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Winter dinner salads

Jan 9th, 2013 | Category: Cooking

by Jessamyn Tuttle

January can be an awkward month for eating. After the holidays most of us want to lighten up for a while, but it’s still winter and you want food with flavor and substance. How about a dinner salad?

Beet, orange and goat cheese salad. PHOTO BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

Ordinarily I prefer salad in small doses – some fresh green lettuce with an interesting dressing can be a great accompaniment to richer foods – but when you’re feeling a little heavy it can be refreshing to have the whole dinner be a salad. A personal favorite, which is what my husband and I typically make for ourselves when we’re feeling overindulged, is a salad of soft butter lettuce, dressed with lemon juice and topped with garlicky prawns and avocado. It’s rich enough to make you feel like you’re still being a little indulgent, but fresh and light enough to banish guilt. I also enjoy steak salad, where you make your favorite green salad and lay a few pieces of nicely-cooked steak over it, maybe with a sprinkling of blue cheese. The combination of greens and protein is one that I find digestible and refreshing, without any starch to weigh me down.

Tuna is great in salad as well, especially the wonderful local canned tuna we can get from Island Trollers. Not the usual mayo-and-relish tuna salad (although I do love that) but traditional European recipes that pair the fish with vegetables and bright acidic dressings. Salad Niçoise is a classic, of course – a composed salad of good tuna, boiled potatoes, egg, tomatoes, green beans, and anchovies – but I also love the combination of tuna and beans. A couple of years ago I was introduced to a Portuguese recipe that uses black-eyed peas, tuna, and onion to make a really flavorful salad that’s good on its own or stuffed into a pita.

Butter lettuce, avacado and garlic prawns. PHOTO BY JESSAMYN TUTTLE

While I love a dish of plain roasted beets with vinegar or a bit of cheese, a beautiful, festive salad can be made with beets, oranges, goat cheese and shallots. This usually works best as a composed salad, so the beets don’t turn everything else bright red. I love it with nuts, fresh herbs, different cheeses, and greens, so that it’s different every time.

Any of these salads makes a fine dinner, whether you’re eating light to recover from the holidays or just making sure that you have plenty of room for dessert!

Butter lettuce with garlic prawns

Serves 2


1 small head butter lettuce or Bibb, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces

1 avocado, sliced

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper

more olive oil for sauteeing

1/2 pound fresh large prawns, peeled
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika

½ tsp (or so) kosher salt


Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together with a little salt and pepper. Toss the lettuce with this dressing and arrange it on plates, then lay the avocado slices on top. Heat olive oil in a skillet. As it gets hot, add the garlic; when it just starts to sizzle, add the prawns. Sprinkle over the salt, cumin and paprika, and stir the prawns around. When they’re pink and curled up on themselves, dump the prawns and their juices out onto the prepared salads and serve right away.

Portuguese Salad of Black-Eyed Peas with Tuna

Serves 4


1 ½ cup dried black-eyed peas (or a couple of cans of cooked)

5 Tbsp or so good olive oil

4 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Half of a Walla Walla sweet onion, very thinly sliced into half-moons

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small bunch parsley, chopped

7 ounces good canned tuna, drained and flaked

salt and pepper

If using canned beans, drain and rinse them.

If using dried beans, soak them for two hours. Drain and fill the pan with fresh water, covering the beans by two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer about half an hour, until the beans are just tender. Drain and set aside, or refrigerate until needed (You can do this part a day ahead of time).

Combine the oil and vinegar in a small bowl. In a serving bowl, mix the beans, onion, garlic and parsley. Pour over the dressing and mix carefully (you don’t want to mash the beans too much). Stir in the tuna and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate two hours if possible, or let sit at room temperature for half an hour before serving – it makes a difference.

Taste, adjust seasonings if needed, and serve.

Roasted beet salad with citrus and goat cheese

There are tons of variations you can do with this one: mix the dressing into arugula or other sharp greens before adding the beets, use blue cheese instead of chevre, add toasted walnuts or hazelnuts, mix in a handful of chopped fresh mint. You can make it extra pretty by using different colors of beets, and a mix of regular oranges and blood oranges.

Serves 2-4


1 bunch medium beets (about 6)

2 oranges or 4 satsumas

1 shallot or half a red onion

2 oz fresh goat cheese (chevre)

¼ cup olive oil

2 tsp sherry vinegar

pinch kosher salt

a grind of black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each beet in foil, place on a baking sheet and roast one hour, until easily pierced with a knife. Let cool, unwrap, then rinse under cold running water and rub the skins off.

Whisk together (or put into a jar and shake) the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Cut the beets into wedges, put them into a bowl and toss with the dressing. Arrange in a serving dish.

Slice the shallot into very thin rings and scatter them over the dressed beets. Supreme the oranges (cut the rind and pith off with a knife, then cut each segment out, leaving the membrane behind) and scatter those over. Break the goat cheese into small pieces and sprinkle them over the top. Serve at room temperature.

Published in the January 2013 issue of Grow Northwest magazine

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