Simple winter salads from David Tanis


One of my favorite parts about the holiday season and cooler weather isn’t necessarily the turn to heartier meaty braises and stews. Those things are great, of course, but what I really can’t wait to eat are the heartier salads — bitter, sturdy lettuces, dressed with sharp citrus dressings and preferably topped with loads of autumn fruit like persimmons, pomegranates and sticky dates.

Thankfully, we’ve got a few new recipes just like that for you on our cooking site. These are no ordinary salads, however; they’re from David Tanis. The venerable chef of Chez Panisse and cooking columnist at the New York Times is now living in Los Angeles to open his new restaurant, Lulu, in the Hammer Museum. I spent several days over the past few months cooking with Tanis, and these recipes are the results of those sessions.

Tanis begins a salad of persimmons and pomegranate not with the lettuces but with those fruits, dressing them liberally in Meyer lemon juice and olive oil and seasoning assertively with salt and pepper. He then drags leaves of treviso and Castelfranco lettuce through the juices/vinaigrette until they’re well-coated. Sweet, bitter, tart — it’s the ideal salad for this time of year that eats like a main dish.

Similarly, he begins a radish salad with lime and parmesan by seasoning sweet radishes with lime before incorporating mature arugula, more peppery and sturdier than its oft-used baby form. The bitter-tart lime is a wonderful surprise in this salad where typical lemon might be used. Shavings of parmesan add richness and salt to temper the biting citrus.

And for a “salad” of mushrooms, he first grills slabs of king oyster mushrooms before blanketing them with crisp wood ear mushrooms, cooked just until warmed through. The whole affair is dressed simply with minced garlic and cilantro, which mingles with the olive oil to make its own dressing of sorts.

Each dish’s success hinges largely on the quality of produce you buy, so take a stroll through the farmers market this week and pick out the best specimens you can find. Each dish takes 15 minutes or less to complete and pairs well with virtually any protein you like. They’re substantial — but bright — salads that you’ll be thankful to have amid the heartier holiday fare this week and through the end of the year.

Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad with Bitter Lettuces

The proportions of the salad are whatever you want them to be, so if you like more or less of one fruit or lettuce, do that. You can also use any kind of citrus here— whatever you have on hand. If you don’t have lettuce, the fruit is a great salad in and of itself with a few mint leaves added. It would be great with some slivered fennel too.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes.

Pomegranate seeds and persimmon and lettuce

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Radish Salad with Lime and Parmesan

It’s nice to make salads out of things you normally wouldn’t, like this one that’s mostly radishes. (Think of a salad as some kind of seasoned and dressed plant matter and you’ll expand your horizons.) This is great on its own or served with a piece of roast chicken.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes.

A salad with lettuce and radishes

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

King Oyster and Wood Ear Mushrooms with Cilantro Persillade

The counter-play between the meaty king oyster mushrooms and the thin, crunchy wood ear mushrooms makes it an exciting dish. A simple persillade, traditionally a mix of minced parsley and garlic, is made here with cilantro and livens up the hearty mushrooms. Serve this on its own as a vegetarian main dish or as a side to pork chops or roast beef or game.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes.

A lot of cooked mushrooms on a plate

(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)



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