Wednesday, November 16, 2022
By: Yijin Liang, MA, RD/LD
Does anybody else get a surge of excitement when you are invited to a potluck during the holidays, then there is immediate dread when you realize you actually have to contribute to the potluck? I certainly do. With all the bustles of the holidays, the thought of making another dish that requires turning on the oven makes me want to stay at home and hibernate for the rest of winter. To combat my antisocial tendencies, my strategy for potlucks is to bring the ultimate winter salad. I can already hear the groans, “Of course, the dietitian would recommend bringing a salad to potlucks.” Listen, salad haters, I was you once upon a time. I was not always the salad fiend that I am now. My working theory is that people who dislike salads have never had a good one. To me, a good salad is all about having a variety of textures. My ultimate winter salad offers that and so much more. Let me walk you through it.
Kale is the first ingredient on our list. I know, kale seems like a tough vegetable for a salad. Trust me, it just needs a little TLC to make it the perfect foundation for our salad. You can chop or tear about 6 oz of kale into bite-sized pieces, the smaller the better. Drizzle lemon juice from half a lemon and about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the kale. Massage the lemon juice and olive oil into the kale with your hands. This step not only tenderizes the leaves, but the vitamin C in the lemon juice also helps to absorb the iron in kale. Besides iron, raw kale (per 3.5 oz) is also an excellent source of vitamins A, K, and C.
Now that we have something crunchy as our salad foundation, let’s add something soft and sweet, butternut squash. If you are still endangering your hands by attempting to cut a fresh butternut squash, I suggest skipping the produce section and head to the frozen aisle. You can find frozen cooked butternut squash in most grocery stores. All you have to do is defrost the night before. When you are ready to serve, throw it in a skillet with some oil over medium-high heat and cook until golden brown. From looking at its beautiful orange color, you can probably guess that butternut squash is high in vitamin A, the micronutrient vital to vision, growth, and immunity.
Now that we have enough vegetables in the salad, how about some fruit? If you are able to find pomegranate, it is absolutely stunning and delicious on this salad. The green of the kale and the ruby red of the pomegranate make it extra festive for the holidays. Found in pomegranates, folate is an essential vitamin for making red and white blood cells, preventing anemia. If pomegranate is not available, you can use apples instead. To add more sustenance to this salad, let’s crumble in about 4 oz of feta cheese. Feta adds protein for muscle-building, and calcium for bone health. It also adds creaminess to the salad, another texture! You can stop there, or you can add the metaphorical cherry on top. Make some candied pecans by putting 1.5 cups of pecans with 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of whole mustard in a skillet on medium-low heat until you can smell the caramelized honey and the toasty pecans. Toss all the ingredients together and drizzle on your favorite salad dressing.
Voila! You are done with your ultimate winter salad, the perfect side dish for an indulgent meal. Now you have no excuse to ditch that potluck. Happy Holidays, everybody!