A few years ago I used to greet each winter with a serious salad depression. My mother always served a salad on the dinner table (hippie mom, remember) and so as an adult, when the summer salad season (say that 3 times fast!) would come to an end, I just didn't know what to do. Without a salad, the table is simply bare to me. You've got to have something raw to brighten up the warmer, heavier dishes, right? To explain how much I love salad, When I was a child, and even into college, I could make any meal out of salad. Salad for breakfast? Ah, yeah! I distinctly remember when I was 12 years old, I made a romaine lettuce salad, used my favorite tortilla chips as a fork, and topped it off with low fat frozen yogurt. That's balanced, right?? My mom even claims that when pregnant with me she craved vegetables. (Unfortunately, she craved donuts and cake with my sister, who subsequently has a serious sugar issue. She will deny it, but it's true. Love you, Laura!)
So in the winter, why don't I just buy pre-bagged salad greens at Trader Joe's and call it a day? Because I'm a salad brat, that's why. Salad, like apples, can only come one way for me. Crisp with lots of flavor! What happens to pre-bagged and out of season salad greens, is they become wilty and dried out and subsequently, FLAVORLESS. You end up dowsing your salad with tons of dressing just to give it a little pizazz. I'm not knocking Trader Joe's but rather have realized I'd rather just wait and have something really tasty. Luckily in my culinary adventures I've realized I don't have to go without salad in the winter. I just need to change my definition.
Chicories, arugula, endive, and cabbage are delicious as salad and experience their peak in the California winter. (I know all you non-Californians say it isn't winter, but it is to us.) They are not as water logged as romaine, butter lettuce, and little gems, and certainly have a more "toothy" texture. They also run along the spicy/bitter taste profile, making them a perfect pair for sweet and tart winter fruits like persimmons and citrus. From a health perspective, bitter greens are particularly helpful in cleansing the system, which make them an ideal accompaniment for hearty winter fare.
This dish was inspired by a chicory and hazelnut salad we had at Contigo. This brilliant restaurant can do nothing wrong in my option, and the chicories were phenomenal. Along with the ahi tuna stew and patatas bravas (their garlic aioli is RIDICULOUS!), the chicories were certainly a favorite.
I served this salad with Umbrian lentils and something else. I really can't remember because I was too enamored with my salad. You will be too!
Chicories with Almonds and Persimmon
1 medium-sized head Chicory (looks like a small multi-colored cabbage), leaves washed and dried
1 Fuyu persimmon, peeled and diced
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons unrefined extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
Place washed chicory leaves in a large bowl. Peel and dice the persimmon and add it to the lettuce. Throw in chopped almonds, cilantro, mint and scallions.
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, sprinkle with salt, toss, and you are done!