This season delivers a bounty of exciting fruits, roots, seeds, gourds and grains to inspire us all to become salad enthusiasts. Here’s how.
Green with Envy: Take a break from anemic, low-achieving Iceberg lettuce, and change up with antioxidant rich, brain-boosting dark leafy greens. Crisp Romaine, Caesar’s classic go-to green with a fantastic store of Vitamins A and K; peppery Arugula, a sexy little number with aphrodisiac properties dating back to ancient Rome; tender Mâche with sweet and nutty nuances, and fabulous Frisée with funky, lacy leaves and a bitter edge that wakes up ho-hum salads.
Delicate, pale green Butter lettuce, frequently “living” with roots still attached, and kale, the king of leafy greens, whether Curly, Lacinato or Dino varieties with sturdy stems and stiff leaves adds a tangy bite.
A handful of shredded cabbage — whether Savoy, Napa or Bok Choy — gives interesting texture and a good jaw work-out, while Brussels sprouts — mini cabbages roasted whole with a balsamic glaze or shredded raw — give a taste of holiday cheer.
Tart Little Darlings: Sprinkle some sweetened, organic dried cranberries into green or grain-based salads for a pop of ruby color, burst of flavor and satisfying chew. This petite yet potent gem has a rich store of vitamins (A, B, C), along with antioxidants having anti-adhesion properties making cranberry a urinary tract’s best friend.
Root for the Home Team: Toss Technicolors of roasted, caramelized garnet yams or Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, carrots of many hues, rutabagas or golden beets to add a sweet dessert-like quality and heartiness to salads. These also give oodles of antioxidants from beta-carotene to anthocyanins to detox, sharpen, repair and defend various body parts.
Gone Nutty: Roasted or raw, candied or smoked, seasoned or au naturel nuts of all types — especially Marcona almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios and pecans — add crunch, body and a brain-boosting zing to even the wimpiest salads.
We Make a Perfect Pear: Apples — whether the tart Granny Smith, crunchy Fuji or aromatic Pink Lady — add a fall flavor and crunch, while pears are delicately sweet — especially Bosc, Bartlett, Comice, Anjou and Asian varieties. To stave off cut apples from turning brown, dip in a solution of one part citrus juice (lemon or orange) and three parts water, and drain.
Seedy Side: Roast a batch of forest green elliptical pumpkin or pepita seeds to toss generously in salads. Flavor with pumpkin pie spice and drizzle of maple syrup, or a blend of savory herbs and spices. Low in allergens, pepitas provide a wide range of appeal (and tolerance), especially for the peanut allergic. Beautifully glossy pomegranate seeds are worth every painstaking effort to extract them from their pith. Sprinkle liberally (one pomegranate bears 600 seeds) for a tangy autumn treat.
Date Night: A Middle Eastern delight, dates are a sweet fall treat — whether soft, amber-skinned Deglet Noors, creamy, mouth-watering honey dates, moist and meaty Medjools or small round Barhis with a smoky candy essence. These nutrient-rich, waxy wonders (chopped or whole) add moisture and chew to a variety of salads, and caramelized notes to dressings.
The Big Cheese: Mix it up with a variety of semi-soft and hard cheeses from cow, sheep and goat milk — such as, Pecorino, Gruyere, Parmesan, Humboldt Fog, Manchego, Aged Goat Gouda, Nababbo and Garrotxa — along with non-dairy alternatives (almond and cashew milk-based).
Let’s Play Squash: Roast chunks of vibrant-hued winter squashes — like Acorn, Butternut, Kabocha or Delicata — with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil and pinch of Himalayan pink salt to jazz up salads with autumn delights, and provide a rich store of immune boosters.
Grain of Truth: Be creative with a heap of hearty ancient grains (such as millet, barley, farro, freekeh or teff), high-protein cereal grains (including red, brown or black quinoa), or colorful rice varieties (like Jade Pearl, Volcanic Red or Forbidden Black.)
Warm the Cockles of One’s Heart: Dressings and vinaigrettes, especially oil and citrus-based ones, can be heated for a comforting warm salad on chilly nights.
Recipe: Warm Autumn Arugula Salad
• Ingredients: 1 package baby arugula (7 ounces); 1/2 cup chopped, pitted dates; 1/3 cup toasted pepitas; 1 parsnip or carrot, shredded
• For the dressing: 1/2 cup oil (your choice of walnut, pumpkin seed or hazelnut oil); 2 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or lemon juice; 1/2 teaspoon date or brown sugar; 1/2 teaspoon spicy mustard; salt and pepper
• Method: Blend salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk dressing ingredients. Transfer dressing to a saucepan and heat until warm. Toss with salad. Enjoy immediately.
— Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and see more recipes at freerangeclub.com