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Seasons’ Eatings: Winter Chopped Salad with Beans, Beets and Apples

2012 January 19

By Sarah A. MaineWinter-Greenmarket-at-Union-SquareSunnyside, NY – Winter, ice edged and wind studded, has been slow to arrive in the Northeast this year.  But this week the mercury finally made up its mind and started its first real shift downward.

Some people are invigorated by winter.  Not me.  I can appreciate a beautiful snow fall, and a clear crisp day, but after a week of serious cold, I’m ready for the return of summer.  The cold does more than prick my skin, it dampens my spirit – even in the kitchen.  A day of trudging around the city in the cold leaves me drained of the will to do almost anything.  While others may find themselves cooking more in winter, I have to invent plans and schemes that will make cooking faster and simpler so that I won’t abandon it completely.

The first part of my winter cooking strategy involves front loading the work: roasting then freezing an array of winter squash all at once, soaking and boiling enough beans to last a week or more, expanding recipes to cover at least two meals.  I do what I can to make it easy to walk in the door and assemble a dish from pre-cooked ingredients to be served cold or heated up quickly.

Part two of my winter cooking strategy is to keep as much color in my food as possible.  Eating a bowl of bright colors cheers and comforts me, so for this, the first Seasons’ Eatings recipe of 2012 I’ll be drawing inspiration from the bursts of color woven through the first recipe of 2011 – Brianna’s Pomegranate, Pear and Persimmon Salad.  Pomegranates and persimmons I have none, so I’ll find some wintry fruits and vegetables to fulfill my chromatic requirements.

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

We have several large year-round farmers markets now here in New York, and the array of vendors has been developing every year.  Vegetable sellers start to drop away right after Christmas, disappearing with them is most of the color that usually adorns the market stalls.  This is changing as more New York area farmers are growing crops in green houses during the winter, brightening the marketscape with flashes of cheerful green.  Right now you can still find fennel, broccoli, kohlrabi, spinach and kale nestled among the more rough and ready rutabagas, turnips and beets.

I headed to the Union Square Greenmarket looking for the colors and textures with which to build a vibrant winter chopped salad.  At the Norwich Meadows Farm stand I found some blushing chioggia beets – known for their striped interiors – sure to satisfy my hunger for hue.  The second dash of color would come from bright and crisp cameo apples piled up at Samascott Orchards.  At Rogowski farm I found fennel, shallots, and sage; Migliorelli Farm offered robust kohlrabi with striking purple skin.

Last but not least are two relatively recent arrivals to the winter markets of New York City – Cayuga Pure Organics’ dried yellow eye beans.  I was excited to see local dried beans, last year there were a few varieties available and they sold out fast.  The offerings are wider this year, a trend I hope will continue.  Dried beans are a great way to eat local in winter, I highly recommend seeking them out in your area if possible.  The other new arrival is Finnish Ruis bread – a hearty and chewy nordic bread made with whole grain rye.  If you live in New York you are doing yourself a disservice by not running out and getting some right away.  It’s my new favorite foundation for spreads, cheeses, salads – everything.  I’m excited to be sharing it with you here!

Winter Chopped Salad with Beans, Beets and Apples

Prep Time: 40 minutes active prep, plus 24 hours to soak beans

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Yield: 8 servings


For the Salad

  • 1 cup dried yellow eye beans, soaked & boiled (substitute with beans of your choice).
  • 1 apple
  • 2 medium roasted chioggia beets
  • 1 fennel bulb with fronds
  • 1 kohlrabi

For the Dressing

  • 1 Tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 5 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon beans
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. The day before: rinse the beans removing any that are discolored, also look out for rocks and other debris that might have snuck in there!  Place the dried beans in a bowl with plenty of water to cover.  Soak overnight.
  2. Place the beans and the soaking water in a pot, add more water to cover by at least 3 inches.  Boil for 1 hour.  Different kinds of beans require different treatment – some need more soaking, some less, some need two hours of cooking, some only one.  I found that these beans were perfectly done after 1 hour.  I recommend doing  a little research on the type of bean you are using and then testing them every 30 minutes to check for done-ness.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Place the beets in a baking dish with about an inch of water.  For optimal roasting results the beets should have about an inch of the stem still attached and intact skin.  Don’t pierce them!  Cover the pan with tin foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour (until tender when pierced with a knife).
  4. While the beans are boiling and the beets are roasting, peel and dice the kohlrabi then boil or steam for 20 minutes.  When done, drain and set aside to cool.
  5. Dice up the fennel bulb and the apple (I left the skin on for taste & color).  I tried to cut all the pieces to be roughly similar in size.  You can use the fennel stalk in the salad or reserve it for use in a soup or other dish.  Remove the fennel fronds and chop until fairly fine.
  6. When the beans are done, drain any remaining water and set them aside to cool (there should be roughly 2 cups).
  7. When the beets are done roasting, remove them from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before peeling and dicing.
  8. For the Dressing: place all the ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until combined.  I used 1 Tablespoon of the beans to give some creaminess.
  9. So now we’ve got beans, bets, apple, fennel and kohlrabi all chopped and ready to go.  Place in a bowl with the chopped fennel fronds, pour on the dressing and mix well.
  10. Serve with your favorite hearty bread – I used Nordic Breads small round of delicious rye Ruis Bread.

This makes a big salad – enough for two people two eat for lunch or dinner several days in a row.  I doubled down on volume by cooking twice as many beans and beets as I needed.  I froze the extra beans and used the surplus beets for a big pot of Holiday Borscht.  If you don’t like fennel you can use celery in its place.  Other substitutions that could be tasty: pears, chickpeas, edamame, rutabaga, even cubed roasted squash – whatever kindles a smile in your tummy!

This recipe is also part of a’s first virtual potluck, we are excited to be part of the gojee community, be sure to stop by and check out the site! Starting on Thursday, January 26, check out other potluck dishes fellow gojee contributors shared. Go to and enter “gojeepotluck” into I Crave.  You can also follow #gojeepotluck on Twitter.

Winter-Chopped-Salad-on-Ruis-BreadSarah A. Maine is a Co-Founder & Editor of RecipeRelay, she can’t wait for the 2012 Seasons’ Eatings relay to get underway & help banish the winter blues!

  • Stephanie Tickner

    That looks so pretty-you are right about the colors. I’ve never tried fennel or kohlrabi. I should add them to my list of new foods. The bread looks amazing! I love dense hearty breads.

    • Sarah

      Kohlrabi tastes a lot like broccoli – and is used basically the same way when cooking.  Fennel has a slight anise/liquorishy taste.  Some people find it overwhelming but I find that in a salad it adds a really nice dimension of flavor.  It is also absolutely delicious when grilled!

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