, creative salads that cater to ingredients at their best right now. Here are a few. Enjoy.

Salad with Oranges, Fennel and Pomegranate

For the Salad:
  • 1 head butter or romaine lettuce
  • 3-4 medium oranges
  • 1 large pomegranate, arils removed
  • 1 medium to large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
For the Dressing:
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • pinch sugar

Wash, dry, and tear the lettuce into bite sized pieces. Set aside.

Remove the peel and pith from the orange by cutting the top and bottom off, and then cutting away the remaining peel around the middle portion. Cut the orange into sections or into rounds.

Salad may be prepared in a large glass bowl, platter, or on individual serving plates. Layer the salad as follows: lettuce, fennel slices, orange, lettuce fennel, orange - repeating until all of these three ingredients have been used. Top with pomegranate arils.

To prepare the dressing, whisk the vinegar, juice, oil, salt, pepper, and sugar together. Serve along side the salad.

Black Bean and Lentil Salad

For the Salad:
  • 1 cup (about 1/2 pound) lentils (I used green French lentils but you can use ordinary brown lentils)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onion (scallions) green part only
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
For the Dressing:
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 T fresh lime juice (can use apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. finely minced garlic (I used garlic puree from a jar)
  • 1/2 tsp. dried Oregano (preferably Mexican oregano)
  • 1 tsp. cumin seed (can use ground cumin)
  • 1/2 tsp. Ancho chile powder (or use any mild chile powder)
  • 1/2 tsp. Spike seasoning (or more)
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • Hot sauce to taste (I used green Tabasco sauce)

Put lentils into a small sauce pan with plenty of water to cover, bring to a slow simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 40-60 minutes for green lentils or 30-40 minutes for brown ones. Drain lentils and let cool slightly.

While lentils cook, put beans in a colander and rinse with cold water until no more foam appears. Let drain well, then blot dry with paper towels.

Put olive oil, chicken stock, Dijon mustard, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic in a small bowl. In mortar and pestle, grind together oregano, cumin seed, chile powder, Spike seasoning, and pepper. Whisk into liquid in bowl, then add hot sauce to taste and whisk again.

When lentils are slightly cooled, combine with half of dressing and let marinate while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Wash, spin dry, and finely chop cilantro and set aside. Chop red bell pepper, red onion, and green part of green onions finely and add to lentils. Add drained beans to lentil and vegetable mixture, and stir in rest of dressing, then gently mix in chopped cilantro. This will taste best if refrigerated for an hour or so before serving, but it can be served sooner if you're short on time.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings

Savoy Cabbage, Carrot, and Apple Salad

  • 3 tablespoons apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 head Savoy cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced (4 cups)
  • 2 large carrots, very thinly julienned (2 cups)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, quartered, cored, and sliced crosswise 1/8 inch thick

Whisk together juices, oil, and caraway seeds. Season with salt and pepper and toss with cabbage, carrots, and apple.

Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally, 40 minutes to allow flavors to blend and cabbage to wilt.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour