Last fall, a friend mourned the end of salad season. A few questions later, I understood that what she was actually anticipating was the end of the year’s tomatoes, peppers and basil, another thing entirely. There is never a time when there are no seasonal salad options.
Salads are as diverse as ever or even more so at this time of year, as lettuces, cabbages and other greens take on a delicious sweetness in cool weather. Salad mixes, such as those of Earthworker Farm in Sebastopol (they attend the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sunday and the Santa Rosa Original Farmers Market on Saturday) have different ingredients, but they are as bright and delicious as ever.
The simplest salad, the one of nothing more than good lettuce, salt, olive oil, and a bit of acid, can be enjoyed year round. And if citrus is your preferred acid, it is a perfect time, as citrus peaks in the cooler months.
A squeeze of lemon brightens any salad, but vinaigrettes made with grapefruit, pomelo or orange are delicious, too.
Coleslaw is excellent in the winter, as are salads of carrots, celery, radicchio, and all manner of grains, especially farro, rice and barley.
For now, it is definitely time to turn away from out-of-season tomatoes and basil, foods that are best appreciated in warm weather.
Yes, you can get all these things in supermarkets, along with watermelon, apricots and peaches, but they are shipped a long distance, picked for travel not for taste, and leave us unsatisfied, whether we realize it consciously or not.
Our bodies, with their visceral wisdom, want the foods that are in season here and now.
Fresh pomegranates are both beautiful and delicious; this salad is an easy way to enjoy them.
Fennel, Celery and Radish Slaw with Pomegranate Vinaigrette & Fresh Pomegranates
Serves 4 to 6
2-3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed
4-5 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into very thin diagonal slices
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and cut into very thin rounds
1 small red onion, trimmed and cut into very thin half rounds
— Kosher salt
— black pepper in a mill
— Pomegranate Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves or cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh pomegranate arils
Cut the fennel bulbs in half lengthwise and then cut each piece into very thin crosswise slices; put in a medium bowl.
Add the celery, radishes and red onion and toss very gently.
Season lightly with salt and several turns of black pepper and set aside for a few minutes.
Make the vinaigrette, drizzle it over the slaw, add the feta cheese and parsley or cilantro, transfer to a serving bowl, top with the pomegranate arils and enjoy right away.
Makes about 1 cup
1 small shallot, minced
— Kosher salt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or pomegranate vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice