It takes less virtue than you might think to enjoy a salad in chilly weather. The fact is, winter produce can be quite fresh and delicious. What's available and in season now tends to be substantial and flavorful -- root vegetables, winter squash, and dark, leafy greens. All of these are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. "Choosing a variety of vegetables and fruits can help you stay healthy during the winter cold and flu season," says Jennifer Smart, a dietitian with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Information Center. "It is also important in reducing long-term risk of diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers."
The salads on these pages blend flavors and textures in surprising ways. A tossed combination of watercress and grapefruit, for example, with fresh sage and olives, makes an elegant first course that boasts a generous amount of beta-carotene and vitamin C. Others are a meal on their own: Try a composed salad of healthful roasted vegetables and garlic, or a warm salad with lean roast chicken and vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes, for lunch or dinner -- both are substantial. Are they satisfying because they taste so good or because they're so good for you? It's a toss-up.