Three hearty salad recipes that stand up to cold weather from Milk Street’s Christopher Kimball
Salads don’t need to take a winter break.
These recipes are part of a new partnership between Christopher Kimball and the cooks at Milk Street and the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column.
Salads don’t need to take a winter break. To keep them as interesting as they are satisfying, we like a combination of contrasting flavors and textures. It’s one reason we love Sicily’s insalata di arance, finocchio, e olive — a delicate pile of orange segments punctuated by the island’s signature briny green Castelvetrano olives, peppery-anise slivers of fennel, and pops of floral salt from plump capers, all tied together by a savory vinaigrette and shavings of feta-like ricotta salata. It’s complex without being overwhelming. We take that same approach with our shaved Brussels sprouts slaw, which gets crunch from smoked almonds and sweetness from dried cranberries. And our bread salad with kale — inspired by panzanella — balances the boldness of blue cheese with sweet, earthy beets.
Orange, Fennel, and Caper Salad With Ricotta Salata
Servings: 4 as a main or 8 as a side
We like the meaty and mild Castelvetrano olives from Sicily, but any large, firm green olive will do. To pit the olives, simply smash each with the flat side of a chef’s knife, then pick out the pit. To make ahead, assemble the salad but hold back the oranges, which discolor if dressed too far in advance. Cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. When ready to serve, toss in the oranges, then transfer to a serving bowl or platter, leaving behind any accumulated liquid.
Don’t confuse ricotta salata with fresh ricotta. Ricotta salata is a firm, shreddable, salty cheese with a milky flavor, while fresh ricotta is mild, creamy, and spoonable. If you can’t find ricotta salata, Mexican queso fresco is a good substitute.
2 ounces ricotta salata cheese, crumbled
¼ cup drained capers, chopped
8 anchovy fillets, minced to a paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons grated orange zest, plus 2 medium navel oranges
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
1 small red onion, halved and root removed, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
3 small fennel bulbs, trimmed
1/3 cup Castelvetrano olives (see note), pitted and sliced
Set aside 2 tablespoons of the ricotta salata for garnish. In a large bowl, stir together the remaining ricotta and the capers, anchovies, oregano, orange zest, and oil. Add the onion and toss to coat; set aside.
Halve each fennel bulb lengthwise, then cut each half crosswise into thin slices. Alternatively, if you have a mandoline, adjust the blade to slice 1/16 thick. Working one at a time, hold the fennel bulb by the base and thinly slice. Add the sliced fennel to the bowl and toss to combine.
Cut ½ inch off the top and bottom of each orange. Working one at a time, stand the oranges on a cut end and, slicing from top to bottom, cut away the peel and pith, following the contour of the fruit. Cut the orange vertically into quarters, then trim away the seedy core from each quarter. Cut each quarter crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Add the oranges to the bowl and toss.
Transfer to a serving platter or bowl and sprinkle with the reserved ricotta salata and the olives. Drizzle with additional oil and serve.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts With Browned-Butter Vinaigrette
Servings: 4 as a main or 8 as a side
The fastest, easiest way to shred the sprouts is with a food processor fitted with a thin slicing disk (4 millimeter or thinner). Otherwise, slice them thinly by hand using a chef’s knife. The sprouts can be shredded up to a day ahead and refrigerated in a zip-close bag. The dressing can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container; bring to room temperature before using.
Don’t dress the shredded sprouts without first salting them and letting them stand for 15 minutes. This slightly softens and tenderizes the shreds. And allowing the salad to stand for at least 15 minutes after dressing seasons the sprouts throughout.
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and finely shredded (see note)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2/3 cup sherry vinegar
4 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
1/3 cup minced fresh dill
1 cup smoked almonds, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
In a large bowl, toss the shredded sprouts with 1½ teaspoons salt. Let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, and 1 teaspoon salt. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter, then cook, frequently swirling the pan, until the milk solids at the bottom are golden brown and the butter has a nutty aroma, 5 to 6 minutes.
While whisking, gradually add the browned butter to the vinegar mixture, then continue to whisk to cool the mixture slightly, about 20 seconds. Stir in the dill and ½ teaspoon pepper.
Add the smoked almonds and cranberries to the sprouts, then pour the dressing over the mixture and toss well. Let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, or cover and let stand for up to 1 hour. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a serving bowl.
Bread Salad With Kale, Beets, and Blue Cheese
Makes 4 servings
For this hearty salad, we took a cue from panzanella, an Italian tomato-and-bread salad. But we swapped tomatoes for kale and paired it with sweet, earthy beets and bold blue cheese. It’s delicious on its own as a light main course, but it’s also excellent as a side dish with roasted chicken or pork. We liked the convenience of vacuum-packed cooked baby beets sold in the produce section of the supermarket, but if you prefer, roast and peel your own.
Don’t worry if the kale darkens and reduces in volume as you rub it with salt; the salt tenderizes the leaves.
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
4 slices bacon, chopped
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
5 ounces rustic bread, such as ciabatta, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 small bunch lacinato kale (about 6 ounces), stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 8-ounce package cooked baby beets, each beet cut into 6 or 8 wedges
1 tablespoon honey
4 ounces blue cheese, coarsely crumbled
In a small bowl, stir together the shallot and vinegar. Set aside. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, then discard the fat in the skillet.
In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the bread and cook, tossing frequently and lowering the heat slightly if the oil smokes, until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to another plate and let cool until barely warm.
In a large bowl, toss the kale with ¼ teaspoon salt, then massage it with your hands until it softens and darkens, 10 to 20 seconds. Add the bread and beets.
To the shallot mixture, whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and the honey. Add to the kale mixture and toss. Add the cheese and reserved bacon, then toss gently. Taste and season with salt and pepper.