Salads are the unsung hero of my winter. Often overlooked — it’s too cold for salad! There are no tomatoes! — a winter salad challenges my creativity; surprises me with possibilities; and lifts my spirits on short, gray days and long winter nights. Yes, we have those in California where I live. Truth is, a refreshing winter salad is the essential counterpoint to hearty soups and braises.
Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes are not divine year-round in my home state, so I look elsewhere for the pop of color and sweet-acid punch that are key to a great salad. Citrus is an obvious choice, but rather than sticking with familiar oranges or mandarins, I often go for the more unusual pummelo.
Pummelos and Grapefruit Types
Closely related to grapefruits, pummelos are one of the oldest and largest citrus fruits (although much of the girth consists of thick pith). Revered in their native Asia, where they are often paired with seafood, pummelos can be quite sweet, with pleasantly crunchy juice vesicles (the juice sacs inside a segment) that hold their shape in a salad and release a burst of juice with every bite. What could be more welcome this time of year?
The pink-fleshed, sweet-acid Chandler is the most common variety in the United States. Oro Blanco and pomelite, pummelo-grapefruit crosses that have juicy greenish-yellow flesh, are also lovely in salad and often more reliably sweeter than grapefruits.
New Winter Salad Greens Worth Trying
Winter salad greens offer the sort of meaty complexity called for this time of year. Velvety mâche, slightly bitter mizuna, or cabbage-like tatsoi (related to bok choy) are far more flavorful than out-of-season summer lettuces and are grown in many parts of the country, including the farthest, coldest reaches of Maine. And don't forget the colorful crunch and zing of radishes — classic red and white, multicolor Easter egg, and glorious watermelon types — to brighten your day.
This is a gorgeous salad, full of crunch and sweet-tart grapefruit. If you soak the sliced fennel and radishes in ice water beforehand, they get extra-crisp and curl beautifully in the salad. Just remember to pat them thoroughly dry so they don't water-down the dressing!
- Christine, December 2015
Pummelo, Fennel, and Radish Salad
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Trim the fennel bulbs and radishes, thinly slice them with a sharp knife or mandoline and place in ice water while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Peel, seed, and segment the pummelo, Oro Blanco, or grapefruit (see below). If using a pummelo, use your fingers to separate the vesicles into little clumps. If using an Oro Blanco or grapefruit, cut the segments crosswise into small bite-sized pieces.
Drain the fennel and radishes and place in a bowl with the fennel fronds, citrus, olives, chives, and greens. Drizzle with the oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss, and then taste and adjust the seasoning before serving.
- How to choose fennel bulbs: Look for white, juicy bulbs with fresh-looking fronds. The rounder bulbs (Italians call these "female") are often sweetest, and the flatter ("male") bulbs stronger tasting. The bulbs will keep refrigerated in a plastic bag for up to 1 week. Use the feathery tops for grilling or roasting fish.
- How to peel and segment citrus: Using a sharp, small- to medium-sized knife, cut a thin slice off the top and bottom of the fruit, exposing the flesh. Stand the fruit upright and cut downward to remove the peel and its pith in wide strips, tracing the curve of the fruit with your knife to expose the pulp. Hold the fruit in one hand over a bowl and slice along both sides of each segment to free it from the membrane, dropping the segments into the bowl as you go. Reserve the juice-laden membranes for use in dressing or seasoning the dish, squeezing them with your hand to extract the juice.
Reprinted with permission from The Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Cookbook by Amelia Saltsman, copyright (c) 2007. Published by Blenheim Press.