Living in the Midwest makes eating salad in the months after the first frost until April or so a particular challenge, combined with the fact that many times when I get home from work, I don’t want to eat cold food. To top that off, being vegan, making a main course can be a challenge when being mindful of including enough protein. Not surprisingly, I don’t eat much salad in the winter. The desire to eat local and dietary preferences aside, it’s still important to eat your greens through the winter. Â Eating warm foods in the cold weather is indeed more satisfying–and can according to Ayurvedic medicine, might be more beneficial to us–and easier when the imported-from-a-warmer-climate bagged salad mixes and tomatoes at the grocery stores look wilted and slimy. But we can’t go all winter without eating vegetables and sometimes a salad sounds like a nice alternative to heavier winter foods like pastas and soups.
If you’re looking to eat local greens, try the dark leafy varieties such as Swiss chard, kale, or collard, beet, turnip, or mustard greens, which are rich in nutrients and grow abundantly in winter. These greens generally have a bitter flavor, so I would recommend quick boiling them by dropping them in water for a minute or two or sautéing them–steaming actually intensifies their bitterness–being careful not to overcook. To balance the milder bitter flavor, serve dark leafy greens with winter squash, yams or sweet potatoes, tofu or tempeh, and cooked white beans. You might also find that dark leafy greens lend well to sweeter Asian dressings, such as a ginger, peanut, sesame, or hoisin sauce, served over rice.
Whether you use winter greens or imported leafy lettuces, main course salads should still have a protein source. Here are some quick-cooking vegan suggestions for protein add-ins. Serve them warm over your salad for that cold-weather satisfaction.
Sautéed or grilled tofu or tempeh
Toasted almonds, walnuts, or pecans–combine them with dried raisins, cherries, cranberries, or blueberries for great flavor!
Pre-made black-eyed peas or other beans (found in the refrigerators section of some grocery stores)
Canned beans, drained and rinsed well
Quinoa (high pronounced “KEEN-wah,” and is a quick-cooking grain high in protein, and a good source of calcium, B vitamins, vitamin E and iron)
Finally, remember that salads don’t need to be lettuce-based. Search online or look through your cookbooks for bean salads or marinated and grilled vegetables, which can be served warm over your favorite whole grain or leafy greens.
I’ll leave you with two of my favorite salad recipes, both of which are not lettuce-based, are quick and easy to make, and taste great, even in the winter.
Marinated Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli
Adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen
3 medium-sized sweet potatoes or yams
Â½ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. mustard
1 Tbsp. honey or other natural sweetener
1 large bunch broccoli, cut into spears
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into thin slices. Cook over boiling water until they reach desired tenderness.
Combine the ingredients in a large bowl. As soon as sweet potatoes are ready, add them–still hot–to the marinade and mix gently.
Steam broccoli until tender. Lay spears on top of sweet potato mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Mix broccoli and add toasted pecans just before serving.
Peanut Sesame Noodles
Adapted from the Adat Shalom Sisterhood Cookbook
1 lb. thin spaghetti or Asian noodles of your choice
Â½ cup chunky peanut butter
1/3 cup vinegar
Â¼ cup sugar or natural sweetener
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
Â½ cup frozen peas
1 carrot, cut into julienne strips
Â¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Cook noodles, drain, and rinse well in cold water.
Steam frozen peas and carrots until tender-crisp.
Combine peanut butter, vinegar, sweetener, soy sauce, water, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in an airtight container. Seal container and shake until mixed.
Toss pasta, steamed vegetables, sesame seeds, and onions with dressing. Serve warm or at room temperature.