Salad in winter is a tough sell for us Northerners.
When I shared an apartment with my friend Judith after college, she introduced me to the concept of clean food v. dirty food. At the time, health food was more fringe than trend, so Judith was instrumental in shaping my idea of how to eat better.
Salad: clean, French fries: dirty
Fresh fruit: clean, Greasy burgers: dirty
Whole grains: clean, Pepperoni pizza with extra cheese: extra dirty
It is obvious. It is so, so obvious.
Why can we not grasp that anyone over the age of twenty-two can no longer recover from holiday eating with onion rings, pizza and junk food? We need to eat our greens with a vengeance.
Resistance to embracing this eating plan is common among the male members of the species. Perhaps because they can hold out longer without consequences. Just ask Man of the House. He still thinks steak and cheese subs should be on the menu for movie night.
Well, the chickens have come home to roost my friends. We are in full-tilt, post-holiday remorse mode and need to pack in the clean food. Find some winter-friendly greens like watercress or arugula. Add some fresh and dried fruit, some toasted nuts and a smattering of cheese, too. (Moderation is the key here.) They will take the boring out. Serve your zesty creation alongside some grilled fish or roasted chicken and you are eating like a king, dirty food be damned.
Watercress salad with oranges, cranberries, pine nuts and goat cheese
Reluctance to make a salad in winter is compounded by the fussiness of preparing watercress. Here’s what to do: Grasp the bunch of watercress with both hands and twist your hands in opposite directions to literally twist off the thick stems. Discard the stems and swish the remaining sprigs in the bowl of a salad spinner. Spin them dry and remove the few remaining thick stems and use the leaves, still attached to their thin stems, in the salad. Easy!
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 large oranges
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 small pinch sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bunches watercress, thick stems removed
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pine nuts on a pie pan or baking sheet and bake until fragrant and toasty, 5 to 7 minutes. Watch carefully. They burn quickly once they are hot.
2. Cut a slice from the top and bottom of each orange. Place them upright on a cutting board and using a sharp knife and a sawing motion, carve away the peel and white pith. With the oranges still upright, quarter them. Lay the quarters with the flat side down on the cutting board and slice across each one to make wedge-shaped slices. Reserve any excess juice on the cutting board for the dressing. You should have about 2 tablespoons.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved orange juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream.
4. In a large salad bowl, combine the watercress, orange slices, cranberries and pine nuts. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the top.