When you think of summertime foods, you immediately go to refreshing things like cool cucumbers, ice-cold watermelon or freshly-picked peaches. It's a time when we focus on our "beach bodies": We're in and out of the gym and then right over to our favorite restaurant for that big bowl of summer roughage.
Once that first autumn breeze blows in, we almost immediately switch gears to heartier foods. Inspired by what's happening around us with the changing leaves crunching under our feet, the aroma of burning fireplaces opens the mind to smoked foods.
Pine and juniper infusions come to mind when roasting foods or a gentle splash of the oils in wintertime cocktails. Pumpkin spice is everywhere, and at this point you simply give in to the pounds you'll potentially gain from all the glorious spreads during the holidays.
But keeping the same summertime flavor mindset throughout the year is completely doable when you explore and realize all of the wonderful and healthy options that are readily available during the cold months.
My wife and I are big fans of salads, so some of our dinners will be a bowl of leafy greens with some fancy cheese and a small amount of grilled meat, simply dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, cracked black pepper, a squeeze of lemon and sea salt. That's really all we need.
To channel this simple pleasure during the colder months, I prefer the more robust leafy greens, such as escarole, radicchio, endive, kale and collards. I like these because of their heartiness and ability to go well with other wintry items, such as warm chestnuts, pomegranate, farro, black rice, cranberries, persimmons and roasted squashes, just to name a few. Combining the greens with thinly shaved Brussels sprouts, small florets of roasted cauliflower, toasted barley and beet vinaigrette can add festive color and flavor for any holiday get together.
These winter creations can be super low-maintenance, like simply roasting a pear and pairing it with seasonal greens, shaved Parmesan and a simple balsamic vinaigrette. The possibilities are quite endless. Who says you have to quit your beach body regimen just because you're wearing layers? Jump on the winter salad bandwagon and get ahead of the summertime game.
Here is a very simple winter salad that is as delicious as it is easy to prepare.
Warm Roasted Radicchio, Smoked Mozzarella, Buckwheat, Aged Balsamic. (Photo courtesy of the Institute of Culinary Education)
Recipe: Warm Roasted Radicchio, Smoked Mozzarella, Buckwheat, Aged Balsamic
For the buckwheat:
- 1 cup buckwheat groats (kasha)
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the marinade:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 ball smoked mozzarella
- 1 head radicchio
- 1 bunch curly spinach, washed and spun dry
For the aged balsamic vinaigrette:
- 3/4 cup aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (matured is also fine)
- 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- In a saucepot, add the buckwheat, water, oil and salt and bring to a simmer.
- Remove from heat when buckwheat is just tender, not overcooked and mushy, about 10 minutes at a mild simmer.
- Drain out the water and rinse buckwheat. Lay out on a sheet tray and let cool to room temperature. Once at room temperature, place it in a bowl and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Take the head of radicchio and cut into quarters, leaving the bottom stem attached to hold the leaves together. Toss the radicchio quarters in the marinade until totally coated. In between the leaves, place thin slices of smoked mozzarella.
- Lay the stuffed radicchio on a sheet tray and roast in an oven at 350˚F until leaves are slightly wilted and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and set aside.
- In a stainless steel bowl, take washed spinach and toss with 3 tablespoons of the aged balsamic vinaigrette.
- On the plate or serving bowl, gently plate the warm stuffed radicchio. Place some of the buckwheat on top and finally, add the dressed spinach. Drizzle with balsamic as desired.
By Chef Chris Scott, Institute of Culinary Education