Winter Salads

Winter Salads II

Spring is coming


I know spring is coming because we have tapped the maple trees. 

and like most gardeners, I am dreaming of the garden season to come.  But in the harsh light of day, or rather the lengthening hours of soft afternoon light, I am contemplating what preserved foods need to be used up.  Not much as it turns out.


The last of the vegetables in the root cellar and what’s this?  Another bag of frozen green beans? And frozen peas?


My heart doesn’t soar looking at the last of the vegetables in cold storage, but I do crave green food – be it fresh or frozen. Turning not-fresh vegetables into salads will be the challenge of the day.

 Roasted Vegetable Salad with Maple-Soy Vinaigrette

When I was working my way through college, I briefly held a job in the kitchen of an assisted living residence.  My boss—the meal planner—was old enough to be a resident herself, and salads tended to be easy on dentures – a scoop of cottage cheese garnished with canned peach slices or a square of lime jello in which shredded carrots were suspended, topped with a dollop of mayo.  All served on a limp leaf of iceberg lettuce. Yum. 


But there was one salad I liked (minus the iceberg): frozen peas, sour cream, and dried dill or dill seed.  I like it still, and it makes a fine salad for this time of year.

 A simple salad of just three ingredients: frozen peas, sour cream, and dill seeds. And, of course, salt and pepper.

What else? Frozen green beans will make a fine salad with canned white beans and the last of the pickled roasted peppers.  Sure, it is close to the original three-bean salad made with canned green beans, canned wax beans, and canned kidney beans in an overly sweet dressing.  But this iteration makes really fine use of frozen green beans (or wax beans, if you have them).  I am sure it will add to everyone’s enjoyment to know that this salad, which dates back to the 1800s, was J. Edgar Hoover’s favorite salad and believed to be one of the final dishes he ate before his death.

 Two bean salad. Choose any vinaigrette to dress this.

The last few turnips, carrots, and beets in the root cellar are a little soft, and here and there are browned, decay spots.  Not a problem—I’ll just cut them away.  The vegetables will be fine roasted.  They will be even tastier tossed with a maple-soy vinaigrette and bedded on some winter greens.  That maple-soy vinaigrette makes every vegetable delicious.  The combination of the umami characteristics of soy sauce matched with the sweetness of maple syrup and rounded out with balsamic vinegar—I don’t think I have a finer salad dressing in my repertoire…


Roasted Vegetable Salad

Serves 4


1 large beet, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 parsnip, peeled and diced

1 rutabaga, peeled and diced

1 whole garlic head, cloves separated and peeled

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 to 6 cups mixed tender winter greens (Belgian endive, escarole, frisée, napa cabbage, or Savoy cabbage), thinly sliced

Maple-Soy Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 450° F.   Lightly oil a large shallow roasting pan or half sheet pan.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the beet, carrots, parsnip, rutabaga, and garlic. Add the oil and toss well.  Transfer to the pan and arrange in a shallow (preferably single) layer.  

3. Roast the vegetables for 35 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally for even cooking. 

4. Just before serving, on a large platter, toss the greens with about 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. Arrange the vegetables on top and drizzle with another 1/4 cup of the remaining dressing and toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at once, passing the remaining vinaigrette at the table. 


Recipe adapted from Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman.  ©2010 Andrea Chesman.  All rights reserved.


Maple-Soy Vinaigrette

About 2/3 cup


2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2-inch ginger, peeled and minced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, and ginger until combined. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the oil until the mixture emulsifies. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Recipe from Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman.  ©2010 Andrea Chesman.  All rights reserved.


Winter Salads

One of the pleasures of my life is feeding the bands that come to play at the Ripton Community Coffee House every month.  After the sound check, I send dinner over to the community house to feed the coffeehouse crew, and the band comes over to my house to have dinner and relax before their set begins.

I always point with pride to the photograph on the wall of Robert Frost enjoying tea with Agnes and Eunice Billings.  The Billings sisters used to own this old farmhouse where Frost took his meals while living across the road and teaching at the Breadloaf Campus.  The photograph means that the band is being served in the Robert Frost Memorial Dining Room.

Robert Frost in my dining room!
What to serve the band is always a dilemma. It has to be made in quantity to feed both crew and band.  It has to be transportable and tasty even if sound check runs long or the band gets lost.  There is always at least one vegetarian in the group.  There is always at least one singer who would prefer not to eat dairy before a performance.  Vegans?  Of course.  And wheat free, gluten free, soy free.  It is a dilemma okay, but hey, that’s expected with modern diets, isn’t it?

This past Saturday, Laura Cortese played with a back-up band.  All in all, the band included 3 fiddle players, a cellist, a sound man, and a merch person.  And all diet preferences and limitations were represented.  What to make?

I quickly decided on a trio of salads—carrots, because of the abundance of carrots in the root cellar (see previous entry), wild rice salad with roasted vegetables, and lentil salad made with a jar of my Rosemary-Onion Confit (see March 29, 2012, March Market Madness).  

Carrot Salad with Lime Dressing

The carrot salad is one I’ve been playing with lately, and I don’t have the recipe firmed up.  It is simply grated carrots, chopped scallions, minced cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, a touch of sugar, and salt and pepper.  It is done when the carrots, cilantro, scallions, lime juice, and olive oil are in perfect balance, and you can taste each one. Make it yourself.

wild rice salad with roasted vegetables
The wild rice salad?  Easy as can be.  Cook up some wild rice.  Roast up some root vegetables and/or winter squash and an onion.  Make a dressing with olive oil, cranberry sauce, and sherry vinegar.  Toss with roasted almonds and dried cranberries.  How seasonal can you be?

lentil salad
The lentil salad is made with French green lentils—lentiles du Puy—because they hold their shape so well.  Add something crunchy (usually I add carrots, but that seemed redundant, and besides I had celery leftover from Thanksgiving).  Then dress with a jar of Rosemary Onion Confit and a touch more apple cide vinegar.  

Do you really need recipes for dishes this simple? 

Music and Noodles

When you live in a DIY world, music can be as much a part of your life as carpentry and dinner from food you raised yourself.

It was around my dinner table—I can’t remember the menu at this point—that a casual conversation about the dearth of venues for singer-songwriters morphed into the idea of starting a once-a-month coffeehouse series.  Eighteen years later, the Ripton Community Coffee House is still going strong.

There’s a dedicated volunteer crew to keep the organization going.  I feed the performers and crew who come early for set-up.  I got that job because I live closest to the venue, and not because I am a cookbook writer.  The musicians expect dinner made by the executive director’s wife.  Expectations are low.

My expectations are high, however, and I like to please.  Still, the menu can be a problem.  Inevitably there is a vegetarian in the group. Vocalists want to eat lightly and never want cheese before they sing.  Male instrumentalists eat hearty, the younger the heartier.

The dishes I choose must be ready by sound check time for the crew, but hold up for the sound man and the performers, who will eat a bit later.  The meal must be portable, because half will be served at the venue and half at my house, where the performers can relax. 

Lately, my go-to meal is Chinese sesame noodles, accompanied by Sweet Spicy Thai Slaw.  Sometimes I’ll roast some tofu to add protein.  The great thing about Sesame Noodles is that it can be adapted to what is in season and what is in the fridge.  In this week’s version, I swapped in a handful of chopped cilantro for the leek.  Scallions can replace leeks; cilantro is always a good addition.  During the gardening season, summer vegetables replace the carrots and daikon radish. 

In a DIY world, musicians should always eat free (see my favorite DIY blog, Cold Antler and recipes should be freely adapted.

Sesame Noodle Salad
Serves 4 to 6

 An arsenal of Chinese condiments combines to make the spicy dressing for these noodles.  Serve as soon as you combine the noodles and dressing.  If you want to make this dish ahead, cook the noodles and toss with sesame oil, assemble the vegetables, and make the dressing.  Refrigerate separately and combine just before serving.


1 pound dried vermicelli
1 leek, very thinly sliced
3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste
1 tablespoon rice vinegar, or to taste
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 to 2 teaspoons Chinese chili paste with garlic, or more to taste
2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
1 carrot, finely julienned
2 turnips or 6-inch piece daikon radish, peeled and finely julienned

 1.  Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water according the package directions until tender but firm to the bite. 
2.  Place the leek in the colander.  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Drain the noodles by pouring into the colander; the hot water will cook the leek.  Rinse with cold water.  Transfer the noodles and leek into a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil.
 3.  In a blender, combine the garlic and ginger and process until finely chopped.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil, tahini, water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, black vinegar, 1 teaspoon chili paste, and sugar.  Blend well.  Dip a noodle into the sauce to taste for seasoning, and add more soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, or chili paste, as needed. 
 4.  Toss the noodles with the carrot and turnips. (If you can’t serve immediately, cover and refrigerate the noodle mixture.  Hold the dressing at room temperature for up to 4 hours. Just before serving, add the dressing to the noodles and toss well.  Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve immediately. 

Recipe from Recipes from the Root Cellar by Andrea Chesman. ©2010.  All rights reserved