When developing recipes for The Kitchn, it's easy to focus on main dishes and ignore the simplest side salads and sautéed greens, thinking they are too slight, too basic to mention in any detail. But these simple, often habitual, recipes are the building blocks of great meals, so this year we're going to bring you more quick, vegetable-forward side dishes that fill out the plate with color and nourishment.
To start, here's one of my go-to side dishes, the salad I whip up while chicken bakes or soup simmers. It's refreshing with rich winter meals, lemony and tart, with the crunch of pepitas.
This salad is calibrated to my tastes: a little bitter, very tart. I find that a salad with a bracingly acidic dressing makes a nice complement to the hot, rich winter dishes we like to eat this time of year (pasta, short ribs, stew). I love radicchio's fresh bitterness, too, and the way its magenta folds stand out on the plate.
But it's also a super basic, easy salad, and one that's easy to tweak to your own tastes. I use mixed salad greens from a bag or a box; they're one of my favorite conveniences. I know that some people do avoid these; you can easily substitute chopped romaine or spinach instead. You can sweeten up the dressing, or add nut oils, or a splash of soy sauce.
The pepitas finish it off with a toasty crunch. Pepitas, roasted pumpkin seeds, are one of my favorite salad mix-ins since I find they stick nicely to the greens and to the fork, unlike crunchier nuts that need a firm spearing. You can find pepitas in bulk sections at some natural foods stores, and with the nuts at Trader Joe's.
Lemony Green Salad with Radicchio & Pepitas
3 ounces fresh greens, about 6 cups
1/2 head radicchio, cored and sliced into fine ribbons
1/2 large lemon, zested and juiced (about 1 tablespoon juice)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup roasted salted pepitas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, toss the greens with the sliced radicchio. Toss with the lemon zest. In a measuring cup or bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil and honey until thick and emulsified.
Toss about half the dressing with the salad greens, using clean hands or tongs to coat the leaves with the dressing. Taste and add the rest of the dressing if desired. Toss with the pepitas, taste again, and season the salad with salt and pepper.
Store any leftover dressing in a jar in the fridge for up to 1 week.
For a vegan salad dressing, substitute maple syrup or agave for the honey.
If you want a slightly richer salad, finish with crumbles of goat cheese or shavings of Parmesan.