You'll find ideas for a tasty late-winter salad by strolling down the produce aisle

February 26, 1992

A walk down the aisle of the produce section of your local market may inspire you to create salads just meant for winter menus. Look for the dark, pungent greens so plentiful now as well as other seasonal vegetables. To help you with ideas, here are some recipes:

From "James McNair's Salads" comes this recipe for a hearty vegetable salad warmed by a peanut dressing. It's an adaptation of an Indonesian dish called gado-gado.

Indonesian vegetable salad with peanut dressing

Serves 6 as a salad course, or 3 or 4 as main course.

peanut oil or other high-quality vegetable oil for deep frying (optional)

2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion (optional)

6 cups assorted vegetables, approximate (see note)

3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced or quartered

fresh mint or cilantro (coriander) sprigs for garnish.

Prepare the dressing (see recipe below) and set aside.

If you wish to top the salad with fried onion slices, pour the oil into a deep-fat fryer or deep saucepan to a depth of about 2 inches. Heat to 365 degrees Fahrenheit, or until a small cube of bread turns light gold within a few seconds of being dropped into the oil. Add the onion slices and deep-fry, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onion slices to paper towels to drain.

Arrange the vegetables and eggs on a large platter. Top with the fried onion slices (if used) and garnish with the herb sprigs. Serve dressing on the side.

Note: Cooked vegetables may include asparagus spears, small whole (or sliced) potatoes and carrots, broccoli and cauliflower florets, whole green beans and edible-podded peas, shelled fava beans, shredded Chinese cabbage, whole spinach leaves and bean or sunflower sprouts.

Raw vegetable choices include cucumber slices or sticks, tomato wedges or whole cherry tomatoes, red onions slices, short lengths of green onions and strips of colorful sweet peppers.

Indonesian peanut dressing

Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh green hot chilies

1 teaspoon minced lemon zest

3 thin slices fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped yellow onion

6 whole garlic cloves

1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts, ground

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seed

1/4 cup cold water

2 tablespoons peanut oil or other high-quality vegetable oil

3 cups fresh or canned coconut milk (see note)

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 cup sugar

In a food processor or a blender, combine the chilies, lemon zest, ginger, onion, garlic, peanuts, cumin, coriander seed and cold water. Blend to a smooth paste.

In a skillet or a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the paste and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and deep in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, a little at a time until mixture is smooth and slightly thickened. Add the lemon juice, soy sauce, and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from the heat and let stand to cool to room temperature.

Using the dressing immediately, or cover and store for up to several weeks; return to room temperature before using. If the dressing becomes too thick, stir in a little warm water to return to a pourable consistency.

Note: coconut milk is available at some supermarkets, gourmet shops and markets that sell Asian foods. In a pinch, water can be substituted using a little less water than coconut milk.

Deborah Madison, author of "The Greens Cookbook", created this fall salad for her second cookbook, "The Savory Way" (Bantam, hardcover, $22.95):

Fall salad of chicories, pears, walnut and cheese

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

2 heads escarole

2 or 3 Bartlett or Comice pears

8 walnuts

3 ounces blue cheese such as Gorgonzola, Danish blue, Maytag, or Roquefort

10 chervil or parsley branches, stems removed

freshly ground pepper

Separate the leaves of the escarole and use only the innermost pale heart leaves. The other leaves can be saved for soup. Wash and dry them and set aside.

To cut the pears, stand them upright and slice of a round from the side. Then work your way around the pear, slicing it thinly into crescent-shaped pieces. Or quarter the pears, remove the cores and cut in thin slices.

Crack the walnuts and break into pieces, none smaller than an eighth. If they are really fresh, leave them as they are. Otherwise toast them first for 5 minutes in a heated 350-degree Fahrenheit oven.

Prepare the vinaigrette below and use about half to dress the leaves. Lay them on salad plates. Dress the pears with the remaining vinaigrett, turning them gently with your fingers. Settle the pears into the leaves. Scatter the walnuts over the salad along with the cheese, broken into pieces. Garnish the salad with the chervil or parsley leaves and season with freshly ground pepper.

Vinaigrette dressing

1 tablespoon pear or Champagne vinegar (or other flavored vinegar)

salt

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons walnut oil (see note)

Combine the vinegar and salt to dissolve the salt; then whisk in the oils. Taste and add more vinegar if necessary.

Note: If you don't have walnut oil, use all olive oil.

From "Winter Herbal Pleasures" by Noel Richardson comes this recipe for fennel salad:

Fennel salad

Serves 4.

1 fennel bulb, washed

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

freshly ground pepper

chopped fennel leaves

Cut the fennel bulb vertically into quarters and then dice. Remove any brown bits. Place the diced fennel in a bowl and sprinkle with the olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and chopped fennel leaves. Toss well. This salad keeps for several days in the refrigerator.

Deborah Madison, author of "The Greens Cookbook", created this fall salad for her second cookbook, "The Savory Way" (Bantam, hardcover, $22.95):

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