(Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 26, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please know that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
About this time of year, New Year's diet resolutions start to falter. Somehow, it's easier to eat the recommended daily five fruits and veggies in the summer, when there's an abundance of goodness in your garden and at the grocery. But salads can be supreme in winter, too, when you take advantage of citrus fruit and winter vegetables.
Even when your landscape seems barren, the produce section of your grocery store still has a wide variety to choose from. Thanks to hydroponic greenhouses and imports from warmer climes, many vegetables are still available even when they're not in season locally. Good lettuce can be found year-round, and spinach is a great cool weather crop. Pre-bagged salad mixes are popular, and your grocery store may even offer a salad bar for additional choices. To maximize the appeal of your winter salads, take advantage of items that are at their peak in cooler months.
Vegetables that are good choices for your fall garden are also good winter grocery store picks. Brassicas - broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale - thrive in cool weather and taste sweeter after a frost. I like to pair broccoli florets with bright red sweet bell peppers from Florida. Don't overlook that broccoli stump! Peel off the tough outer skin and slice it for a flavorful addition. A slice from a green or colorful purple head of cabbage can be separated into crunchy strips and mixed with your other greens.
Carrots are a colorful salad addition at any time. "Baby cut" carrots often have added sugar, so you may prefer to shred or chop up some big carrots for your salad. To add sweet crunch, try cutting matchsticks of other root vegetables such as rutebega or turnips. Jicama is an odd looking knob of a root, but peel and cut it into strips, and it tastes almost exactly like garden-fresh peas. Speaking of peas, don't overlook the option of adding sweet frozen peas to your salad.
Citrus fruits are at their peak during winter months. They're also a wonderful addition to mixed green salads! This has been a banner year for Florida grapefruit and orange harvests, so take advantage of the bounty. Although you can just peel and section oranges and other fruit for your salad, kick your preparation up a notch with a technique known as supreming. Supremes are sections of citrus with all the peel and membrane removed. Depending on the look you want, you can leave the sections whole or cut them into bite sized pieces for your salads.
Start by cutting the peel off the top and bottom, then cut along the curve of the orange to remove the peel. Your goal is to cut just beneath the white pith and membranes, revealing the flesh of the orange. Looking at your newly naked orange, you can see where the membranes separate the sections of fruit. With a sharp knife, carefully cut on either side of the membrane, toward the center of the orange. As you continue around the orange, you'll cut free perfect little sections of fruit and leave behind flaps of membrane.
Citrus supremes give you all the juicy, fresh flavor of the fruit without any of the bitter pith or chewy membranes. Consider their tangy flavor when choosing a dressing for your salad. Oranges pair well with a sweet-sour raspberry vinaigrette or french dressing. Blue cheese and citrus is another classic combination. Sprinkling poppy seeds or toasted sesame seeds on a salad with citrus is a nice finishing touch. I think grapefruit teams up especially well with a splash of sesame oil or a few black sesame seeds. Don't forget to add zest and juice from the fruit to your salad also.
Add citrus supremes to a mixed green salad with seasonal vegetables. Pair with a complementary dressing. You've elevated your winter salad to a gourmet treat whose fresh, bright flavors will help you keep those New Year resolutions!
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Photos by Jill M Nicolaus.