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Desperately Seeking Winter Salad Ideas

We are hosting three brothers, two sisters-in-law, and five neices/nephews ranging in age from 7-16 for a family Christmas dinner the day after Christmas. We are all omnivores with very few dislikes/won't eats amongst all of us, with only one allergy in this group and that's a nephew who is cannot have oranges (he's fine with lemon & lime).

I am planning to serve cold, rare roast beef (we actually all really prefer it that way) and a cider-braised pork butt (hot), and roast potatoes. But I need vegetables and frankly, I don't particularly want to cook them. I want to spend my afternoon playing with the kids! I have quite a number of vegetable casserole dishes I could make but I'm BORED with them and thought doing some salads might be fun. But... other than making our late mother's spinach salad, I simply cannot think where to start.

So help! Do you have great winter salad ideas OR, and I'm willing to re-consider a hot vegetable casserole I don't have to fuss over that afternoon if you've got something great up your sleeve.

FYI, and because I'm cooking, my own two food dislikes are olives (love the oil, hate the fruit) and lima beans, so they are not options. Thanks for the help!

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  1. Spinach salad, revisited: Baby spinach, thinly-sliced apples, chopped green onions, blue cheese crumbles and toasted walnuts, with olive oil vinaigrette.
    If you want a veg. casserole that you can heat up the day of the celebration, why not a pan of roasted, cubed squashes with herbs?

    5 Replies
    1. re: mamachef

      I make a green salad (could be spinach, but not for me - I use romaine) with finely sliced red cabbage, mushrooms, pecans and dried cranberries. I don't have the dressing recipe at hand, but it's basically olive oil, rice vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, dry mustard and finely chopped red onion. It's tasty and a nice seasonal presentation.

      1. re: janeh

        I LOVE this idea. Never even thought about adding shredded cabbage or mushrooms, but what a nice texture and flavor contrast. And I'm thinking about pom. seeds instead of cranberries. But am definitely making this. What 'shrooms do you use?

        1. re: mamachef

          I just use white button mushrooms, liking the color contrast. Pomegranate seeds are a great idea, which I'll try next time. Enjoy!

      2. re: mamachef

        Spinach salad is a great idea.. just make sure not to dress it too early or it'll be a soggy mess.

        A nice light salad- shredded beets, carrots, and granny smith apples, chopped parsley in a lime and cumin dressing. I shred all the veggies in the food processor in advance and mix all with the dressing about an hour before serving.

        I also do an arugula salad with balsamic glazed onions and fruit. The onions take a while, but it's mostly unattended. Always gets rave reviews and it looks beautiful.

        1. re: mamachef

          I was kind of thinking the same thing with a slightly different twist -- goat cheese and marinated red onion strings.

          What about a cauliflower gratin? You can set this up ahead of time and bake when the meat is cooking. Stuffed artichokes also work well, since they take a long time to braise in a pot (at least the big ones do) and you can leave them in the hot pot, covered, for quite a long time before serving.

        2. There are some great Ottolenghi salads , using grains and greens or veg that could be prepared ahead and are pretty showy - however my family's go to green salad is much more simple - some mixed lettuces, radicchio and//or sliced endives, slivered fennel, slivered onion or shallots and roasted pecans or walnuts, dressed with good olive oil and a flavorful sweet-ish vinegar like a spanish moscatel . Pomegranate seeds and/or fresh mushrooms could easily be included.

          1. I made this excellent apple, endive, and gorgonzola salad for the Christmas meal last year, and it was really tasty and the perfect complement to the heavy meal. I was pregnant and craving crunchy green items- the family was not enthusiastic about the salad idea, but all came on board and enjoyed it more than they expected.


            1 Reply
            1. re: happybellynh

              i enjoyed this one, which is similar to yours,

              grapes, olives and almonds on radiccho and endive and a balsamic dressing...
              the contrast of flavours and textures really make it


            2. Celeri Remoulade is an easy make-ahead winter salad that would go great with your menu.

              One of my favorite winter salads is super-simple:
              Carrots and Fennel, fine julienne (use a mandolin slicer if you have one)
              dressed in good olive oil, lemon juice, salt, white pepper, and one crushed garlic clove.

              This second one was inspired by an orangette post -
              my contribution was mostly in the addition of fennel.

              If you get the julienne right, it looks lovely on the table garnished with a few fennel fronds and thin slices of lemon.

              1. I made this broccoli salad for friends a few months ago and everyone loved it. In fact, I made it again this week and I just had some for lunch. I like to cut the broccoli and cauliflower in small pieces and I added dried cranberries instead of grapes. And this time I added some (gasp) Bacos instead of real bacon.

                It is VERY easy and you can make it in advance (it actually tastes better if you add the dressing ahead of time), but I add the toasted almonds before serving.


                1. A simple winter salad I love is mixed greens (preferably including some bitter and/or peppery greens such as radicchio or arugula) with pears and a tarragon vinaigrette: olive oil, white wine vinegar, a little minced garlic, a little Dijon mustard, a little honey, and minced fresh tarragon. You can toss it or plate it with the sliced pears arrayed prettily. Good additions: dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds (pretty!), toasted pecans or walnuts, and goat or blue cheese.

                  1. These days I've been hooked on to kale salad. Very appropriate for winter and best of all you can dress it ahead of time, even the day before! I use my basic formula of fresh greens, some dried fruit, a salty cheese, some fresh fruit and an interesting nut for crunch. Dress simply with good oil (perhaps part of it a nut oil to match choice of nut), sea salt, fresh ground pepper and a vinegar or citrus juice to match the fresh fruit choice. But for a kale salad, I would definitely use *some* lemon juice in addition to say cider vinegar. I think you need the sharp acidity to counter the bitterness or "green"ness of kale. Definitely remove stems and ribs from kale and when you add dressing, massage it into the chopped kale.
                    Last week's edition included: chopped fresh kale, sliced crisp apples, sliced roasted golden and chioggia beets, lemon juice-apple cider vinegar-olive oil-walnut oil-dressing, dried cherries, lightly toasted walnuts and little chunks of goat cheese.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: sweetTooth

                      I also love a kale salad in winter. I do fresh greens, sauteed red onions (1 onion per 3 people cause I like onions), then splash balsamic vinegar, some crushed red pepper on the onions when caramelized, toss over the kale and sprinkle goat cheese.

                      1. re: mickeygee

                        I have to agree with a kale. I like this Kale Salad With Pine Nuts, Currants & Parmesan.

                        Another great winter salad is this Brussels Sprouts Salad from Saveur.

                        1. re: toveggiegirl

                          dtto these reccs - both very good salads. We tend to steam the kale VERY briefly - its important in any event to shave the shreds very small since kale is a coarse green and can be hard to chew. Wonder if the shaved collards one can buy in some portuguese markets would work in this type of salad?

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            How about chicory or escarole? Frisee is expensive but its cousins are not. The paler, inner leaves of chicory are a very good sub for frisee. The outer leaves are coarser and darker, but not as much as kale. I slice them into ribbons and combine with milder greens. If using them on their own, dried fruit and/or a sweet dressing play well with the bitterness.

                    2. I make this often and it always gets raves. It an Alice Waters recipe. Using a mandolin, thinly slice fennel, mushrooms and parmesan cheese together in a bowl. Some great olive oil, salt pepper. Fantastic and so so easy. I bet this will be great with the pork.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: TVC15

                        I really like this wheatberry Waldorf salad.

                        You can make the wheatberries ahead and have all the components ready.

                        Really good and a little different.

                        This does have a little orange juice. Can your nephew have that?

                        Here's the recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                        1. re: karykat

                          I also do a Wheatberry salad I love:

                          WHOLE GRAIN SALAD

                          Prepare Wheat Berries or Barley according to instructions. (I like to use chicken stock or vegetable stock rather than water.)

                          Drain and cool.

                          In the meantime, chop your favorite vegetables. As a good base:

                          Cherry tomatoes, halved
                          Carrots, diced
                          Red and/or yellow bell pepper, diced
                          Red onion, diced

                          (you can add others if you like)

                          Toss the vegetables, the grains and homemade vinaigrette in a large bowl. Add herbs: thyme, chives, sage, rosemary… any or all.

                          Add crumbled goat cheese, feta cheese or blue cheese, if desired.

                          1. re: Tom P

                            Looks very good.

                            The wheatberries make a salad kind of hearty. And a little bit different from the usual.

                      2. My hubby and I just had a lovely fall greens salad at Lupa with a warm guanciale dressing. It was simply greens (chinese kale, dandelion, chard) which the waiter gave a squeeze of lemon and drizzled with hot oil with bits of crispy guanciale. Mmmm, it was heaven on a plate!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: TatyanaG

                          I love the Broccolini and Sweet Sesame Salad in Ottolenghi's new Plenty cookbook (p. 94). Ingreds are broccolini, snap or sugar peas, and French stringbeans.

                          It's flavored with tahini paste, garlic, soy sauce, honey, cider vinegar and mirin. Deeeelish and nooootrish!

                        2. An easy and delicious make ahead salad that I really like, it would go good with the pork: Sweet Potato Salad With Toasted Pecans & Dried Cranberries

                          1. How do you feel about beets? It's inching up on winter now, so a beet salad with clementine or grapefruit would be perfect. Add nuts and a crumbly cheese if you like. Dress with a citrus vinaigrette (either shallots or scallions work here).

                            1 Reply
                            1. You could make a cold grain salad. Mixed rice, bulgar, quinoa or a mix of those (I boil rice in lots of water and then drain off - makes the rice separate nicely). And then add what you have on hand that seem to go well with one another. Potentials:
                              1) Make it all greenish - avocado, celery, onion, pecans or walnuts and goat cheese (soft - added after you toss with dressing).
                              2) Roasted veggies, dried fruit, nuts and a bit of crumbly cheese.
                              3) Olives, capers, fresh herbs, garbanzos, onion,red pepper, celery, feta, pine nuts.

                              You just have to have (IMO) color (or monocolor), crunchy bits, creamy savory bits added at the end, a matching sort of dressing and nuts. I always have it on hand. I love it.

                              1. i cut and pasted this from damned if i remember where. haven't tried it yet, but it would certainly go well with pork (nuts and dried cranberries optional).

                                • 1/2 medium red cabbage, finely shredded and outer leaves trimmed
                                • 2 green apples, cored and grated
                                • 3 scallions, sliced
                                • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
                                • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
                                • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
                                • 5 tablespoons olive oil
                                • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (?cider)
                                • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecan nuts
                                • 1/2 cup semi- dried cranberries

                                1. Over in the "Thanksgiving Wins and Losses" thread, I posted this great beet and clementine salad that you might like! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7495...

                                  1. I make this bulgur-pomegranate-celery salad frequently and it always goes over well. Note that it calls for seeds of 1/2 a pomegranate in the salad, but I actually use seeds from 1.5 pomegranates.


                                    1. Hi CricketGirl.

                                      CHOW did a list of winter salads a while back after seeing some Chowhound interest in the topic. Here's the link, in case it helps:


                                      Deborah from CHOW

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: DeborahL

                                        I have made the fennel / parsley / celery salad from that list and found it excellent.

                                      2. If you're OK with a non-leafy salad:

                                        Chunks of roasted winter squash
                                        coarsely chopped toasted nuts (I like pecans)
                                        blue cheese
                                        a handful of arugula, if you want some color
                                        apple butter (for dressing)

                                        I toss in chunks of roasted chicken or turkey for a main, but that would be too much, given the rest of your menu. You can serve this warm or room temp. Hot makes the cheese runny.

                                        1. Apologies to the OP because my favourite contains two of her no-nos, but perhaps of interest to others reading: clementine segments & kalamata olives on just about any salad base. Red onions would probably be good here too but I often just keep it really simple. Good with rich savoury winter mains like moussaka.
                                          Ooh, another favourite - chick peas and sundried tomatoes, again, on any salad base, with whatever chopped veg too. Feta is a good addition here.

                                          1. A Thousand Thank You's!!! There may be no meat at this dinner, I have so many great salad ideas now. Our mother's spinach salad is required, but I might make a small version of that, and a small bowl of fresh spinach with a mix of fruits, dried & fresh - those ideas made me especially hungry!
                                            Thank you all... and a joyful Christmas & New Year!

                                            1. Bacon-Curry Cole Slaw
                                              Easy and delicious.

                                              2/3 cup mayonnaise
                                              4 Tb cider vinegar
                                              2 t salt
                                              ½ t pepper
                                              ½ t curry powder
                                              2 Tb sugar
                                              8 cups shredded cabbage
                                              8 slices bacon, cooked crisp

                                              Mix sauce; pour over cabbage.
                                              Crumble bacon & mix lightly.
                                              Serve immediately or cover & refrigerate.

                                              1. Try snow peas (steam for two minutes, immediately keep in ice bowl), fresh water chestnuts, and watercress, top off w. chow mein noodles. Use a honey mustard w. fresh lemon as a vinagrette. Use some ingredients from your late mothers spinach salad or use romaine lettuce. I love cold roast beef! Do you garnish w. a horse radish sauce?

                                                1. Warm salad of beets and escarole. I just recently discovered this combination and can't stop making it. The flavors are delicious. Chop some parsley, mint, shallots and garlic and put on top of escarole in a metal bowl. Heat the olive oil to smoking and pour over escarole. Or even cook escarole for a few seconds in the saucepan with heated oil. Mix with cooked and sliced beets, dress with vinaigrette and put some goat or feta cheese on top.

                                                  1. We like to make a very easy salad with Spring Greens, Dried Cranberries, pecans, and green apples. Along with it is a homemade maple syrup vinaigrette. It is really yummy and my company always loves it! Let me know if you would like the salad dressing recipe!

                                                    1. Bed of endive topped with grapefruit and orange supremes. Sweet poppy seed dressing over all. Sometimes we use thinly sliced red onion, sometimes not. I use grated onion in the dressing, anyway. Beautiful and really good.

                                                      1. I like a white salad--shaved fennel, endive, frisee, celery (optional--I hate the stuff). you can do it with apples or oranges (regular or bloodred), a vinaigrette, and either blue or goat cheese. or use parm shaved with a vegetable peeler and no fruit.

                                                        1. I love a good old-fashioned Waldorf salad, but a little tricked out. Try making it with pears and apples, or several sorts of apples. Grate some cheese over it or add some blue cheese crumbles to it. Add crumbled bacon. Make your dressing with good mayo and an herb--skip the whipped cream. A savory note added to the fruit is just the thing. And don't forget to toss the chopped apples and/or pears in some lemon juice before you put the salad together.

                                                          1. This is called New England Bean Dip, but it is really a creamy kidney bean salad. This recipe is from Allrecipes.com, but there are others out there, too. A restaurant in the Chicago area used to serve it as an appetizer, and this recipe tastes just like I remember.

                                                            * 2 cups canned kidney beans, drained
                                                            * 1 small onion, minced
                                                            * 1/2 cup mayonnaise
                                                            * 1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
                                                            * 1 pinch dry mustard
                                                            * 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
                                                            * 1/2 teaspoon white horseradish
                                                            * 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
                                                            * 1/8 teaspoon salt
                                                            * 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


                                                            1. Rinse the kidney beans, and set aside to drain. In a medium bowl, stir together the onion, mayonnaise, relish, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Gently mix in kidney beans until coated with dressing. Refrigerate until serving.

                                                            1. I know you said no olives but in case others are interested; adapted from Mark Bittman:
                                                              shredded lacinato kale ( raw) , black olives cut up, vidalia or red onion, or shallots, sherry vinaigrette. Assemble one hour or more ahead to let meld. Also good with chard.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                                1. re: magiesmom

                                                                  Also oranges or grapefruit with red onion and a sharp vinaigrette - I use oil-cured olives on it but they're not strictly necessary. You could use pomegranate seeds instead.

                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                    I prefer the salad without the citrus as I think it distracts from the brininess, personally.

                                                                    1. re: magiesmom

                                                                      A separate salad idea, not with the kale. As an example of another salad that's good with or without olives.

                                                                    2. re: buttertart

                                                                      A little shaved fennel on your citrus and olive salad is nice, too.

                                                                      1. re: Georgia Sommers

                                                                        Absolutely. And with blood oranges, oh boy...

                                                                  2. Another great salad. especially as a palate cleanser:


                                                                    1. i haven't made this wonderful salad yet but i've eaten it and it was soooooooooo good. The roasted grapes are fantastic:

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: swiftbanderilla

                                                                        that salad rustica recipe looks wonderful! the roasted grapes idea is neat -- and paired with crisped prosciutto? mmmmmmmmYUM.

                                                                      2. I love salad but I usually give up on lettuce, cucumber, tomato, etc, during the winter. So I've been alternating between these for the past few weeks:

                                                                        Shredded Brussels sprouts with julienned celeriac and chickpea sprouts (you can use normal cooked chickpeas instead), tossed with mustard vinaigrette and black pepper.

                                                                        Roasted sunchokes with apple, watercress and walnuts, with a really lemony dressing. Sometimes I use jicama instead of the apple.

                                                                        Grapefruit and celery with shaved pecorino romano (or parmesan, whatever I have on hand). I use the grapefruit juice to make a light dressing. I keep meaning to try this with blood oranges, but I haven't come across them yet.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: piccola

                                                                          don't give up on salad, piccola -- go for the winter varieties! Arugula/rocket -- mache/lambs' lettuce, frisee, spinach, chicory...all are grown in chilly weather, so are at their peak this time of year.

                                                                          A winter-lettuce mix with pears, toasted walnuts, and crumbled Roquefort (or any other creamy bleu, since I know Roquefort is really pricey in the US right now), drizzled with a light Dijon vinagrette...winter-salad ambrosia.

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            Your winter lettuce salad sounds wonderful! I too like blue cheese and pears in a salad. I also like sweet onion shreds in the mix. Lovely!

                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                              I do eat arugula and kale in the winter, but generally, I just don't crave leafy salads this time of year. I'm more into slaws and chopped salads for some reason.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                Oooh I make this salad, or something so similar. It's mixed greens with apples/pears, toasted walnuts but I make this with a raspberry vinaigrette and serve with small rounds of goat cheese covered with ground walnuts and heated briefly for 5 minutes in the oven.

                                                                            2. why not try some greens? a full pot should last the week...

                                                                              1. Here is a Chinese one that's great (cilantro haters please avert your eyes) and can be made any time of the year: Tiger Salad - a bunch of cilantro, cut into 2" or so lengths, stems and leafy parts; 1 or 2 hot chilis, slivered; 6 green onions, cut into same lengths and slivered. Toss with salt, black vinegar, and sesame oil.

                                                                                13 Replies
                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                  This sounds wonderful! I so don't get the cilantro hating thing.

                                                                                  1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                    Me either, I've loved it from first bite, but there are so many people who don't. More for us!

                                                                                    1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                      If your tongue was wired the other way (because they've found out it's usually genetic, so it's related to the wiring and programming somewhere along the way, and not in our heads)...you'd understand.

                                                                                      I like a *little* of it in appropriate dishes...but yeah, for the most part I'm in the soap-tasters club.

                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                        I understand, lots of my friends can't stand it. Can you eat celery? Was eating some cilantro stems yesterday and was reminded of celery.

                                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                                          Yep - I can eat celery all day long. Parsley doesn't bother me, either (flat or curley)

                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            Interesting since especially the parsleys are closely related. You know the origin of coriander is the Greek for "smells like bugs", right?

                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                              heeeheeheee....no, I didn't know that, but well...if the shoe fits!

                                                                                              I have no problem with dried coriander, either...now go figure that one!

                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                It's a different part of the plant -- the seed vs the leaf -- so they don't really taste alike. What about coriander roots? Do you like them?

                                                                                        2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                          Buttertart: that salad sounds amazing, I must try it (scribbles ingredients on paper, hope I don't lose it).

                                                                                          There may be a genetic basis to the cilantro hating, but I think there is also an environmental component.

                                                                                          People in cilantro cultures (contrasted to parsley cultures) almost never have that negative reaction to cilantro. It's mostly found among people whose culinary, cultural, ethnic, origins are from parsley cultures.

                                                                                          1. re: Rasam

                                                                                            that would support the article I read that said that it's genetic.

                                                                                            Piccola, I don't know that I've had coriander root...probably have somewhere along the line, but was not aware of it.

                                                                                              1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                Rasam - you will love it, I'm sure. It doesn't come much more parsley culture than an English-Irish Canadian and I can't get enough of the stuff. My father (English) hated parsley, maybe that's why I love its more-evolved cousin!

                                                                                        3. From today's NY Times: Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Watercress, Walnuts and Gruyere

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                                                            Hi there,

                                                                                            What you need:

                                                                                            Fresh Beets, Thyme, Garlic, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Pancetta, Ripe tomatoes (if you cannot find ripe leave them out), Fennel, Goats cheese (soft and hard), Arugula, Dijon, Lemons, Parsley.


                                                                                            Roast small, quartered fresh beets with olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper until caramelized. In the mean time, slice some pancetta into half inch cubes and pan-fry until crispy (but not overly so). Place aside on a paper towel once done. Slice some heirloom or other very ripe tomatoes into the same size pieces as the beets. For the dressing, a simple, very good olive oil, some lemon juice, salt and pepper with a touch of Dijon. Shake in a jar and place aside. Shave fennel with a mandolin or slice very thinly by hand.

                                                                                            On a platter, first layer the arugula, then the fennel, then shave the dry goats cheese on top, then the tomatoes, then the beets, then break the soft goats cheese on top, then finish off with the pancetta, the dressing and some fresh parsley on top.

                                                                                            If you try it and have time, let me know the feedback :).

                                                                                            Happy eating, Oana

                                                                                          2. I almost forgot -- endive is fairly easy to find in the winter months, and makes a tasty, crunchy salad (not very green, mind...but fresh-tasting and crunchy, which helps!)

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                              Nice with walnuts, and with blue cheese and pears for fancy, with lemon vinaigrette.

                                                                                            2. I see fennel up there somewhere -- I *love* fresh fennel just chopped with little vinaigrette.

                                                                                              Don't forget the humble mushroom salad -- just sliced mushrooms, but with a little fruity vinaigrette and/or a drizzle of walnut oil....something *very* different, but very tasty!

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                Yum! Had a great salad at a holiday dinner that was just sliced fennel, dried cherries, toasted pecans and a sweet and tangy dressing of some sort. SO GOOD.

                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                  I just had a fennel, blood orange and red onion salad tonight. Topped with lemon vinaigrette and toasted walnuts. YUM!

                                                                                                2. how about the "green bean casserole" the old stand by from years ago ...now making a come back
                                                                                                  green beans, campbells soup etc Google and you shall find.... (and serves a crowd)

                                                                                                  and as for a salad, try the strawberry spinach salad.......great anytime and delicious!
                                                                                                  it became fashionable about 15 years ago ... it was such a top secret .... but is still loved today !