In the cold, gloomy days of January, we'd normally be more likely to choose a soup for our Recipe of the Month, rather than a salad. However, the most recent issue of Savory magazine (the freebie from Stop & Shop) included a salad recipe that looked kind of intriguing: Carrot and Orange Salad. The only veggies it called for were red cabbage and carrots, which are both readily available in the wintertime; it may be a bit of an exaggeration to call them "seasonal" ingredients, as the description on the recipe did, but at least they keep throughout the winter and their quality doesn't suffer. And the colorful mix of reds and oranges looked like it would add a bit of cheer to a cold, grey winter day.
So we went out and started rounding up the needed ingredients. Carrots, oranges, and red cabbage were easy enough to find at the H-Mart, where we buy most of our produce, but the recipe also called for pomegranate seeds and pistachio nuts, which are a bit more exotic—not to mention expensive. We bought the pistachios from the bulk bins at the Whole Earth Center so we only had to buy about half a cup, but even that tiny amount cost us about $4. And the pomegranate, which we picked up at the Shop Rite, added another $2.50. At these prices, we thought, this had better be one good salad.
As it turned out, it was just an okay salad. It certainly looked pretty, with the base of bright purple cabbage layered with orange slices and sprinkled with the bright red pomegranate seeds, but the flavor didn't measure up. The light vinaigrette dressing—just a few tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of cider vinegar, and a touch of minced garlic and cayenne pepper—wasn't really enough to impart a big flavor punch to the cabbage and carrots that formed the bulk of the salad. The sweet, juicy oranges and pomegranate seeds helped a bit, but it was hard to get these flavors distributed well with the oranges cut in such big slices. I tried cutting them up a little so that I could get the orange mixed in more with the other flavors, and the salad was better that way, but it still wasn't anything we'd go out of our way to make again—especially at those prices.
Luckily, we also had one other intriguing-looking recipe set aside from an earlier issue of Savory: Roasted Sweet Potato, Apple & Scallions. Unfortunately, I can't find this recipe anywhere on the Stop & Shop site, but it's simple enough to describe. First, you peel and chop two pounds of sweet potato into half-inch pieces. You also chop up two apples (cored but not peeled) and a bunch of scallions. (We halved the recipe, so we used just one apple, a few scallions, and one good-sized sweet potato). Then you toss all that together with a mixture of vegetable oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and dried thyme, spread it out on a baking sheet, and roast it for 15 to 20 minutes. Simple—and, as it turned out, quite tasty, with a nice blend of sweet and savory flavors. The half-recipe, accompanied by a toasted sausage, made a hearty meal for the two of us, with a good cup left over for the next day's lunch.
So here's what I've learned from this month's recipes: first, it's not worth spending big bucks on fancy ingredients when all you're doing with them is dressing up a cabbage; and second, in the wintertime, a hot meal is a lot more comforting than a cold salad. I've got my eye on a new recipe for February's Recipe of the Month that also involves red cabbage, but in a much warmer and more comforting form. And by the time March comes along, we may be ready to start harvesting and enjoying the first few tender greens of spring.