Leave the lettuce
Ari LeVaux, More Content Now | 1/26/2018, 6 a.m.
“Locavore” was anointed 2007’s word of the year by the Oxford American English Dictionary. Since then the idea of wanting to eat closer to home has only gained traction, which has naturaly invited skepticism. Number-crunchers have found enough cases of it being more carbon-friendly to purchase food from far-away places that the locavore movement should be sunk, at least if saving the world were the goal.
Pierre Desrochers, co-author of “The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet,” argues that it’s more energy-efficient to ship a tomato thousands of miles in winter than to grow one in a heated greenhouse close to home. His calculations miss an important x-factor: Few locavores have much interest in a fresh tomato in the middle of winter. They tend to taste like red snowballs. I prefer to put away tomatoes in summer, when they are delicious, cheap and plentiful.
Once upon a time, a winter salad didn’t even contain leaves, much less tomatoes, and was made of shredded roots that had been squirreled away during warmer times. Such a meal was originally made possible by the advent of root cellars and other winter storage facilities that kept certain crops cool but not frozen.
Today, at a grocery store or even winter market, it’s possible to easily acquire a rainbow of tubers. I’ve returned home with carrots, purple and white daikon radish, and sweet salad turnips and onions.
Regardless of the means by which you acquire your winter greens, I’m going to present you with two salads that will make you miss summer about as much as you miss the dentist. At least while you’re eating.
The first step in many great winter salad recipes is to prepare an onion, by cutting and marinating it, which turns a spicy onion sweet and makes a delicious dressing that doubles as an onion salad.
Slice the ends off a yellow onion, then slice it end to end. Pull the peel off, lay the flat (cut) sides of the onions on the cutting board, and slice thinly, along the end-to-end axis, from one side of the onion to the other. Leave the slices like this, or gather the onion halves back together and slice again crosswise, which will result in confetti-sized pieces. Marinate one onion in enough lime juice and/or white balsamic and olive oil to cover it, with grated garlic and salt to taste.
When I have this onion dressing, I have options. If I’m feeling like an old-school shredded salad, I’ll trim and wash some shreddable vegetables, peeling any that I feel could use it, and then thickly grating the stuff — roots mostly, but maybe cabbage — into a bowl. If you are unsure about the flavor of the roots, or the proportions in which they should be used, start by shredding a representative sample of each item you plan on grating, and do a test batch.
If you want more hand-holding, start with a combination of coarsely grated carrot and finely grated garlic. One can then grate in yellow or white beet, a mild radish like daikon, and salad turnips if you can find them. Mix the shreds and see how they taste together, then dress it.