I used to dislike salads. In the 1940’s and 50’s, when I was growing up, salad was a pretty dull affair. Iceberg lettuce was the norm (probably shipped by rail from California to New York), and if you were lucky, it was slathered with Thousand Island or Roquefort dressing. Cucumbers didn’t help. I considered them to be water, in a solid form at room temperature, covered in a tough green wrapping, with no discernible flavor.
Fortunately, things have improved dramatically over the last 50-60 years, and today I get considerable vegan and vegetarian pleasure from great salad combinations. The wonders of mesclun, a wide variety of young greens, many of them common in Asian cuisine, new choices in cucumbers, radishes, micro greens, multicolors of beets, olives and peppers in almost every food store — even in winter, salads can be fun, delicious, nourishing, and interesting.
Speaking of winter, we are off to a tough start. Our area here in New England has already received about five FEET of snow in the past two weeks, all of it still on the ground.
So tonight’s post is about meals during these snowy days — featuring my current favorites salads, legumes, grains, and wine — in the hours available for cooking and blogging between snowstorms and classes. Incidentally, we got one of those five feet of snow this Monday, Groundhog Day. Needless to say, Punxatawney Phil did not have much favorable to say about the remainder of the winter. At least someone posted this little piece of insight on Facebook to lighten and brighten the day:
Last Saturday I went again to the Farmers Market in Cambridge. In spite of the weather I was able to come away with a fine loaf of seeded rye bread from BirchTree Bakery in Worcester; carrots, Choggia and Golden Beets, Celeriac, and Watermelon Radishes from Winter Moon Roots; four kinds of mushrooms from Rhode Island Mushroom Co.; and a couple of packages of superb micro greens from Silverbrook Farm in Dartmouth, MA, on the south coast. These were combined with a bowl of linguine and fresh littleneck clams in a simple garlic, wine and olive oil sauce for my Sunday lunch. Social Wines supplied the perfect wine to go with it all — 2010 Simčič Todor Belo, a Slovenian white wine made of Ribolla, Friulano, and Pinot Grigio grapes. It is a full-flavored wine, but with plenty of acidity to go with the richness of the other dishes, all of which included a Portuguese olive oil I’ve been enjoying of late: Cabeço das Nogueiras.
The last two photos were from lunch a day later. The salad had diced beets, julienned watermelon radish, multiple micro greens, Italian white beans cooked that morning, diced red onion, fried cubes of Halloumi cheese (Atalanta brand), leftover romaine from the previous night’s salad, and a few wild Spanish mushrooms from a jar.
In addition I had made Celery Root Remoulade the day before, so that was on the salad plate, too. The most mouth-filling part of that lunch was the Bruschetta, made with the rye bread toasted crisply, with a layer of Taggiasche olive paste on top, and then covered with home-roasted sweet orange and yellow peppers, peeled and marinated with olive oil, Ibiza sea salt, and capers we bought in Ostuni, Puglia, 2 years ago. The wine was another white, Alter Ego, a Jan D’Amore wine from Occhipinti in Lazio. What is unique about this lovely wine is that it is made from a red grape, Aleatico, vinified as a white wine. In fact, I have had all three of their Aleatico wines, including a dry red and a sweet red dessert wine, too.
After the meal I stopped in our greenhouse next to the living room to take a photo of the flowering cacti, adorned with a small porcelain bunny. This shot (and two others in this post) was then rendered as a watercolor painting by an iPhone/iPad app I’ve had fun with for a few weeks, Waterlogue.