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OK, it is definitely not salad season. But don't we all need a little green and crunch right now?

Happily, local growers such as Owatonna's Revol Greens are producing a wide variety of lettuces that come washed and ready to go. As a base for heartier ingredients, these inspire composed salads, my back-pocket lunch and dinner. Easily reinvented, they are perfect anytime, for just me or many. Give me the bright and snappy dark arugula, and spring feels not so very far away.

Composed salads are not tossed together; rather, the components are artfully arranged. The idea is to balance creamy foods such as avocado, boiled potatoes, roasted root vegetables or cooked dry beans with something crunchy, such as toasted nuts, seeds, crusty croutons or roasted chickpeas. To make a substantial salad, include a protein or two — strips of cooked chicken, turkey, ham, sliced hard-cooked eggs, cubed tofu, and/or cheeses, along with a cooked grain — brown rice, farro, quinoa, etc. Garnish with capers or olives for color and tang. Not chopped, but cut into bite-sized pieces, the different components should be easy to identify. To finish things off, drizzle a dressing over the salad; better yet, offer one or two options alongside.

A good dressing balances fat — olive, sesame or hazelnut oil, or bacon or duck fat — with an acid, such as citrus juice or vinegar. Whisk in a dollop of mustard, miso, tahini or yogurt to emulsify and enrich the dressing. Because they store nicely in the refrigerator, make a few dressings ahead to have on hand. They're great for basting meats as they roast and make terrific dips, too.

When creating a composed salad — and dressings — mix, match and make it your own.

Composed Winter Salad

Serves 4.

A balance of peppery greens, sweet red peppers, creamy avocado and roasted chicken (from last night's rotisserie), this simple salad gets pops of spice and crunch from roasted chickpeas. Serve it with two complementary dressings — one dense and creamy, the other light and tart — and let diners choose one or try both. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 1/2 c. cooked or canned chickpeas, drained and patted dry

• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• Coarse salt

• Fresh ground pepper

• Generous pinch of ground cumin

• 12 to 14 oz. lettuces (arugula, Bibb lettuce, etc.)

• 12 oz. roast chicken, cut into strips

• 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips

• 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into strips

• Creamy Tahini Dressing, optional (see recipe)

• Classic Vinaigrette, optional (see recipe)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the chickpeas with the oil and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast the chickpeas until golden and slightly dry and crispy on the outside and tender in the middle, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and toss with the cumin while still warm. Set aside.

Arrange the lettuces on a large deep platter or wide bowl and arrange the chicken, pepper and avocado slices on top of the lettuce. Scatter the toasted chickpeas over the salad. Serve with the dressings passed alongside.

Creamy Tahini Dressing

Makes about 3/4 cup.

Pass alongside the salad, serve as a dip for vegetables or slather it on a pita and top with roasted vegetables. From Beth Dooley.

• 2 tbsp. tahini

• 2 tbsp. lemon juice

• 1 clove garlic, smashed

• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1/2 c. plain yogurt


Put all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Classic Vinaigrette

Makes about 1/2 cup.

Bright and tart, this simple vinaigrette is terrific paired with the Tahini Dressing. Choose one or serve them both and let the diners decide. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

• 1 clove garlic, smashed

• 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Put all of the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. Store in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at