Salad inspirations brighten midwinter meals

January 28, 2022

I’m not sure where they came from, but the berries in the market last week were just beautiful. Blown into the store by a frigid wind, I found myself standing before a pyramid of colorful berries in clamshell boxes. They almost seemed out of place, yet, the prospect of eating those sweet, juicy fruits felt like a chance to sample the flavors of summer in the middle of January. And they did not disappoint.

We assembled a salad of baby spinach scattered with blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, along with crumbled feta cheese and chopped walnuts. To keep the sweeter notes in focus, we opted to make honey the prime ingredient in a vinaigrette of olive oil and rice wine vinegar with a splash of Balsamic. It was a lovely balance of savory, sweet, crunchy and smooth, with berries galore (see photo).

Often, restaurants will overdo the sweet ingredients in a salad that features fruit, replacing fresh berries with dried, sweetened options. You’ll also find sugared or glazed nuts, instead of simply chopped ones. The other challenge with fruit-forward salad recipes is the use of Balsamic glaze or pomegranate concentrate instead of vinegar. I’ve learned to ask for the dressing on the side.

Another interesting combination of fruit and greens appeared in a recent edition of Milk Street magazine. In an article by Shaula Clark, we learn about a traditional Cuban salad of watercress, avocado and pineapple dressed with a lime vinaigrette. The author interviewed restaurant owner Maricel Presilla, who described the changes she made to the basic recipe: grilling the pineapple and adding chili slices for extra heat.

In true Christopher Kimball fashion, we didn’t see the original recipe from Presilla’s cookbook. Instead, we heard about the various tweaks they made to refine the recipe and place their own fingerprints on it. These included marinating garlic and onion in vinegar, substituting arugula for the watercress and adding lime zest to the dressing.

For those of you familiar with Christopher Kimball, you may associate him with the long-running public television programs, “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Cook’s Country.” After a contract dispute with management, Kimball left the programs and began one of his own, Milk Street (now called “Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street”). Because of several similarities with ATK, a lawsuit ensued which took years to settle.

The primary feature of a Christopher Kimball cooking show is a demonstration of the different ways to approach a recipe. For example, the team might test different baking times and temperatures or prepare a dish with different cuts of meat to see which performs best. Of course, when it comes to preferred tools and ingredients, there are ample opportunities to purchase them from Kimball’s online shop,

Over the past several years, many cooking magazines (both online and in print) have widened their coverage of international cuisine. Near the start of the pandemic, there was a great deal written about comfort food and sourdough bread. As time went on, themes have expanded to span the globe, introducing readers to new ingredients and new combinations of flavors.

The first issue of Milk Street magazine in 2022 included recipes from close to a dozen different countries. However, in his editorial column on the opening page, Kimball extolls the wonders of the humble neighborhood diner, with predictable weekly specials and enormous slices of lemon meringue pie. Just like the foods from around the world that fill his pages, sharing a meal is a universal way for us to connect with each other.


Baby Spinach & Berry Salad

3 C baby spinach

2/3 C blackberries

2/3 C raspberries

1/2 C blueberries

3 oz crumbled feta cheese

1/3 C chopped walnuts

Rinse and drain the spinach. Rinse and drain the berries. Combine ingredients in a serving bowl. Drizzle with honey dressing and toss to combine. Yield: 4 servings.


Honey Dressing

1 T honey

2 T olive oil

2 T rice wine vinegar

2 t Balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper, to taste


Watercress, Avocado & Pineapple Salad*

1/2 C thinly sliced red onion

1 grated garlic clove

2 T white vinegar

3 C fresh pineapple

1 serrano chili

1 T olive oil

1/2 t smoked paprika

2 t lime zest

2 T lime juice

4 C watercress (or baby arugula)

salt & pepper, to taste

Combine red onion and garlic with vinegar in a small bowl; set aside for 10 minutes. Cut pineapple into 1-inch cubes and pat dry; place in a serving bowl. Seed and thinly slice the chili; add to the bowl with pineapple. Add olive oil, paprika, lime zest and juice; toss to combine. Add the onion and garlic using tongs; reserve the vinegar. Add watercress to the bowl and gently toss. Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and reserved vinegar (if needed). Yield: 6 servings. *Adapted from “Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street.”



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