My mother has a belief that people in cold climates should not eat salad in the winter. Tender greens are not a natural part of our winter ecosystem, goes her reasoning, and so we are not meant to eat them.
She may have a point, but I find it hard to stick to this as a rule of thumb. For one thing, I get a little wonky when I go too long without a salad. For another, the minors in my care are big salad eaters, to such a degree that our middle child has a Salad Ranking System–“ooh, fennel salad! That’s my fourth-favorite!” I find it hard to say “no” to a child who is begging for salad, even if it means buying lettuce that has a frequent-flier number.
A friend brought a version of this one to a potluck, and the standings were immediately re-shuffled to accommodate it. I am not a fan of cold grain salads, but this one avoids the chalk and sog that turn me off by flipping the proportions around; grains are an accent rather than the base. A power salad is a pretty free-form experience, so this is an approach more than a recipe. Our favorites are noted but it’s a good place to go wild and make it your own.
Start with washed greens sufficient to feed your crowd. In the winter, where garden-fresh leafy greens are not in plentiful supply, Romaine lettuce turns up in the bowl pretty frequently. Its sturdiness makes a great base that stands up well to additions, but add baby spinach or arugula, torn red-leaf or boston lettuce or anything else looking brightly back at you from the produce shelf. Chopped steamed broccoli can be another great addition in months when leafy greens choices are slim.
For a salad to feed 6, toss about ½ c of cooked, cooled quinoa (my favorite), cracked wheat (if gluten is not an issue) or any other cooked, nutty whole grain on top of the greens.
Sprinkle on about half a cup of finely crumbled feta or goat cheese, or choose chopped green olives or capers if you are going dairy-free, or try both, along with the same amount of coarsely chopped roasted nuts, like almonds or pine nuts or pecans.
Now add about ¾ c of chopped fresh fruit. The top pick in our house is a sectioned and de-membraned orange (try a cara cara if you haven’t before) or grapefruit, but a mango would work well, too. Add a chopped avocado if they are looking good when you shop. There’s a lot of whining around here when I don’t use an avocado.
Dressing this salad is a pretty simple matter, as there is so much going on that little is required. A glug of good olive oil (maybe a dash of flax oil, while you are at it), the fresh juice of half a lemon or lime and a twist of pepper usually do it; a sprinkle of coarse salt or a dash of tamari may be desirable for balance if there is not enough salt in your chosen add-ons.