Winter rolls on. Those of us in the Northeast who were up to our necks in snow all season last year are getting a break. However, that doesn’t mean we’re seeing fresh asparagus in the market. In fact, vegetable weariness is already settling in (shut up, you Californians). It’s all root vegetables and cabbages and potatoes all the time. On top of that, our excesses of the holidays have not slid off our hips like water flowing down a mountain. Some real effort is involved, but it doesn’t have to be dreary.
I’ve been considering winter salads, and frankly, I resist them. I gravitate to warm and cozy soups and stews this time of year. But when I overcome my mental bias against cold food, I discover that crunchy is quite refreshing and exhilarating. And boy, I need some exhilaration. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how I feel about winter, and I regret to report that has not changed since last year. Or the year before that, going back to when I popped out of the womb in June those many years ago. I still want to go into a bear cave and kindly request that you wake me when it’s over. Since that’s not going to happen, I am surrendering to salad, and finding that I like it.
Salads in winter need strong flavors to snap the taste buds to attention, and these thinly sliced Brussels sprouts dressed with plenty of lemon and mustard do the trick. You will need a mandoline type slicer, a food processor with a slicing blade, or a thin, sharp knife and plenty of patience to shave them. Toasted walnuts on top add richness and crunch.
Shaved Brussels sprouts with apples, walnuts, and mustard dressing
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or more, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil (you can cut back if you are on a 'nutritional plan"
1 pound large Brussels sprouts, discolored and loose outer leaves removed
1 Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apple, cored and coarsely grated
1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, spread the walnuts. Toast for 8 minutes, or until aromatic.
2. In a bowl large enough to hold the salad, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil.
3. Using a mandoline or other slicer, thinly slice the Brussels sprouts by gripping the stem ends with your fingers and cutting them until the sprouts are too short to safely slice. (To use the slicing blade of a food processor, trim and discard the stems first.) Transfer to the bowl of dressing.
4. Add the apples to the bowl. Toss to coat the salad with the dressing. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
5. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the toasted walnuts.
p.s. rumor has it that Trader Joe's sells bags of shaved sprouts, making this an almost no-effort proposition