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10 Winter-Ready Salads Cold-weather options for salads are abundant.

Hearty items like breaded cheese “croutons” add appeal to cold-weather salads at Feast in Chicago.
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Hearty items like breaded cheese “croutons” add appeal to cold-weather salads at Feast in Chicago.

The word “salad” may conjure spring and summer specialties like heirloom tomatoes and watermelon-feta, but this increasingly important category is easily winterized to create a hearty, cold-weather starter, shareable or main course. Here are 10 ways to suit up salads for the season.

1. Get Cooking
Roasting, charring, grilling and otherwise cooking ingredients—and calling them out on the menu—deepens flavors and creates a nice cool-weather feel.

Try this:

  • Slow-roast tomatoes to add flavor and interest.
  • Finish cool salads with freshly cooked hot ingredients, creating temperature contrast.

Menu Examples
Grilled Chicory & Radicchio with poached egg and Parmesan
—East Ender, Portland, Maine

Roasted Beet Salad: Charred lemon vinaigrette, preserved lemon, pistachio chèvre
—Crop Bistro & Bar, Cleveland

2. Go Ahead: Be a Fruit
Fruit is one of the last true harbingers of seasonality, and that makes it perfect for creating salads for fall and winter.

Try this:

  • Look to seasonal fruits such as pears, citrus fruits and apples, or use flavorful dried fruits.
  • Create a savory wintertime fruit salad with grilled pineapple, stone fruits and other late-harvest products.

Menu Examples
Poached Pear Salad: Butter lettuce mix, spiced poached pears, candied pecans and Stilton crumbles with apple cider vinaigrette
—Strata, Houston

Baby Beets & Apples: Lovage, celery leaf, teff crisp
—Cafe Clover, New York

3. Add Cheese
Cheese is great for adding flavor and interest to a salad any time of year, but it’s especially welcome for a cold-weather protein-and-richness boost.

Try this:

  • Match cheese to an ethnic theme, such as Italian (Parmesan) or Greek (feta).
  • Bread or crumb small cubes of cheese, then bake or sauté to create a “crouton.”

Menu Examples
Johnny Rocco Salad: Wood-grilled shrimp, scallops, roasted red peppers, olives, ricotta salata, romaine lettuce and mixed greens in Italian vinaigrette
—Carrabba’s

La Mancha Salad: Roasted pear, quince paste, pumpkin seeds, Manchego, endive, mesclun, pear cider dressing
—FreeFoods, New York

4. Make It Meaty
Adding meat not only makes a salad more hearty, it also creates a specialty that can be menued more easily as a small plate, shareable starter or entrée.

Try this:

  • Add bacon, prosciutto or another cured meat, which also ups the salty flavor element.
  • For vegetarians, there’s always a poached, sous vide or fried egg as a protein (and the yolk mingles deliciously with the dressing when it’s cut open).

Menu Examples
Kitchen Salad: Hand-carved beef tenderloin, avocado, green leaf, house bacon, blue cheese, roasted corn, sweet onion vinaigrette
—Kitchen No. 324, Oklahoma City

House-Smoked Trout Salad with crispy potatoes, arugula, lemon ricotta, pickled red onion, horseradish dressing
—Feast, Chicago

5. Boost it with Beans
Beans and winter are a natural pairing, and with the appetite for beans growing, that means more openings for bean-based salads.

Try this:

  • Lentils, especially the firm French kind, are a beautiful base for salads.
  • Chickpeas can be added to almost any salad, including a simple green house salad.

Menu Examples
Hops Chop: Romaine, sun-dried tomato, black beans, pumpkin seeds, crunchy tortilla, red pepper, and queso
—HOPS Culture, Aspen, Colo.

Lentil & Avocado Salad with organic lentils, carrot, radish, fennel, wild arugula, sunflower seeds and lemon Dijon vinaigrette
—Le Pain Quotidien, multiple locations

6. Go With the Grain
Grains of all kinds add satisfying body and rich, nutty flavor to salads, especially when cooler weather arrives.

Try this:

  • Experiment with ancient grains like farro and amaranth.
  • Chilled wild rice makes an elegant salad when mixed with pecans, pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries, cubed celery root and shallots.

Menu Examples
Heirloom Quinoa & Tea Salad: Pickled green tea leaves, pink grapefruit, Marcona almonds, cucumbers, feta
—Moonshine 152, Boston

Grain Power Salad: Red & white quinoa, beluga lentils, avocado, shaved fennel, radish, citrus vinaigrette
—Honey Salt, Las Vegas

7. Go Nuts
Nuts play an important role in bringing texture as well as flavor and protein to food, and American diners are increasingly aware of their healthy nutritional profile.

Try this:

  • Toast, candy or spice nuts to add more flavor and premium appeal.
  • Experiment with varieties like pine nuts, macadamias and cashews, in addition to the usual walnuts and almonds.

Menu Examples
Blue Salad: Organic greens, Belgian endive, apples, pears, candied hazelnuts, Rogue Creamery Oregonzola and croutons, creamy blue vinaigrette
—Gilda’s, Portland, Ore.

House Blend Salad: Baby lettuce, feta, chicken, mushrooms, walnuts, fresh berries, sun-dried tomatoes, served with raspberry vinaigrette
—26 Beach, Venice, Calif.

8. Bitter and Strong Greens
Increased availability of sturdy, pleasantly bitter greens like radicchio, dandelion, escarole, Belgian endive and puntarelle helps create a hearty salad that stands up to other vivid flavors.

Try this:

  • Hearty greens can carry hefty flavor profiles—look to bold, tart, spicy and umami-rich accompaniments.
  • Charring greens creates an added layer of flavor, with the added bonus of knocking down the bitterness.

Menu Examples
Acorn Squash Wedge Salad with charred bitter greens, goat bacon, chèvre, toasted pistachios and warm mustard vinaigrette
—Max’s Wine Dive, multiple locations

Winter Greens Salad: Arugula, frisée, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, Amish blue cheese crumbles, Fuji apples, apple cider vinaigrette
—DMK Burger Bar, Chicago

9. Ramp Up the Hearty Veggies
Cucumbers and radishes are fine and dandy, but wintry vegetables like cauliflower, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables can be more satisfying.

Try this:

  • Put a spin on the inevitable roasted beet salad by garnishing it with grated or julienned raw beets.
  • Roasting vegetables like broccoli, eggplant and zucchini gives them the heft and flavor that’s needed for a winter salad.

Menu Examples
Arugula with Shaved Turnip, radish and Parmesan
—Trade, Boston

Fall Salad: Roasted local sweet potatoes, dates, Manchego cheese, Surry Farm bacon, arugula, sherry vinaigrette
—Feast, Chicago

10. Use Your Noodle
Asian noodles like hearty buckwheat soba or slippery rice noodles and short cuts of pasta like orzo or gemelli add heft, texture and flavor-carrying potential.

Try this:

  • Short pasta cuts can be layered atop greens or mixed in, carrying the flavor of the dressing throughout the salad.
  • Noodle salads are an ideal place to deploy spicy condiments like Sriracha, Sichuan peppercorn or sesame-chile oil.

Menu Examples
Thai Steak & Noodle Salad: Marinated filet (or roasted chicken), mango, avocado, chopped peanuts, pancit noodles, fresh mint
—The White House Tavern, Aspen, Colo.

Ethel’s Salmon Salad with mixed greens, orzo, Dijon vinaigrette
—Post Oak Grill, Houston

About The Author

Joan Lang

A freelance writer and editor living in the Portland, Maine, area, Joan Lang has been writing about food for more than 30 years, beginning her career in the financial and B2B press. She formed her own food and editorial consulting firm, Full Plate Communications, in 1989. She is a graduate of the New York Restaurant School and holds degrees in architecture and journalism.