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In the Kitchen With Ricky: Winter white salad is a perfect dish for Christmas

By Ricky Webster For The Spokesman-Review

I was racking my brain coming up with a recipe for this week’s In the Kitchen With Ricky. Do I go dessert? Well, that would be the obvious choice. How about an appetizer? That’s planned for next week! What about a cheesy, bubbly side dish? Too typical. Well, I nixed all those ideas and went with a salad.

I know salad might not scream holidays, or even winter, but with all the rich, heavy and delectable foods circulating this time of year, I felt that this bright and fresh dish helps to start off a meal and awaken the taste buds.

It is a great addition to a dinner table and goes well with rich roasted meats or ham. In fact, I find it to be a perfect salad for Christmas. It is also a great lunch, in which case I’d add sliced chicken breast, a few poached shrimp, lump crab meat or chickpeas and a drizzle more of olive oil.

The star of this salad is winter produce. We often forget that cool weather crops can shine just as much as a plate of tomatoes and peppers in the middle of August. I try and practice eating what’s in season.

However, that can be a bit subjective as eating what’s in season here in the Inland Northwest means cellars filled with apples, onions and potatoes, yet in California it’s citrus and cruciferous vegetables. There’s a happy medium – just don’t go out and expect a perfectly ripe and flavorful tomato.

This winter white salad can include many different ingredients; however, it is important to make sure they are white to light green in color. To change up the recipe, try thinly shaved Brussels sprouts, sliced celery or small cauliflower florets.

Dried fruits can also make a nice addition, and I recommend golden raisins. It is important to make sure that the moisture is well removed from all the salad ingredients. So, after washing your produce, let it drain well or use a salad spinner to remove excess water.

Winter White Salad

For the salad:

4 white endives, leaves separated

¼ white onion, thinly sliced

1 green or yellow apple, halved, cored and thinly sliced

1 bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced

1 can hearts of palm, well drained and sliced into thick coins

3 ounces sharp white cheddar, diced or Parmesan cheese, shredded

⅓ cup chopped nuts, blanched almonds or hazelnuts or macadamia nuts

Fennel fronds, to garnish

Chives, to garnish

For the dressing:

½ cup Greek yogurt

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk until smooth. This can be done up to 24 hours before assembling the salad and kept refrigerated until right before the salad assembly.

Place the thinly sliced onion in an ice water bath for at least an hour before assembling your salad. This helps to crisp up the onion, as well as to remove some of the sharpness of raw onion.

Lightly toast the nuts in a 300-degree oven for about 5 minutes. We’re not looking to add color here, but it helps to release the oils and provide a better crunch.

In a large bowl, combine the dressing and all the salad ingredients (except the chives and fronds). I start with about half the dressing and then go from there, making sure to taste for seasoning or more dressing as you combine.

Arrange the salad in a large bowl or individually on plates and garnish with chopped chives and fennel fronds.

Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Local award-winning chef and Rind and Wheat owner Ricky Webster can be reached at Follow Webster on Instagram @rickycaker.