By Jackie Varriano
Salads are easy in the summer. It hardly takes much more than slicing up a few tomatoes, a cucumber or two and a fistful of fresh, tender greens tossed together with a little olive oil and vinegar to have something wonderful on your table.
But this time of year, salads take a little bit more time and planning. More often than not, a salad in the winter ends up being spinach, tossed from a bag into a bowl and accompanied by a sad handful of Craisins and a few slices of red onion.
Recipes included with this story: Roasted Carrot Salad with Quinoa, White Salad, Asian Pear Salad with Roasted King Trumpets, Wild Rice, Hazelnuts, Jalapeno and Fish Sauce
However, Quaintrelle's chef Bill Wallender is out to champion the winter salad. Just one glance at his Portland restaurant's menu and you'll find an entire section devoted to vegetables - even in February. Apple is paired with kohlrabi and pine nuts, beets are accompanied by sesame brittle and crunchy radishes, and carrots come with a side of cabbage.
"The whole menu is essentially based around that section; it's something I really wanted to highlight," Wallender says.
He admits that it was easier when the restaurant first opened in June, but says he "knew that once we started it, we couldn't stop."
Creating terrific winters salads at home can be just as easy as it is for Wallender at his North Mississippi Avenue spot.
First step, go to the market.
"This sounds cliche, but it really is ingredient-driven. If you can, force yourself to go to the farmers market and talk to the vendors," he says.
Right now at the market we've got an abundance of root vegetables and cold weather greens.
Think of roasting sweet potatoes, carrots and turnips, cooling them to room temperature, tossing with a great goat cheese, and adding in grains and nuts to make up for the absence of lettuce.
When it comes to grains, look for things with substance that can hold up to being one of many ingredients in a bowl, like farro, wild rice or quinoa. Each of these provide great texture and crunch while helping add fiber and protein.
Wallender agrees, and says winter salads are all about "finding ways to get different textures and really make them pop."
This could also be achieved by taking the same ingredient and presenting it two different ways, like combining raw carrots with roasted ones in the same dish. Additionally, it's nice to find crunch from pistachios or walnuts.
Another great way to get a winter salad fix is to look at ingredients you might not always use. Combine fennel with hazelnuts, hearts of palm and cauliflower, piling the chopped vegetables into endive "boats" for a crunchy, cool take on winter white that can make you forget about tomatoes until July.
Last, Wallender says when at the market, talk with vendors about how to use things in unexpected ways.
"They're pretty straightforward and know how to work with their product. They want you to buy it," he says.
-- Jackie Varriano
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