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Winter salad ideas that allow for foreign inputs 

click to enlarge Shredded roots can help make a hearty winter salad. - ARI LEVAUX
  • Ari LeVaux
  • Shredded roots can help make a hearty winter salad.
A decade ago, the Oxford American English Dictionary anointed “locavore” 2007’s word of the year. Since then the idea of wanting to eat closer to home has gained traction, but also skepticism, as number crunchers have found enough instances of it actually being more carbon-friendly to purchase food from far-away places, at turns sinking the locavore’s case.

For example, Pierre Desrochers, co-author of Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet, argues it’s more energy-efficient to ship a tomato thousands of miles in winter than to grow one in a heated greenhouse. But his calculations miss an important X factor: Few locavores have interest in a fresh tomato in winter as they tend to taste like red snowballs. I put away tomatoes in summer when they’re delicious and cheaper; tomatoes marinated or dried are best for winter salads.

Once upon a time, a winter salad didn’t even contain leaves, much less tomatoes, and was made of shredded roots that had been squirreled away. Such a meal was made possible by the advent of root cellars and other winter storage facilities that kept certain crops cool but not frozen. It wasn’t much, but it was fiber. And given the human habit of eating extra-heavily in winter, fiber was a vital dietary commodity.

Today, at a grocery store, it’s easy to acquire a rainbow of tubers. And winter farmers markets contain items like carrots, daikon radishes, sweet salad turnips, Jerusalem artichokes and onions. And leaves are being grown in unheated greenhouses, as greenhouse innovations have ushered in a winter salad revolution on par with that brought on by the advent of root cellars. Cold-weather leaves like kale, spinach and collards are a special sort, with lower water content to avoid freezing. Stunted by cold like alpine shrubs, they’re dense in body and larger than life in flavor.

Regardless of the means by which you acquire winter greens, here’s an adaptable salad recipe that will make you miss summer about as much as you miss the dentist. The first step in many great winter salad recipes is to prepare an onion by cutting and marinating it, which turns a spicy onion sweet and makes a delicious dressing too.

Slice the ends off a yellow onion and halve it. Pull the peel off, lay the cut sides on the cutting board and slice thinly, along the end-to-end axis. Marinate the slivers in enough lime juice and/or white balsamic and olive oil to cover it, with grated garlic and salt to taste.

Next, trim and wash some shreddable vegetables, peeling any that you feel could use it, and then thickly grate the stuff, roots mostly, but maybe cabbage, into a bowl. One option from there: Start with a Siberia-inspired combination of coarsely grated carrot and finely grated garlic. Then grate in yellow or white beet, a mild radish like daikon, and salad turnips. Mix the shreds and see how they taste together, then top it with the marinated onion dressing. A second option is to add a teaspoon of soy sauce and a few tablespoons of toasted sesame oil, or toasted sesame seeds. And if cabbage is what you’re grating, an alternative dressing of garlic, lime, mayo, shredded Parmesan and a shot of Worcestershire sauce will give it a creamy, vaguely Caesarian flare.

These are all enjoyable winter salad takes, regardless of the fate of the word “locavore.” Which beats Oxford’s annoying 2017 word of the year: “youthquake” ... which can stay 10,000 miles away from me.

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