Where to find winter greens for salads, soups

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.


A while ago, I overheard a woman say, “Oh, gosh, no more salads!”

A salad wasn’t really a salad, she explained, unless it included tomatoes. It was late fall and the last of her garden tomatoes were sinking back into the ground, victims of the year’s first freeze.

I was gratified that she didn’t feel compelled to buy out-of-season tomatoes but still puzzled at her view. A walk through any farmers market in midwinter reveals an abundance of crisp greens — some ideal for salad, others best for sautéing and braising — and myriad other fresh ingredients, all at their peak.

Certain crops — most root vegetables and especially carrots, most varieties of lettuce, chards and kales, arugula, and most brassicas, such as broccoli and cauliflower — benefit from a cold snap; it adds an appealing, natural sweetness and a snap to their texture. In certain parts of Sonoma County, now is the best time to grow lettuce in your garden, especially if you have an area protected from the harshest weather.

Citrus is at a peak now, too, with Cara Cara oranges, Meyer lemons, Eureka lemons, and more offered in abundance at our farmers markets. A salad of peeled and sliced oranges drizzled with olive oil and topped with salt and black pepper is a traditional Sicilian salad and perfect during our current weather. A mix of citrus, each segment removed from its membrane, drizzled with olive oil and topped with chilled Dungeness crab, is one of the sweetest pleasures of the season.

Armstrong Valley Farm, which attends the Santa Rosa Original Farmers Market at the Luther Burbank Center and the Sebastopol Farmers Market, has marble-sized potatoes, carrots smaller than the first joint of your little finger, and onions not much bigger than a thumb. They can be tossed in olive oil, roasted in the oven until tender, and then dressed with a simple parsley vinaigrette for a warm or chilled winter salad.


The best green salads are often the simplest, such as this one, which is as basic as you can get, though the black pepper is considered unnecessary among cooks who like to keep things traditional.

Because there are so few ingredients, it is essential that they be of the highest quality. When it comes to lettuces, that means picking them from your own garden or getting them at your local farmers market or farm stand.

The Simplest Green Salad

Serves 2, easily doubled

3 large handfuls very fresh leafy lettuces or other salad greens, in bite-sized pieces

— Flake salt

3-4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

— Juice of ½ lemon or 1 teaspoon best-quality vinegar of choice

— Black pepper in a mill

Put the greens into a large bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt and toss gently.

Drizzle the olive oil over the greens and toss again. Add the acid and several turns of black pepper, toss a time or two, and enjoy right away.

Variations Add a handful of fresh herbs to the greens before adding the salt. Just before serving, scatter several curls of cheese over the dressed greens. Cut about a quarter of a small red onion into very thin slices and add to the greens before adding salt. Cut half an avocado into thin diagonal slices and add them to the salad after dressing with olive oil; use lime juice as the acid.


One of the easiest and most delicious ways to have plenty of greens in your diet is to put them in soups. Here, they take center stage, with potatoes forming a rich foundation. For the gremolata, I recommend using the red walnuts from Heron Fox Farm, which sells them at the Sebastopol Farmers Market. Red walnuts, like other deeply-colored foods, are high in antioxidants. If you do not eat nuts or want other options, consult the variations that follow the recipe.

Winter Greens Soup with Walnut Gremolata

Serves 6 to 8

— Walnut Gremolata (recipe follows)

— Olive oil

1 yellow onion, cut into small dice

1 carrot, cut into small dice

3-4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced

— Kosher salt

6 cups homemade chicken broth, chicken stock, vegetable stock or water

2 bunches Lacinato kale, beet greens or chard, rinsed, trimmed and cut in 1-inch crosswise slices

1 bunch (about 8 ounces) fresh spinach, rinsed and slice

— Generous handful of Italian parsley, chopped

— Black pepper in a mill

Make the gremolata and set it aside.

Pour enough olive oil into a heavy soup pot to coat the bottom of the pot somewhat generously. Set over medium-low heat, add the onion and carrot and sauté until limp and fragrant. Add the garlic, sauté 2 minutes more, add the potatoes and cook 3 minutes more, stirring several times. Season with salt.

Add the broth, stock or water, and bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour a little olive oil into a large sauté pan or wok set over medium heat. Add all of the greens, including the parsley, and sauté, turning frequently with tongs, until the greens are wilted, about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent scorching.

When the potatoes are tender, add the greens and cook until the greens are fully tender, from 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, puree with an immersion blender, correct for salt and season generously with black pepper. If the soup is a bit too thick for your tastes, thin with a little hot stock or water and stir well.

Ladle into soup plates, top with a very generous dollop of gremolata, and enjoy right away.

The soup may also be refrigerated and enjoyed chilled.

Variations Instead of walnut gremolata, top each serving of the soup with one of these options: A generous spoonful of plain whole milk yogurt; a poached egg and your favorite hot sauce; fried and sliced sausages (allow ½ sausage per serving); sautéed mushrooms.


Gremolata, made with just parsley, garlic, and lemon zest, is a classic condiment served with osso buco. There are many other versions and all add a bright burst of flavor to a wide range of dishes.

Red Walnut Gremolata

Makes about 1 cup

2/3 cup walnuts pieces, preferably red

½ cup, lightly packed, Italian parsley leaves

3 large garlic cloves crushed and minced

— Grated zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

— Black pepper in a mill

Put the walnuts into a small sauté pan set over medium high heat and toast, stirring gently all the while, until they begin to give off their aroma, about 4 to 5 minutes; do not let them burn. Remove from the heat and tip into a small bowl.

Chop the parsley fairly small and add it to the walnuts along with the garlic, lemon zest, salt, and several turns of black pepper. Toss gently with a fork, taste, and correct for salt as needed.

Cover and set aside until ready to use.


Bread Soup with Fresh Herbs

Serves 6 to 8

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 large (or 2 small-medium) yellow onion, cut into small dice

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

— Generous handful Italian parsley leaves, chopped

1/3 cup chopped minced fresh herbs, such as chives, oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme

8 cups homemade stock (chicken, duck, beef, vegetable, mushroom)

2 bay leaves

6 cups (about ½ loaf) sturdy hearth bread, torn into small pieces (see Note below)

— Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, preferably 2019 olio nuovo

Pour the olive oil into a medium saucepan or soup pot set over medium-low heat, add the onions and sauté until very soft and fragrant, about 15 to 20 minutes; do not let the onions brown. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.

Season with salt and pepper and stir in the herbs. Pour in the stock, add the bay leaves, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the bread, remove from the heat, cover, and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

To serve, ladle into bowls or soup plates, add a generous swirl of olive oil and enjoy right away.

Note: You get the best results using slightly stale bread. I prefer Revolution whole wheat sourdough or Raymond’s salted sourdough.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date, including “Vinaigrettes and Other Dressings.” Email her at

Please read our commenting policy
  • No profanity, abuse, racism or hate speech
  • No personal attacks on other commenters
  • No spam or off-topic posts
  • Comments including URLs and media may be held for moderation
Send a letter to the editor
*** The system is currently unable to accept new posts (we're working on it) ***

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine