Warm Winter Salads

In winter, when our cold-weary bodies are craving warm, filling food, digging in to a big plate of chilly salad greens might not hold much appeal. It’s easy, though, to turn winter greens into a satisfying hot meal. Here are three recipes that do just that.

The first, Warm Lentil and Broccoli Raab Salad is a vegetarian dish, a savory, warm, protein-rich legume salad topping a plate of cheesey oven-baked broccoli raab (also known as rapini). Make sure to use small, dark green or brown French or Italian style lentils, which retain their shape even when cooked and tender – other varieties turn too mushy to work in this dish.

The second recipe, Winter Greens with Warm Thai Dressing, is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Hot Sour Salty Sweet. Here a hot salad dressing, featuring a small amount of ground pork, is poured over a mixture of the kind of baby greens available at local winter farmers’ markets, flavorful combinations of Asian mustards, spinach and other cold hardy varieties. If you don’t happen to have any local winter greens on hand, substitute whatever grocery store greens look good, though make sure they’re sturdy enough to stand up to the heat. Romaine is a good choice.

The last recipe is for one of my favorite winter salads, a winning combination of bitter greens, hot bacon salad dressing, poached eggs and toast. It features the wildly curly, bitter green chefs call frisée, but which is typically labeled as curly endive or curly chicory in grocery stores. Look for a head of frisée that has a large heart of light colored leaves, as the outer dark green leaves tend to be tough and are usually discarded (though they’re good cooked with olive oil and garlic). If you can’t find a decent head of frisée, fresh spinach makes a delicious substitute.

Warm Lentil and Broccoli Raab Salad

(serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a salad)

For the lentils:

  • 3 cups waterWarm Lentil and Broccoli Raab Salad
  • 1 cup French lentils
  • 1 medium red onion
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • the leaves from 5 or 6 sprigs of flat parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the broccoli raab:

  • 1 bunch broccoli raab, washed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 generous pinch hot red pepper flakes
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bring the 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the lentils and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the lentils until tender, about 1/2 hour. Toward the end of cooking, add a pinch of salt to the lentils. When they are cooked, remove from the heat and drain.

In a baking dish, combine the broccoli raab, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 cloves minced garlic, parmesan, hot red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Cover the baking dish with a lid or foil and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring once or twice, until hot and tender.

Meanwhile, peel the onion and slice it into very thin rings. Toss the onion with the lime juice, 1 clove of minced garlic, and a pinch of salt. Set aside until the lentils are cooked.

Toss the cooked, still hot lentils with the onions and their juices, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and the parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pile the cooked broccoli raab on a serving platter, then pile the lentils in the center of the raab. Serve immediately.

Winter Greens with Warm Thai Dressing (adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid; serves 4)

For The Salad:

  • 2 eggs, hardboiled
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, washed and driedWinter Greens with Warm Thai Dressing
  • 1 cup flat parsley leaves, washed and dried
  • washed and dried mixed winter greens or lettuce, a large handful per serving
  • 1 bunch scallions or 2 spring Vidalia onions

for the dressing:

  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes or Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons oil, such as grape seed
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup cider
  • 1/2 cup unsalted or lightly salted peanuts (not dry roasted)

Cut the hardboiled eggs in half and remove the yolks. Chop the whites into slices or chunks. Mash the yolks in a small bowl.

Remove the root ends and any damaged leaves from the scallions or onions. For scallions, chop them into thin ringlets, using both the white and green parts. If using onions, slice them the long way into quarters, then cut them into thin slices in the other direction, using both the white and green parts. You should wind up with about 1 cup of chopped scallions or onions.

Toss together the cilantro, parsley, scallions or onions and greens or lettuce and divide between 4 plates. Set aside.

Whisk together the lime juice, 1/3 of the minced garlic, the fish or soy sauce, and the dried pepper flakes or Sriracha sauce. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet then add the oil. Add the remaining garlic and the ginger and cook for about 1 minute. Add the pork and cook until it loses its pink color. Add the sugar and cook for about a minute. Add the water and when it is boiling, stir in the mashed egg yolks. Stir in the cider vinegar and cook for a minute or so, then remove from the heat.

Pour some of the hot pork sauce over each plate of greens, then some of the lime juice mixture. Sprinkle some of the chopped egg whites and peanuts over each salad. Serve immediately.

Frisée Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing and Poached Eggs (serves 4)

  • 1 large head frisée (aka, curly endive or curly chicory)Frisée Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing and Poached Eggs
  • 1/2 pound thick cut bacon (about 8 slices)
  • 1 large shallot or 1/2 a small onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • the leaves from 5 or 6 sprigs of flat parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
  • neutral flavored oil, such as grape seed, as needed
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 4 slices of toasted bread, cut into triangles and kept warm

Discard any damaged leaves from the frisée, then break it apart and wash it by submerging it in a large bowl of cold water, swirling it to loosen the dirt from the leaves, and then lifting them out of the water (don’t pour the water and frisée out together or the dirt will just get back on the greens). If necessary, repeat. Dry the frisée in a salad spinner, break it into bite sized pieces and set aside in a large bowl.

Cut the bacon into pieces about 1/3 inch wide. Heat a skillet and saute the pieces until they turn golden brown. Lift the bacon pieces out of the hot grease and drain them on a paper towel. Pour the hot bacon grease into pyrex measuring cup. Leave the bacon and bacon fat in a warm spot.

To poach the eggs, bring two or three inches of water to a simmer in wide pot or skillet. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar to the water. Crack the eggs one by one into a small bowl, sliding each egg into the barely simmering water, trying to keep the whites as compact as possible. Poach for three or four minutes, just until the whites are firm but the yolks are still runny.

While the eggs are cooking, whisk together the shallot, garlic, parsley, mustards, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Whisk in 5 tablespoons of the warm bacon fat. If you don’t have 5 tablespoons of bacon fat, whisk in enough oil to make up the difference. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired.

If the salad dressing has cooled too much, pour it back into the bacon pan to reheat for a minute or two. Pour the hot dressing over the washed and dried frisée and toss well. Divide the greens between four plates. Top each plate of greens with one well drained poached egg. Sprinkle the bacon pieces over the salads, place two triangles of toast on each plate and serve immediately.