There are plenty of fall weather produce that you can make into delicious salads.
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Apples are plentiful during the autumn months. For salads, choose varieties that are sweet and crisp. Popular salad apples include Red Delicious, Fuji and Winesap. Buy firm apples that smell fresh and have smooth skins.
It’s also the time of year to sample all types of pears. Select those with even color and a slight blush. Be careful when handling pears because they are delicate and bruise easily. Although there are thousands of known pear varieties in the world, there are a handful, recognized especially for their superb flavor and fresh eating qualities: Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc and Comice.
Tip: To keep pear slices from browning, sprinkle them with lemon juice and place them in a water bath–or serve them immediately after slicing.
Grapes are harvested when sweet and ripe, so look for plump clusters that are firmly attached to green stems. Once at home, refrigerate grapes until ready to use and then rinse with cold water, halve them and toss them in your favorite salad.
Fennel is available from fall through spring and adds a hint of fresh sweet licorice flavor to any salad. This aromatic vegetable is pale green with a celery-like stem and feathery foliage. Its root base and stems can be treated like a vegetable and baked, braised or sliced and eaten raw in salads. The green tops can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill to enhance many recipes. Fennel’s licorice-like flavor is sweeter and more delicate than anise and, when cooked, becomes even lighter and softer than in its raw state.
Some of the best heads of cabbage for salads are the crinkled-leaf “Savoy” types, also sold as Napa, January King or Wivoy cabbage. These are thin-leafed, tender and mild tasting cabbages. When choosing a head of cabbage, look for fresh, crisp leaves that are firmly packed; the head should feel heavy for its size.
Cauliflower and Broccoli
When buying cauliflower, select one that is white or creamy white in color, firm and heavy. Cauliflower may be stored for up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep it dry and any brownish colored portions may be trimmed away before cooking. I have had great success with wrapping the cauliflower in white paper towels before putting it into a ziplock plastic bag.
When shopping for broccoli, look for leaves and stems with dark green heads. Look for tender, young stalks that are firm with compact buds in the head. Yellow flowers in the buds or very rough bumpy heads may indicate the broccoli is past its prime.
Spinach and Kale
When buying greens, make sure they are very fresh. Look for vibrant dark green leaves that are crisp and full, not wilted or yellowish. Go organic when possible. Non-organic spinach, kale and collards are high in pesticides. Certain vegetables are worth buying organic and greens are one of them.
Look for spaghetti squash with a firm, dry rind, free of soft spots and cracks. Squash should be heavy for its size with a firm, dry, rounded stem, which helps keep out bacteria. Store squash in a cool, dry place (preferably 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) up to 3 months. Refrigeration will make the squash spoil quickly, but squash can be stored in the refrigerator 1-2 weeks.
- 1 (4-pound) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 1 cup sliced almonds, 3 ounces
- 1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives, such as Cerignola
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion whites
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled (1/4 cup)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti squash and cook until it is al dente, about 12 minutes; drain. Place the spaghetti squash halves cut side down on a rack and let cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread the sliced almonds on a pie plate and toast them in the oven for about 7 minutes, until lightly golden. In a food processor, combine the chopped olives with the sliced scallions, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil and pulse until finely chopped.
Working over a medium bowl and using a fork, scrape the spaghetti squash into the bowl, separating the strands. Add the dressing along with the crumbled feta and toasted almonds and season with salt and white pepper. Toss the spaghetti squash salad and serve warm.
Spinach, Chicken, Apple, Walnut and Bacon Salad
- 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1/4 pound sliced bacon
- 4 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 pound cooked and sliced boneless chicken breast
- 1 pound spinach, stems removed, leaves washed (about 9 cups)
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Heat the oven to 350F°. Toast the walnuts until golden brown on a cookie sheet, about 8 minutes. Let cool.
In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until it is crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and then crumble it.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil.
In a large bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of the dressing with the chicken. Let sit for about 5 minutes so that the chicken absorbs the dressing. Add the walnuts, bacon, spinach, onion, apple and about half of the remaining dressing and toss. Pass the remaining dressing to add to the salad, if needed.
Seafood Cabbage Salad
- 2 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage
- 1 cup shredded red cabbage
- 1 head fresh broccoli
- 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 pound crabmeat or shrimp, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup light mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cut the florets off the head of broccoli and reserve the stalks for another recipe, such as soup. Cut the florets into small pieces
In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, honey, white wine vinegar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt. black pepper and cayenne.
In a large bowl, combine cabbage, broccoli, bell peppers, and crab. Toss mixture with dressing. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Apple and Zucchini Salad
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 large Red Delicious apples, diced
- 1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
- 1 green or red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
- 2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
- Leaf lettuce
Combine oil and next 6 ingredients in a jar; cover tightly and shake vigorously.
Combine apples, bell pepper, zucchini and cucumber in a salad bowl; toss with dressing. Serve on individual lettuce-lined serving plates.
Fennel, Pear and Walnut Salad
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved
- 2 pears, thinly sliced or shaved
- 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
- Small chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
For the dressing
- 3 tablespoons walnut oil
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
- Pinch salt
- Pinch white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seeds
To make the dressing:
Combine the walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and agave syrup in a small bowl and mix well. Add the fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Whisk to blend well. Taste and season according to your preference for salt and pepper
Slice the core off the bottom of the fennel. Cut the fennel bulb in half, and slice very thinly or shave using a mandolin.
If your pears are organic, you can leave the skin on, if desired, otherwise, peel the pears then slice thinly.
Mix the pears and fennel slices together and mix in half of the dressing to coat the ingredients evenly and retard discoloration.
Divide the salad onto four individual plates. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts and shaved cheese on top of the salad.
Serve the salad with the remaining dressing on the side.
- Winter Salads (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- 10 Ways to Cook Comforting Fall Foods With Winter Squash (onegreenplanet.org)