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Wonderful winter salads

With a bit of imagination and effort, you can enjoy salads during our coldest season

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Recipes Featured In This Article

Winter and salads sound like two things that don’t belong together. The scarcity of fresh, local greens makes salads less appealing during winter and high prices on imported greens don’t help. The key is to think beyond what you consider a traditional salad. “Salads don’t necessarily mean greens,” says Renée Lavallée, chef and owner of The Canteen in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She recommends using ingredients such as cabbage, beets, and carrots: all readily available in winter.

“Think of legumes and grains and roasted vegetables; it doesn’t have to be a raw thing,” says Lavallée. “We will have a salad for a main course as it’s heartier than a green salad in the summer.” She says there are lots of possible combinations. Because Lavallée’s family enjoys smoked fish, she created Beet and Smoked Mackerel Salad (see recipe on page 51). “It has very hearty flavours.”

Her Chickpea Delight with Fried Egg (see recipe on page 51) has become a family favourite after a workout. Lavallée’s love of scallops led her to Beetroot, Celeriac, and Scallop Salad (see recipe on page 50), a recipe she describes as “beautiful, mild, and crunchy.”
And Roasted Delicata Squash Salad (see recipe below) includes winter ingredients she can’t resist. “I love this salad: the beautiful and subtle delicata squash, kale, sprouted grains, cheese, and the super-healthy cocoa nibs.”
Dominique Gusset in Duncan’s Cove, Nova Scotia, has found a way to include at least a few fresh greens in her winter salads. The enthusiastic gardener built a small greenhouse years ago when she realized a garden on the rocky shore of the Atlantic Ocean had its limitations.

She also installed garden hoops in her outside garden, covering them with thin, airy fabric to protect the greens in the off-season. “I use it as a season extender and it keeps the frost off lettuce,” she says. She finds that plants such as escarole, arugula, and spinach may get a light overnight freeze, but after the sun comes out and warms them up, she can harvest them.

Renee-LavalleeGusset says a cold January or February kills almost everything, but plants often flourish again in March and April. Her family’s current favourites include her coleslaw (see recipe on page 50) and kaleslaw (see recipe online at eastcoastliving.ca), featuring many of her summer garden crops.

She occasionally buys lettuce, but will supplement her salads with cabbage or Chinese cabbage. “If lettuce is ridiculously expensive, I won’t buy it and I’ll pick up cabbage or pre-cut coleslaw,” she says. “I add parsley and arugula from my garden, kale leaves, and escarole.” In January, she’s able to grow enough parsley to make tabouli.

Gusset starts cilantro, basil seeds, and sprouts indoors in January. Even a few greens brighten a drab winter day. “I’m thrilled to post a picture on Facebook when we’re desperate for greens,” she says. “I’m happy for even a couple little plants of arugula.”

In Charlottetown, Mike Arsenault goes well beyond a few plants. Last year, determined to feed his family well year-round, and fed up with the quality of winter produce, he set up a growing system in his dining room: lights, shelves, and seedling trays. He started with 30 plants: lettuces such as red salad, Simpson, and butternut, plus a dozen herbs including parsley, thyme, basil, and oregano.

“I have three kids and it gave us something to do during the long winter,” says Arsenault. They sometimes harvest up to two kilograms of lettuce in a week. He says it stores well and stays crisp for over a week. While his family loves to eat salads, they don’t have particular favourites: “We just mix and match everything: whatever is crisp and ready to go.”

Before growing their own greens, the family would seldom eat greens in winter, although there was no lack of vegetables as they fermented carrots and cabbage. Whether like Lavallée, a winter salad is a full meal featuring winter vegetables and protein, or like Gusset and Arsenault, it still includes fresh greens, winter and salads do go together.

“I shovel to the greenhouse before my car,” says Gusset. “I take great pride that I can go out in the dark and pick a couple of leaves. It’s a psychological victory that makes you feel you can survive our winter.”

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