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Warm up -- with a salad

By Fort Worth Star-Telegram

After the holidays, my slim-down strategy always includes lots of soups, which are cold-weather naturals, but I also like to eat things that crunch, like salads.

In France, salads -- rather, salades -- can be green, and composed of not much more than some kind of lettuce lightly dressed with vinaigrette that's always homemade. But I'm talking about something else. Something hearty. Warm.

I often lean hard on veggie-centric recipes -- I do want my new jeans to again fit less like sausage casing and more like the baggy, boyfriendy things they're supposed to be.

Plus, I love winter veggies, from the roots and greens to every single one of the members of the Brassica family, down to cute little Brussels sprouts.

During the years that I've spent in cold, dreary, wintry Paris, I've come up with a number of easy, go-to winter salads that never leave me feeling like I'm cheating myself out of something really tasty ... like some salads can. These salads are so much fun that you just may forget that they're good for you.

Kale, Black Bean and Beet Salad

Makes 2 dinner-size or 4 first-course salads.

     2     tablespoons olive oil

     1     clove garlic, minced

     2     large bunches kale, ribs removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces

     1    15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

     Sea salt and pepper

     2    eggs (or 4 if making first-course salads)

     1    15-ounce can beets in water, drained, rinsed and diced

     2     ounces blue cheese, crumbled

     Balsamic vinegar

PUT olive oil in a large skillet, add the garlic, and turn the heat to medium. Cook until you can smell the garlic, 3 to 5 minutes.

TOSS kale into skillet and let it cook till it just begins to wilt -- just a few minutes.

WARM beans in a small saucepan over low heat.

FILL a deep skillet or saucepan with about 4 inches of water, along with a big pinch of salt, and turn the heat on high. When the water boils, turn it down to a simmer. Crack each egg into a small glass bowl individually and gently slide the egg from the bowl into the barely bubbling water. Set a timer for 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the egg and place it on a paper towel to absorb the moisture while you assemble the salad.

DIVIDE the still-warm kale onto the plates, top with a spoonful (or two) of the black beans and the same amount of beets. Carefully place a poached egg on top of each salad. Sprinkle with blue cheese, add dashes of sea salt and pepper, and lightly drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Nutrition information: Per serving, based on 2: 575 calories, 24 grams fat, 51 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams protein, 233 milligrams cholesterol, 661 milligrams sodium, 16 grams dietary fiber, 38 percent of calories from fat.

Purple Potatoes with Romaine, Bacon and Chipotle Buttermilk Dressing

Makes 2 dinner-size or 4 first-course salads.

     2     pounds purple potatoes, chopped into 1-inch chunks

     2     tablespoons olive oil

     Sea salt and pepper

     4     slices (or 8, if serving 4) thick-cut bacon

     1    head romaine, cut into 1-inch slices

     4     green onions, chopped

     Chipotle buttermilk dressing (recipe follows)

HEAT oven to 400°, and line a cookie sheet with foil. Place potatoes on the cookie sheet and toss with the olive oil and a big pinch of sea salt and pepper. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, flipping the potatoes over about halfway through so they brown on both sides.

FRY bacon to crispy while the potatoes are cooking; drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon.

DIVIDE the romaine among plates and top with potatoes, bacon crumbles and green onions. Drizzle chipotle buttermilk dressing on top and serve right away.

Nutrition information: Per serving, based on 2: 653 calories, 24 grams fat, 93 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams protein, 16 milligrams cholesterol, 367 milligrams sodium, 15 grams dietary fiber, 32 percent of calories from fat.

Chipotle Buttermilk Dressing

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

     1     clove garlic, minced

     2     chipotle chilies in adobo, finely chopped

     Handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped

     1/2  cup good mayonnaise, such as Hellmann's

     1/2  cup sour cream

     1/2  cup buttermilk

     Pinch of sea salt and pepper

WHISK together ingredients and refrigerate for a half-hour before serving. Taste for seasonings.

Nutrition information: Per 2-tablespoon serving: 98 calories, 10 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 94 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 90 percent of calories from fat.

Roasted Haricots Verts with Tomates Confites and Arugula

Makes 2 dinner-size or 4 first-course salads. This salad is also lovely at room temperature, and packs well for picnics.

     1     pound haricots verts (long, slender "French-style" variety, see note), stems removed but ends left untrimmed

     12     ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

     2     tablespoons olive oil

     Sea salt and pepper

     2    big handfuls arugula

     Sherry vinegar

HEAT oven to 450° and line a large cookie sheet with foil. Place haricots verts and cherry tomatoes on cookie sheet and toss with olive oil and a big pinch of sea salt and pepper. Cook till the green beans begin to brown on the tips and the tomatoes soften, about 30 minutes.

MIX the warm vegetables with the arugula, add a splash of sherry vinegar and additional sea salt and pepper if needed, and serve immediately.

Note: Regular green beans will work just as well.

Nutrition information: Per serving, based on 2: 219 calories, 14 grams fat, 22 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, no cholesterol, 31 milligrams sodium, 9 grams dietary fiber, 54 percent of calories from fat.

Broccoli with Cranberries and Pecans

Makes 4 servings. Serve with a poached egg on top for a light lunch or dinner.

     2     large heads of broccoli, florets removed (about 4 cups)

     Small handful dried cranberries

     Small handful pecans, toasted

     About 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

     1     squeeze fresh lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon)

     Sea salt and pepper

PUT steamer basket in medium saucepan along with about 1/2 cup of water. Place broccoli in basket, cover with lid and turn heat to high. It will only take a few minutes to steam once water boils. Place steamed broccoli in a large bowl.

ADD cranberries, pecans, Parmesan and lemon juice, and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition information: Per serving: 59 calories, 3 grams fat, 5 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 1 milligram cholesterol, 73 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 45 percent of calories from fat.


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