Sun-inspired salad recipes
The weather is finally turning brighter, and even a bit warmer. The promise of springtime always makes me want crisp and fresh flavors in my food.
I know I often start off this column by talking about the weather, but I want to assure you that it’s not because I can’t think of anything else to talk about. I find the weather has a huge effect on what I want to eat. I wonder if that has something to do with my body lining up with what foods are in season, or maybe I just get bored of the same ingredients after a few months.
The problem with the growing season is that even when it feels warm and spring-like in April, that doesn’t mean the springtime foods are ready yet.
I wanted to make a strawberry vinaigrette for my salad this week, but sadly even the earliest strawberries are not quite ready. When I want fresher flavors but am frustrated by the timing of the growing season, I try to take heavier meals and add some freshness to them, often by turning them into a salad.
The nice thing about a salad is you can make it from just about anything. Whether you have leftover chicken, chickpeas or roast beef, you’ve got the perfect start to a salad. Add some nuts, dried fruit or whatever veggies you have lying around and you have a meal. One of my favorite transitional season salads has sweet potato, ham and goat cheese. This salad does a great job of taking heavier winter foods and giving them a lighter touch.
This recipe originated with Fine Cooking, and you can find it here: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/sweet-potato-ham-goat-cheese-salad.aspx. However, I have a few suggestions to change it up a bit (some of which I stole from feastofjoy.blogspot.com). First, this recipe looks more intimidating than it is. Since you are most likely cooking for one, you do not need to get a 3/4 lb. ham steak.
You can just go to the deli counter at Safeway and ask for about a 1/4 inch slice of ham. This will be a bit less flavorful than a ham steak with juices, but it will do the trick. For this recipe you don’t have to be exact with your ingredient amounts.
Salads are very forgiving that way, which is nice, because leftover salad doesn’t keep very well. If you do have leftover toppings, set them aside and keep them. You can warm them up later and add them to some fresh lettuce. (I know the recipe calls for mesclun, but you can use whatever kind of leafy greens float your boat.)
For the sweet potatoes, instead of cutting them into rounds like the recipe suggests, I think it’s nicer to cut them “French fry” style. This is mostly just an aesthetic preference. As long as you cut your potatoes into small, even pieces they should roast just fine.
To add some more freshness and bright flavor as we move into spring, I also like to add some chopped apple or pear. The sweetness of the fresh fruit adds a nice contrast to the roasted veggies and smoky ham.
Serving this salad with buttermilk biscuits or homemade whole wheat bread makes for a very satisfying meal that can be warm and comforting while heading in the direction of fresh and crisp. Happy eating!