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Colors, spices move salads into fall

I already miss the vine-ripened tomato and basil salads of the warmer months. Turning out fall salads proves more challenging, but not at all impossible.

Think fall colors. Reds from radicchio and red grapes. Greens from spinach and peppery arugula. Golds from corn and sautéed onions. Fry those last of the garden tomatoes that never ripened. This is the time of the year for adding spice, such as Sriracha and crushed red pepper flakes, to salads. Break out the bacon fat for sautéing elements of the salad or roasting vegetables.

I keep an arsenal of salad goodies on hand to lure me into the kitchen: great croutons, nuts and seeds, homemade dressings and bags of prepped greens.

Adding a warm element to a salad suits the season. Think roasted shreds of chicken, turkey and pork. When roasting potatoes or vegetables, I cook extra just to tuck away for a salad; they’ll reheat nicely in the microwave.

The roasted onion vinaigrette recipe makes everyone a successful salad-maker. I keep a jar of bacon fat, rendered from our Sunday morning treat, to toss with sliced onions before roasting. The onions are used to flavor the dressing and can be added to salads for an amazing topping.


Makes: 4 servings

3 to 4 medium-size green tomatoes, 12 ounces total

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune
If green tomatoes are unavailable, you can use firm, unripe red tomatoes or large tomatillos in this salad. For a less spicy salad, substitute bottled Caesar or sun-dried tomato dressing for the Sriracha mayonnaise.

¼ cup cornmeal

Salt, freshly ground pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 to 2 tablespoons butter

4 cups baby arugula or mixed baby greens

1 cup halved yellow or red cherry tomatoes

¼ cup sliced fresh chives

½ cup cornbread croutons, see recipe

Sriracha mayonnaise, recipe follows

Slice green tomatoes into ½-inch thick slices. Crack egg into a small dish and beat with milk to blend. Put cornmeal and ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper into another small dish. Sprinkle the tomato slices with salt and pepper, then dip into the egg to coat on all sides. Then dip each slice into the cornmeal and turn to coat all sides with cornmeal. Set on a plate while the pan heats.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon each oil and butter. As soon as butter melts, and working in batches, add battered tomato slices in a single uncrowded layer. Cook, turning once with a spatula, until golden brown on both sides and tomatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate while you fry the remaining tomatoes, adding more oil and butter as needed.

Arrange arugula on a platter. Top with the warm fried tomatoes. Sprinkle with cherry tomatoes and chives. Sprinkle with croutons. Use a squeeze bottle or fork to drizzle Sriracha mayonnaise generously over everything. Serve.

CORNBREAD CROUTONS: Use cornbread from the bakery or a mix. Cut 4 thick cornbread squares, about 8 ounces total, into 1 inch pieces. You’ll have about 4 cups. Put cubes onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle cubes with coarse salt, dried oregano and black pepper. Bake in 425 degree oven until crusty brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool. Store in foil.

SRIRACHA MAYONNAISE: Mix ¼ cup mayonnaise and 2 to 3 tablespoons Sriracha in a small dish. Refrigerate covered.

PER SERVING: 336 calories, 22 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 84 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 10 g sugar, 7 g protein, 861 mg sodium, 3 g fiber


Makes: 8 servings

1 cup red quinoa, well-rinsed


Half of a 32-ounce package frozen riced cauliflower, about 4 cups, thawed

5 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ to ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Serve quinoa and cauliflower salad topped with shredded roast chicken or toasted chopped nuts for extra protein. Substitute fresh cauliflower florets for frozen riced cauliflower if desired.

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

½ cup chopped pitted dates or dried apricots

1/3 cup currants or chopped dark raisins

Juice and finely grated zest from 1 large lemon

1 small bunch green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced (green part, too)

½ head radicchio, cored, very thinly sliced, about 2 cups

2 cups halved red seedless grapes

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Put quinoa and 2 cups water into a large saucepan. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and heat to boil. Cover pan and simmer over low heat until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in cauliflower and let steam, 10 minutes. Drain well in a colander.

Meanwhile, mix vinegar, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper and pepper flakes in the bottom of a large bowl. Add quinoa-cauliflower mixture, dates, currants, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix well. Let stand about 10 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in onions, radicchio, grapes and cilantro. Taste for salt, Serve.

PER SERVING: 225 calories, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 36 g carbohydrates, 16 g sugar, 5 g protein, 365 mg sodium, 5 g fiber


Makes: about 1½ cups

2 large sweet onions, 1 pound total, halved, thinly sliced, about 4 cups

1 to 2 tablespoons bacon fat, melted, or vegetable oil


2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spread onions on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Toss with bacon fat or vegetable oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast in oven, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 25 minutes. Cool.

Put olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper into a blender. Blend smooth. Add half of the onions (about ½ cup); process until finely chopped. Refrigerate covered. Use at room temperature.

PER TABLESPOON: 60 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 0 g protein, 98 mg sodium, 0 g fiber