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plates containing hearty fall salads

The sad side salad has got to go. You know the one: a little bowl of pale lettuce, some dry grated carrot, maybe a wedge of out-of-season tomato. It’s watery and flavorless, exuding little joy at all.

A good salad can offer a symphony of flavors and textures when composed with a creative mix of fresh ingredients. Add a zingy dressing made with whole-food ingredients, and your salad will really start to sing.

These recipes are all about the seasonal produce. As the weather cools, set lettuce aside and dig into heartier greens like radicchio, spinach, collards, and cabbage. Toppings like steamed or roasted veggies, cooked whole grains or legumes, and toasted nuts or seeds will give your salad more staying power.

Leave those sad, soggy salads behind and explore the joy of vibrant, flavorful options you’ll truly enjoy eating.

Smoked Fish and Napa Cabbage Salad

smoked fish and napa salad

Makes four servings | Prep time 20 minutes

Dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tbs. honey
  • 3 tbs. avocado oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1 tbs. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. sriracha sauce

Salad:

  • 8 oz. hot-smoked trout, salmon, or whitefish (bones removed)
  • 4 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
  • 4 ribs celery, sliced diagonally
  • 1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, sliced diagonally

Directions:

  1. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to blend.
  2. Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces. Spread the cabbage on a large platter or four plates, then top with the celery, red pepper, scallions, and fish.
  3. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Roasted Fennel and French Lentil Salad

a pear, lentil and fennel salad

Makes four servings | Prep time 60 minutes

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup full-fat plain yogurt (not Greek)
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. lime zest
  • 1 tbs. lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Salad:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup French (or Puy) lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 head garlic
  • 3 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large fennel bulbs, cubed (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas
  • 2 large Bosc pears
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to blend.
  3. Bring the water, lentils, and salt to a boil in a small pot. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still keep their shape. Drain and let cool.
  4. Cut off the top of the head of garlic to expose the cloves. Place the head of garlic on a square of aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic and place in one corner of a large baking sheet.
  5. Place the cubed fennel on the same baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes, then stir the fennel well and roast for 10 minutes longer, until it’s browned in spots and very soft and the garlic is tender when pierced with a fork. Let cool.
  6. Place the pepitas in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Stir the seeds until they start to pop and turn golden brown, about three to five minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
  7. Cut the pears into long, thin slices and place in a small bowl. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of lime juice and toss to coat.
  8. Spread the spinach on a large platter or four plates, then top with the fennel, lentils, pears, and feta. Unwrap the head of garlic and squeeze the roasted cloves out of the bulb, then distribute on top of the salad. Drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with pepitas, and serve.

Collard Salad With Broccoli and Butternut Squash

collard greens, squash and broccoli salad

Makes four servings | Prep time 45 minutes

Dressing:

  • 4 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs. apple-cider vinegar
  • 1 tbs. honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Salad:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup semi-pearled farro, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch half-moons (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to blend.
  3. Bring the water, farro, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a small pot, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes or until the grains are tender. Drain, then let cool completely.
  4. While the farro cooks, place the sliced butternut squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes, then use a metal spatula to flip the slices and roast for 15 minutes more, until the squash is tender and browned in spots. Place on a rack to cool.
  5. Set up a steamer basket over a shallow pot of boiling water. Steam the broccoli for two minutes, until crisp-tender. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and let cool.
  6. Roll the collard leaves into a bundle and slice across the roll to make thin slivers, then chop the slivers into inch-long pieces. Place in a large bowl.
  7. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the dressing over the collard slices in the bowl, then use your hands to massage and knead the leaves for a minute or two, until they’re tender and slightly darker in color.
  8. Spread the collards on a platter or four plates, then top with the farro, squash, and broccoli. Drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with walnuts, and serve.

Radicchio With Roasted Carrots and Quinoa

raddicio and carrot salad

Makes four servings | Prep time 45 minutes

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbs. plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt, divided
  • 1 bunch young carrots (about 12 oz. total, about 4 to 6 inches long)
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 8 oz. green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 large navel or Cara Cara oranges
  • 1 small head radicchio, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place one oven rack near the top and one near the center.
  2. In a small pot, bring the water, quinoa, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 14 minutes, then take off the heat to let stand, covered, for five minutes. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and let cool completely.
  3. Peel and trim the carrots, leaving a half-inch of each stem. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and toss to coat. Roast on the top rack for 20 minutes. Depending on the thickness of the carrots, you may need to roast them up to 10 minutes longer. Let cool.
  4. While the carrots roast, spread the hazelnuts on another baking sheet, then toast on the center rack for 10 minutes. Let cool, then use a clean kitchen towel to rub the skins off as well as you can. Coarsely chop the nuts, then set aside.
  5. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the green beans for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, then sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
  6. Use a chef’s knife to cut the peel and pith from the oranges. Slice across the fruit to make thin rounds.
  7. In a food processor, place 1/4 cup of the toasted hazelnuts, then add the parsley, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Process to mince very finely. Add the Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar and process. Scrape down the sides and secure the lid, then, with the processor running, drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube and process until combined.
  8. Spread the radicchio on a platter or four plates, then top with the quinoa, carrots, green beans, and orange slices. Drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with remaining hazelnuts, and serve.

Autumn Cobb Salad

autumn cobb salad with tofu

Makes four servings  |  Prep time 70 minutes

Dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Sucanat or brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 8 oz. extra-firm tofu
  • 1/2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 4 oz. aged Gouda cheese, sliced
  • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 4 cups baby spinach

Directions:

  1. Bring the water, wild rice, and salt to a boil in a small pot, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook at a simmer until the rice is slightly chewy and some of the grains have burst open, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Drain the tofu and wrap it in a kitchen towel, then allow it to stand for 15 minutes while the towel absorbs excess moisture. Unwrap the tofu and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, then place cubes on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the cubes and bake for about 20 minutes more, until the tofu is crispy. Let cool.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then use a slotted spoon to gently lower the eggs into the water. Allow the eggs to boil for 30 seconds, then reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cover and cook for 13 minutes, then remove the eggs from the hot water and place them in an ice bath to cool completely. Peel, slice, and reserve.
  5. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well to combine.
  6. Spread the spinach on a large platter or four plates. Drizzle with a little dressing, just to moisten. Compose the toppings in seven rows, alternating colors. Drizzle the remaining dressing over the salad and serve.

This article originally appeared as “Stellar Salads” in the October 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Photography by: Andrea D’Agosto; Prop Styling: Alicia Buszczak; Food Styling: Paul Jackman
Robin
Robin Asbell

Robin Asbell is a Minneapolis-based recipe developer and cookbook author.

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