I’ve been in a vegetable rut lately.  I don’t make many green salads in winter (the lettuces we pick from our local farm in summer are so good, I’d rather wait).  I’m weary of sweet potatoes and braised greens.  Roasted and mashed vegetables are convenient and kid-friendly, but it’s March (and, for the record, still snowing) and it’s high time we ate something that goes crunch.

I came across this recipe while planning my Eastern Mediterranean-themed birthday dinner and knew right away it was just what I wanted.  Sweet and tangy, fresh yet hearty, it’s everything a winter salad should be.

Greek salad with winter vegetables, apple, and feta

Adapted from Spice by Ana Sortun

Yield:  Serves 8.

1 buttercup squash, halved and seeded, each half cut into 4 wedges

About 1/3 c. olive oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 head cauliflower, broken into small florets

Pinch of baking soda

8 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (cut into eighths if very large)

1 bulb fennel, trimmed, quartered, cored, and diced into 1/2″ pieces

1 or 2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced into 1/2″ pieces

1/2 red onion, peeled and finely chopped

3 T. fresh lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

2 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled

Handful kalamata olives and 3/4 lb. best-quality feta cheese, sliced or crumbled,  for serving

Brush squash wedges with 2 tbsp. olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake on a sheet pan for 30 minutes or until just tender.  Set aside to cool.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Drop in cauliflower florets and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice water to chill.  Remove from water, drain well, and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add a pinch of baking soda to the boiling water and drop in Brussels sprouts (the baking soda helps the sprouts retain their bright green color — don’t add more than a pinch, though, or they’ll get mushy).  Cook until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer sprouts to the bowl of ice water and chill.  Drain well and add to cauliflower in mixing bowl.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, trim off skins and cut into 1/2″ pieces.  Add to mixing bowl.  Then add fennel and apple, and stir gently to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and oregano.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir onion into vinaigrette and let sit 5 minutes or so to slightly pickle the onion before dressing salad.

Toss the vegetables with the vinaigrette, adjust seasoning as needed, and serve garnished with cheese and olives.

This salad keeps well in the fridge, but is best served at room temperature.  I’ve been eating it all week for lunch with pita and hummus.

Notes: Buttercup squash (kabocha is one readily available variety) is dense, a bit starchy (like a potato), and incredibly sweet.  It holds its shape beautifully in a  salad.  If you can’t find it, you can substitute butternut, but be careful not to overcook it or it will fall apart when dressed and tossed.

A great feta really shines in this salad.  Intense but still smooth, barrel-aged feta is a true gem — if you can get it.  French feta is easier to find and very creamy.  Any kind that tastes good on its own will be good with the salad, just try to avoid the chalky, salty, pre-crumbled stuff.

The original recipe called for halving the Brussels sprouts, boiling them, then separating the individual leaves.  I did it this way the first time I made the salad and do slightly prefer it, but it’s time consuming.  The quartered sprouts are (almost) just as good.