Salad Recipes

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Fennel and Grapefruit Salad with Baharat

Ashkenazi Jewish food has a reputation as being greasy and a bit bland. And as the saying goes, there is some truth to every stereotype. My Eastern European ancestors certainly enjoyed their share of fresh produce—everything from the chilled sour cherry soups they cooled down with during the summer months to the spicy black radishes they ate all winter. And yet, most of the dishes one associates with Ashkenazi cuisine—things like potato kugel and knishes, stuffed cabbage and chopped liver—tend decidedly toward the heavier side. I happen to love this Jewish soul food for exactly what it is—nourishing and deeply comforting. But as a 21st century cook, my taste buds also demand freshness. So on Hanukkah, when fried foods make up the majority of the menu, I like to balance out the table with one or more bright, crisp, and colorful salads. This particular mix of fennel and grapefruit is not traditional to any particular subset of Jewish cuisine, but it is inspired by the citrus-and-herb-forward salads of North Africa and the Middle East. The fennel lends crunch and delicate flavor, while the grapefruit’s sweet-tart acidity cuts through the oil in the latkes. The dressing is enhanced with two hallmark ingredients of the region’s cuisine. The first is silan, a richly flavored, molasses-textured syrup made from boiled dates (you can used date syrup). The second, baharat, is the salad’s shining star. Baharat is a compound spice containing some variety of allspice, cardamom, cumin, ginger, rose petals, coriander, cinnamon, and chile peppers, among other spices. (Not surprisingly, the word “baharat” simply means “spices” in Arabic.) Whisked into the dressing, it permeates the dish, adding intrigue and complex flavor. Many varieties of baharat are available online; my favorite brand is made by New York Shuk. I eat variations of this salad all winter long. But on Hanukkah, for an Ashkenazi-meets-Middle Eastern mashup, I prefer to heap it on top of latkes like a refreshing slaw.
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Endive Salad with Kumquats and Pomegranate Arils

A whisk and a sharp knife are all you need to make this fast-fix, flavor-bomb salad of bitter greens, crunchy pepitas and pomegranate seeds, juicy kumquats, and salty cheese. A quick soak in vinegar softens the texture and flavor of the shallot so it adds a mellow onion flavor but doesn’t overpower the dressing. Leave the salty, tangy crumbles of ricotta salata on the bigger side; they add creamy balance to the dish.
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Torn Escarole Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Lightly spicy croutons tossed in chile-sesame oil before toasting,smoky bacon, and crumbled blue cheese add rich, savory dimension to this quick, dinner-worthy salad. A dollop of apple butter adds a natural sweetness to the dressing, but honey can be used in its place.
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Tuscan Kale Salad with Gorgonzola Croutons

I am 100% that bitch. You know, the one who brings a salad to the big family Thanksgiving gathering—when everyone else showcases their indulgent pies, casseroles, gratins, gravies, and cakes. Folks will gently poke fun at me as I arrive with my “healthy” contribution, but I just smile (a little smugly, I must admit) and carry on because I know that my salad will get completely eaten up, the bowl scraped clean. And people will literally thank me for bringing it. That’s because we all need a crisp, crunchy, and most importantly fresh bite as a respite from those heartier dishes on Turkey Day. With a zippy vinaigrette, it refreshes the palate and balances out the starchy, meaty, fatty accompaniments on the plate. A good salad offers a visual break, too—in a sea of brown food, it’s shiny, it’s colorful, and it’s fluffy. A “good” salad means something to me: No lame salads allowed. Whereas some people consider a salad as an afterthought, I see it as an opportunity. With all the gorgeous produce that’s abundant in fall, there’s no reason for a lame, phone-it-in salad. A good salad should include an alluring mix of textures, colors, complementary flavors, and shapes that convey movement. I have been known to travel with magenta-hued watermelon radishes and scallop-edged delicata squash because I know they’re not available in Wiggins, Mississippi, where my husband’s family gathers, and where I want to wow the family with my addition to the buffet. This year, my holiday salad combines roasted baby golden beets and hakurei turnips, with similar shapes and earthiness but their own distinct textures and sweetness levels. Quick-pickled red onions (a refrigerator staple in my house) offer crunch and a pop of color, and lacinato kale provides a rich textured background. But the real star of my salad is the croutons. They combine two strongly flavored ingredients—gorgonzola cheese and rye bread—that combine for an explosion of savory, crunchy goodness. The cheese is mashed with melted butter and rubbed into hand-torn bread, which has a wonderfully rustic, craggy texture. These get baked till crisp, and they’re absolutely irresistible—crunchy, potent, and so unique. If you don’t use all the croutons on the salad (or you want to make a double batch), store them in an airtight container at room temperature, and enjoy as a snack with cocktails. Though this salad involves a few steps and a bit of time, it’s for the holidays—and for your family—so it’s worth the effort. You can get a head start with everything so that all you have to do is toss everything together before the meal. Make the croutons, pickled onions, roasted veggies, and dressing a day ahead, and go ahead and prep the kale. Bring the veggies and vinaigrette to room temp before tossing the salad. Try serving in a shallow bowl or even a platter so the elements can spread out and show themselves off. And get ready for more than a few pats on the back for what you brought to the table.
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Red Cabbage Salad with Baked Cherries, Apples, and Almond Dukkah

This refreshing salad features bright cherry vinegar and sweet roasted cherry juice. Earthy, spice-filled dukkah grounds the flavors and adds a nutty crunch.
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Wild Rice with Mushrooms, Cranberries, and Chestnuts

With just enough cranberries in each bite to balance out the earthiness in the rice blend and mushrooms, this rice salad can be served warm or at room temperature.
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More Salads

Shaved Celery and Fennel Salad with Pickled Grapes

The earthiness and sweetness from the grapes and their pickling liquid round out the brightness in the celery salad. The dressing immediately pools over the goat cheese, making for a perfectly sweet, salty, and tangy bite.
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Red Cabbage, Apple, and Fromage Blanc Salad

Creamy and tangy fromage blanc forms the backbone of this simple cabbage salad for a crunchy side dish or a palate-refreshing second course.
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Crunchy Eggplant and Corn Salad with Mint and Feta

Tossed here with hearty breaded and roasted eggplant, fresh mint, and tangy feta, fresh corn is one of the great joys of late summer. (In fact, the sweetest corn of the year comes in late August and early September). Abra Berens, author of Ruffage, is from Michigan farm country and is a former farmer herself. In her cookbook, she shares her years of hands-on experience with chapters on picking, storing, and eating peak-season produce all year long. In this quick-cooking recipe, corn is just lightly charred to add a bitter note, offsetting its sweetness. A simple pairing of that charred corn with crunchy breaded eggplant makes a quick and satisfying dinner, while the glug of hot chile oil drizzled on top finishes off each plate.