Winter Salad with Homemade Viniargette
Our modern food system has brought with it the convenience of being able to get most anything whenever we need it. But the reality is that almost everything has a season. Apple season runs about 3 months and is just ending. Yet, we will see apples year round in supermarkets. Items like apples are held for up to a year in cold storage before being sold. Other more perishable items like grapes and berries are often imported from other countries to supply us year round. With the recent breakdowns in the global supply chain, we’ve seen the problems relying on this causes.
As a long time advocate of local farmers markets, I have become used to eating with the seasons. When apples are gone, we move on to other fruits. Produce begins to lose nutrients about a week after being picked. By buying at a farmers market I know what I am getting is freshly picked, often within a day or two, and is not weeks or months old.
There is nothing like a winter salad made using local and in-season ingredients. So I present a wonderful salad recipe with homemade vinaigrette. Years ago I stopped buying bottled salad dressing. Making your own is very easy and often tastes much better. By making your own food, you also control what goes into it.
Like most salads, lettuce is the base for this one. But there are so many choices. At the Saturday Old Town Newhall Farmers Market that I manage, we have six different farmers growing over 25 different kinds of lettuce. We also have arugula and baby spinach that would work well here. All of it is picked and in our market within 24 hours. We were also thrilled to recently welcome a new farmer, Michel’s Farm. Located right here in the City of Santa Clarita, Michel grows amazing produce including lettuce and arugula all within 2 miles of our market.
Pomegranates are a well known winter fruit. I always struggled to do more with them beyond eating them by themselves. Putting them into salads was a game changer for me. Their subtle tartness and texture was a perfect addition to a winter salad.
To balance out this tartness, I add feta cheese. Our market is thrilled to host a 4th generation family dairy from Petaluma. Made with pasture raised cow and goat milk, their European style feta is amazing and goes perfectly in this salad.
I also call for adding Asian pears to this salad. I love the texture and sweetness they bring to this mix. But this salad is versatile so feel free to omit them or add something else that is in season. Finally, walnuts are a nutritional powerhouse and round out the ingredients adding a distinct crunch to the mix.
For the dressing, our market has all of the ingredients except balsamic vinegar. This is an often aged vinegar which is most famously imported from Italy. Like the walnuts in this recipe, we sell olive oil from the Verni Family in Clovis. This family traces their roots back to olive farmers in Italy and produces some of the best extra virgin olive oil in our state.
You should find this salad is easy to put together and will highlight current local ingredients that are in season. RECIPE
1 large head of lettuce or 3-4 smaller heads (can sub spinach or arugula)
½ cup fresh walnuts, diced to desired consistency
1 Asian pear, cored and chopped
1 pomegranate, peeled and seeds retained
½ lb. Feta cheese
Combine all in bowl and toss with dressing, recipe below.
½ C extra virgin olive oil
½ C aged balsamic vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T Dijon mustard
1/3 C honey
1 T finely chopped fresh herbs of your choice (such as rosemary, thyme or parsley)
Salt and pepper
Combine oil, vinegar, garlic, herbs and mustard in a small bowl. Mix well. Add half of the honey and combine. Taste and continue to add honey as well as salt and pepper until desired taste is achieved. Pour over salad and toss. Leftover dressing can be saved in the fridge up to one month.
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