As the weather cools and we look to comfort foods and slow cookers, I start to worry (more than usual, which is rather a lot) about my winter pounds. How can I get that satisfying, warm comfort food feeling without eating my way through mac and cheese and roast beef and pasta with sauce every night of the week?
One way I have found is the "warm salad" — which sounds like a contradiction in terms, but really it's not. It's not the same as a vegetable side that is cooked through and a different thing altogether.
No, the warm salad is just what it sounds like. Kale stands up to the heat rather well, so usually that's the base for my winter salads. I add hearty things like mushrooms, beets, beans and bacon to make the salad seem more like a meal, and usually it does the trick handily.
This is my favorite combination by far, and it's so great because it is a main dish that you can put together in about 5 minutes, and it's gorgeous on the plate.
Warm Mushroom and Kale Salad with Bacon Balsamic Dressing
2 large handfuls of kale, cleaned and de-stemmed
5 or 6 baby bella mushrooms, halved or quartered
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil (I like a flavor infused one for this — I used garlic and sundried tomato this time)
3 strips thick-cut bacon
Warm your olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When it's ready, toss in roughly chopped shallot and garlic, and let that saute for just a minute or two. I also add a dash of kosher salt here.
Next, toss in your mushrooms. Remember that this is not meant to cook the vegetables through, but rather just warm them and coat in flavors.
Last, toss in the kale and move it around with tongs until the green deepens and it wilts just a little bit.
Remove from the skillet and put on a large plate.
Add the bacon to the skillet and cook until crispy. Pour a couple of teaspoons of bacon grease over the salad, cut up the bacon and sprinkle on, and add a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar. Toss on a few pieces of shaved fresh Parmesan. I had some Parmesan crisps, so I added those instead of croutons for crunch.
To make Parmesan crisps, just make a few small piles of shredded Parmesan on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 F for just 3 minutes or so, until they are melted and beginning to harden. Let them cool, and they make a great garnish for many dishes.
This dish is low in carbs, if that's important to you, and I promise there is no flavor spared in the making of it.
This makes one large main-dish salad or 3 to 4 smaller side salads.