Salads beyond the Bowl

Posted on in Features by Mindy Fox


Salads have long been a daily mainstay for me, no matter what the season. A natural for summer, I find the dish perhaps even more exciting as winter turns to spring, when vegetable offerings—which may seem limited—are just as rich in bright flavors, vibrant colors, fantastic textures, and super health-boosting qualities. A vegetable or two and a contrasting fruit, tossed together with a couple of simple pantry ingredients, like nuts, seeds, or cheeses, and some good olive oil, vinegar, and flaky sea salt, provides beautiful and satisfying power fare with little time or effort. Here are a few of my favorites.

Mindy Fox is a food writer, editor, and cookbook author. Her cookbooks, which include Salads Beyond the Bowl, have been featured in and received “best of” accolades from National Public Radio, the New York Times, the London Times, and more.

Blueberries, Feta, and Mint

This beautiful and unexpected combination is terrific as a salad to start a meal or as a cheese course or savory dessert. Serve it from late spring through early autumn, when blueberries are in season and at their best.


3 cups (about 11/2 pints) blueberries
1 cup mint leaves, large leaves torn
5 ounces (1 cup) feta cheese, crumbled
4 tablespoons very good extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed

Divide the blueberries among small shallow serving bowls, then sprinkle with the mint and cheese. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the oil over each serving. Crush several generous pinches of salt over each dish and sprinkle with the pepper.

Green Melon, Cubanelle
Peppers, and Ricotta Salata

This favorite of mine recalls the watermelon salad that we all love so much, though its elegant components make it a bit more refined. Salt is key to marrying the flavors, so be generous, tasting as you go. Be liberal too with a very good extra-virgin olive oil—it is very much a part of this dish.


1/2 honeydew melon, seeded, peeled, and thinly sliced
Flaky coarse sea salt
2 small to medium cubanelle or banana peppers,
seeded and thinly sliced into rings
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, large ones torn
1/4 pound ricotta salata cheese, thinly sliced
Very good extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

On a large platter, arrange a layer of slightly overlapping melon slices and generously season with crushed pinches of salt. Add layers of the peppers, basil, and cheese (if layering a second round, remember to season with salt between the layers of melon). Crush several generous pinches of salt over the top, then drizzle generously with oil. Serve immediately.

Red Cabbage, Green Apple,
and Sweet Currant Slaw

This crisp, bright winter slaw, with its hint of sweet-tart fruit and nutty seeds, provides a lively contrast to the hearty braises, roasts, and soups that keep us fortified throughout the chilly season.


1 large Granny Smith apple,
quartered and thinly sliced
1 pound (7 cups) red cabbage, cored
and very thinly shredded
1/4 cup roasted and unsalted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried currants
3 tablespoons very good extra-virgin olive oil
11/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Flaky coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the apple, cabbage, sunflower seeds, and currants; toss to combine. Drizzle the oil and vinegar, and crush 11/2 teaspoons salt over the salad. Add 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, then toss to combine. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Fennel, Olives, and Oranges

Well-chilled fruit and a good-quality citrus-pressed extravirgin olive oil are key elements here. If you can’t find citrus oil, use a very good fruity extra-virgin olive oil plus a squeeze or two of fresh lemon or orange juice instead.


3 small heads fennel, heads thinly
sliced and fronds chopped
Flaky coarse sea salt
2 navel oranges, sectioned, cut in
half crosswise and chilled
1/2 cup Gaeta olives, pitted and halved
1/4 cup blood orange, tangerine, or
clementine extra-virgin olive oil

On a large serving platter or in a wide shallow bowl, arrange the fennel pieces, crushing several generous pinches of salt over the top of each layer, or just over the top if you have a single layer. Sprinkle the oranges, olives, and chopped fronds over the fennel, then drizzle the salad with the oil, and crush a few more generous pinches of salt over the top.

Cress, Avocado, and
Grapefruit Salad with
Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette

Grapefruits, especially pink ones when available, do a wonderful job of bringing a sense of warmth to a chilly winter or early spring day.


1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
or white wine vinegar
Fine sea salt
1 teaspoon white peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1 firm-ripe avocado, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 large pink grapefruit, sectioned, juices
squeezed from membranes and reserved
1 large bunch watercress, thin stems and leaves only
3 tablespoons very good extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon plus 2
tablespoons whole leaves for garnish
Flaky coarse sea salt

In a medium bowl, stir together the shallot, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, and 3/4 teaspoon white pepper; let stand for 10 minutes.

Arrange the avocado slices on a large plate. Drizzle with the grapefruit juice and season with a pinch each fine sea salt and white pepper.

Divide the watercress among four serving plates. Arrange the grapefruit sections and the avocado slices on top.

Add the oil and chopped tarragon to the shallot mixture; vigorously whisk to combine, then spoon the dressing over the salads. Sprinkle with the tarragon leaves and remaining pinch white pepper, then crush a generous pinch or two of flaky coarse sea salt over the top.

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