Scrumptious Salads for Thanksgiving

12 Nov

The photo above is a Frisee & Arugula salad with Walnuts, Fourme D’Ambert and Dried Apricots from the recently opened Broadway by Amar Santana (former Executive Chef of Charlie Palmer) in Laguna Beach. Very tasty!

What I love about salads is that you really don’t need a recipe, so I hope you won’t be upset that I don’t give you a specific one. Think about a few components, and then compose!

First of all, for the base of the salad, this time of year, I especially like using Escarole, Arugula, and Belgian Endive. I enjoy their slightly bitter and peppery flavors. Of course, Spinach is great year round and easily accessible. It’s nice to toss in a bit of Radicchio for color, or thinly shaved Fennel for crunch.

Next, think about what pairs well with these type of greens or in the case of Radicchio, the lovely magenta leaves…

Fruits that are in season are perfect to pair with them. Here’s a list of options:

  • Figs
  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Tangerines
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Persimmon (the Japanese Fuyu Persimmon, available at farmer’s markets, is best for slicing–do not use the Hachiya as it’s too soft)

Dried Apricots, Cranberries, Cherries, Dates, Figs, or Golden Raisins are also tasty alternatives.

Cheese is another wonderful component to add to a salad. I am particularly fond of Blue cheeses like Gorgonzola, Roquefort and Cambozola. Shaved Parmesan is another great one to add, as a garnish. Using a vegetable peeler works the best!

A handful of Nuts or Seeds mixed in or tossed on top is not only healthy, but delicious! Try any of the following:

  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds
  • Cashews or Sesame Seeds are nice if you’re doing an Asian dressing

Speaking of dressing, I prefer my vinaigrettes on the sharp side. You can’t go wrong with the traditional French ingredients (Dijon Mustard–1 teaspoon, a small Shallot–finely minced, 2 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar–I like Sherry Vinegar the best, a good pinch of Sea Salt and a few coarse grinds of Black Pepper, and 6-8 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil).

If you’re interested in changing the flavor a little, remember freshly squeezed Lemon, Lime or Orange Juice, Nut Oils, a dash of Soy Sauce or Sesame Oil, Apple Cider or Rice Vinegar, grated Ginger or Garlic, Honey, fresh Herbs like Parsley, Tarragon or Chives, dried Herbes De Provence and lastly, Truffle Oil–one of my favorites.

Of course there are all kinds of other options to add into your salads. Radishes are always nice for a bit of color and Celery, which is often underappreciated, is another good one for adding texture. Crispy bits of Bacon or Pancetta–need I say more?

The next time you make a Spinach salad, try adding Mushrooms, grated hard-boiled Egg and Sunflower Seeds.  Shaved Fennel, sliced Mushrooms and shaved Parmesan with some Lemon juice and Olive Oil is another nice combo.

I could go on and on, but as you can tell, the possibilities are endless!

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