By Chef Linda
Cold days and dark nights can make spring feel far away. Sometimes a little sunshine on our plate can cheer and revive us this time of year. Juicy citrus is the perfect ingredient to brighten up a meal, especially when it's used to adorn a lush and crunchy salad. Watercress has a spicy, warming bite so building a salad around it in the cooler months makes sense. Watercress isn't usually top of mind when thinking about salad greens, but this aquatic plant with small, succulent leaves is related to mustard greens and arugula and makes for a lively, interesting salad. To soften the strong taste, watercress pairs beautifully with spinach or other familiar salad greens, too. Let's not just celebrate it for its taste because watercress is ranked high among the healthiest foods you can eat. In addition to the bevy of essential minerals and vitamins it contains, these beautiful emerald leaves are a more potent source of iron than spinach and deliver more calcium than milk. Crunchy fennel with its sweet, gentle anise flavor, pickled (or roasted) beets, and a simple lemony dressing are all you need to feel virtuous and hopeful when winter throws its worst punch your way.
Winter Watercress, Orange, and Fennel Salad
About 4 to 5 cups watercress
1 bulb fennel, trimmed, halved, and thinly sliced
3/4 cup store-bought pickled beets*
2 large oranges, peels removed with a sharp knife and sliced into rounds
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons orange or grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
To make the salad, arrange watercress, fennel, and beets on a large plate (or use individual plates and divide the ingredients equally). Place oranges around and on top.
To make the dressing, whisk ingredients together in a small bowl or shake in a covered mason jar. Spoon desired amount of dressing over salad and gently toss. Remaining dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.
To use roasted beets instead of pickled beets, wrap one large or two small beets in foil and place directly on the rack in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. Roast for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until a sharp knife can easily pierce through the foil and beet. Remove and set aside to cool. When beets are cooled, rub the skin off or use a knife to peel away. It will come off very easily. Cut into 1/4-inch pieces and add to salad.