Warm weather and finer days, when everything is in season, encourage lazy, thrown-together, vegetable-heavy lunches: Plates full of tender greens are passed, heaps of fresh corn salad are devoured, and tomatoes find their way into everything. Eating a seasonable lunch is not only easy, it also makes sense. But just because we’re still marching our way through the last leg of winter weather doesn’t mean that the opportunity to eat fresh produce is off the table.
Take a trip to the winter farmers market this weekend and I promise you’ll find a whole cast of seasonal characters to successfully carry your lunches through the final cool weeks ahead. Here's how:
Root vegetables definitely stuff the stalls at markets this time of year, and that means one thing: It's time to turn on your oven. With just a few minutes of effort (seriously, the hands-on time here is very low), you can roast up a whole mess of hearty vegetables and have a serious lunchtime hero on your hands. These roasted vegetables can be great all on their own, but you can also mix them into a grain salad or a pot of beans for more heft, as well as use them in a frittata or quiche. As an added bonus, roasted vegetables, and most of their subsequent applications, taste great both warm and cold, making them even more of a prime lunchtime choice.
We all know it: Sometimes (make that a lot of the time) a snacky lunch is the best lunch of all. Who doesn't want to scarf down a plate of crackers, cheese, and crudités? The traditional trio of pepper slices, little snacking tomatoes, and cucumber slices might not be in season right now, but that's okay! Step back and consider the awesome winter alternatives. Sliced carrots are an obvious accompaniment to cheese dip or hummus, but stiff endive slices (with a natural shape that's great for shoveling dip) or hearty romanesco cuts would also work well.
You can also reimagine raw roots into a salad: So long as they are clean, trimmed, and shaved, winter produce can make a raw salad just as pleasing (if not more pleasing) than a traditional bowl of greens and vinaigrette. Try cutting or shaving carrots, parsnips, beets, or even sweet potatoes ultra-thin and binding with a light dressing to make what will surely become a lunchtime win.
With a month or so to go until light greens and fresh herbs are in season, turn to the sturdy and deliciously dark winter standbys. Hefty leaves of kale or collard greens are excellent vehicles for any dressing, while denser winter shapes like cabbage leaves and shaved brussels sprouts bring on a welcome crunch that will punctuate any lunch meeting. Because these winter vegetables are so sturdy, they also play well when mixed into a further developed lunch scheme (try them massaged into a bowl of grains, a rice pilaf, or as a lush bed for an egg).
How do you incorporate winter vegetables into your lunches? Let us know in the comments!