New Year Winter Salads

December 27, 2012

Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw eats a mostly raw, vegan diet without losing time, money, or her sanity. Let her show you how to make "rabbit food" taste delicious and satisfying every other Thursday on Food52.

Today: Gena shares a winter salad recipe that's healthy and indulgent. 

Kale Salad

Shop the Story

‘Tis the day (or two) after Christmas. You’ve put away the fancy linens, scrubbed the kitchen, and packed up your leftovers. You’ve wined, dined, fêted and feasted. And now, with the holidays winding down, chances are you’ve made at least some vague resolution to eat more green, leafy stuff. 

I’ll be honest: articles about healthy eating after the holidays tend to irk me. Maybe it’s the implication that one should ever feel guilty for having savored decadent holiday meals. Or maybe it's the idea that eating healthy food is some sort of exercise in discipline and sacrifice. To me, healthy food can easily be an indulgence. I take as much joy in eating salads and vegetables as I do any other food, and maybe even more. To me, there is nothing ascetic about a salad. 

With the right attitude, salads can be every bit as filling and indulgent as some of the heartier dishes we’re used to -- with the benefit, of course, of outstanding nutrition. What I love most about salads is that there is no end to their variability. They can be sweet or savory, simple or complex, warm or cold, they can be meal-sized or serve as an appetizer. Changing any one ingredient can totally alter the character of a salad, and turn it into something new: swap one dressing for another, trade beets for potatoes or onions for carrots, and the dish is forever changed. It’s a wonderful kind of alchemy. 

Of course, I understand why salad is associated with asceticism. I’m a nutritionist, and one of the complaints I frequently hear is, “I ate salad for lunch, and was hungry again right after.” When I ask what the salad consisted of, the answer usually includes some greens, a few watery vegetables, and dressing on the side. Such a combination would leave anyone hungry, and it does little to show off how rich and satisfying a salad can be. Today, I’d love to share some of the ways I add heft and nutrition to my salads, without sacrificing simplicity or ease.

Go with the grain. Adding cooked barley, wheatberries, farro, spelt, or quinoa to a salad can elevate it to new heights. Wheatberries and barley will add chew, while quinoa and brown rice add a nutty flavor.

Roast some roots. Sweet, starchy, and deliciously seasonal, root vegetables make fantastic additions to winter salads. Try a mixture of beets, arugula, and toasted walnuts or pecans, or a salad of baby spinach, roasted or grilled sweet potato, and creamy avocado. Today, I’m sharing a recipe in which kabocha squash takes center stage. 

Go Nuts. There’s nothing quite like the taste of toasted nuts or seeds to liven up a salad. Try adding toasted almonds to any of your favorite salads, or a sprinkling of salty, roasted sunflower seeds. I personally like to add either sesame seeds or raw, shelled hemp seeds -- an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids -- to cabbage and apple slaw.  

Savor soy. Tofu and tempeh are protein-rich additions to vegan salads. It took me a long time to warm up to tofu, but one of the ways in which I first enjoyed it was marinated in soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and maple syrup, and then grilled and mixed into a hearty salad. Try using the same marinade for tempeh, which is slightly denser than tofu.

Mix up your greens. Don’t just use mesclun, spinach, or romaine for your salads. Experiment with all sorts of greens -- kale, chard, mustard greens, mache, or frisee. Go wild. 

Stay seasonal. Use local, seasonal produce to keep your salads fresh and vibrant. In the winter, gravitate toward cabbage, kale, and root vegetables; come summer, you can show off the beauty of ripe tomatoes and sweet corn.

My winter salads are heartier than their summertime counterparts, usually featuring potatoes, grains, or autumn squash. Because cold or room temperature salads often don’t appeal to people in the cold winter months, I’ll often pile my roasted roots or cooked grains on the greens while they’re still hot. Dark greens like spinach, kale, and chard hold up well to warm ingredients.

In this salad, bitter kale meets sweet kabocha squash, tart pomegranate seeds, and fragrant toasted hazelnuts. I can’t imagine a salad more complete, filling, and healthful. 

Kale Salad

Hearty Kale Salad with Kabocha Squash, Pomegranate Seeds, and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 4-6

1 large bunch curly kale, stems removed and discarded, torn into bite sized pieces, washed, and spun dry
1 small kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin), halved and seeded and cut into 1.5 inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided into 1 tbsp and 3 tbsp
3/4 cups pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup skinned hazelnuts
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper to taste

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

Order now

The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

Order now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ann Rooney
    Ann Rooney
  • Mélanie
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


Ann R. January 3, 2013
I grow so much kale that I am always looking for new ideas.
Mélanie December 28, 2012
This looks delicious! I too love salads all year round, but the winter ones tend to be more hearty and filling. I also get frustrated with all the indulgence vs guilt message so prevalent during the holidays. December is all about indulging in horrible stuff (some of it not even real food) and feeling bloated and sick. Then comes January, which is all about feeling guilty about the nasty things you've been putting in your body and depriving yourself by eating bland "rabbit food" in order to "cleans" and of course lose weight. It really is quite ridiculous. Why not have a healthy, happy holiday season enjoying delicious, nutritious foods, indulging in yummy, filling vegan foods like baked tofu, artichoke dip, pasta dishes and pecan pie all the while maintaining a balance by still consuming lots of veggies, shakes, salads and soups. It doesn't have to be all black and white, healthy or non-healthy, good or bad. You can have it all! And still feel great come January. Feeling great from the inside out, now there's a wonderful way to "treat yourself" during the holiday season and all year long :)