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Eating like it’s summer in the winter

There’s nothing like biting into a crisp, freshly picked sugar snap pea while basking in the summer sun. Or having a sweet tomato collapse and fall victim to your teeth as they sink into its tender red flesh.

Commonly in the winter we find ourselves a slave to the stove, constantly roasting, braising, steaming or sautéing. I am guilty of this, as I find an immense amount of pleasure from the sweet and caramel tastes that emerge from roasted vegetables. With those rich, roasted flavors a heavy coat of oil, butter and sometimes cream (vegetables braised in cream are out of this world) comes with it. And while that is fine and mighty delicious, night after night of those hefty side dishes will have you wearing a bulky winter coat – and I’m not talking about the kind you button up.

I became awakened to the joys of eating raw vegetables in the winter while working as a pastry chef for a catering company. The chef created a salad of finely shredded raw fennel, leeks, celeriac (celery root) and apples, simply dressed in olive oil, a splash of vinegar, and salt. I found myself nibbling at that salad when I should have been working on my desserts. I clung to the fresh flavors and simplicity as if it were a friend I hadn’t seen in months. The subtle sweetness of the vegetables and soft flavors of bitter, heat and licorice danced in my head. I was transformed in my winter eating.

While the health benefits are only an added bonus to the delicious tastes of these salads, they are still worth noting, especially since many of us have recently resolved to take better care of our bodies. “Raw vegetables are extremely rich in minerals, vitamins, trace elements, enzymes and natural sugars. All of these are things that your body needs to function properly and the raw veggies will help stabilize and normalize your natural bodily functions. They actually help pretty much ALL of your natural bodily functions operate.” (

I’ll never give up my roasted carrots that taste of candy or my cream braised brussel sprouts that leave all cruciferous detesters eating their words and their vegetables. But what I will do, is enjoy the freshness of raw vegetables all year long seeking out different tastes and new ingredients.

by Ashley Rodriquez
Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at

Winter White Salad
Serves 4 as a side salad

Celeriac, also know as celery root, is the unsung hero of this dish. The flavor is similar to that of celery but with more spice and none of the obnoxious strings. It crunches like a carrot and yields an aromatic fragrance that will leave you wondering why you’ve never taken note of it before. You’ll have to get beyond the warty and hard to peel exterior but once you do you will be rewarded with a unique flavor and a crisp crunch that we so long for in the cold Winter months ahead.

1 apple – I used a tart Pink Lady and loved the flavor it added.
1 Fennel bulb
about 1/4 of Celeriac, peeled
1 small Leek

Using a Mandolin with the matchstick blade carefully slice the apple, fennel and Celeriac. Each item should yield about 1 1/2 – 2 cups once cut. You can play with the quantity of each depending on your flavor preference. Keep all the sliced produce in a bowl of cold water with a touch of lemon juice to keep them from browning. When ready to dress the salad make sure you completely drain the matchsticks. Thinly slice just the white part of the leek. Separate the rings. Make the dressing.

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