Cooking for Compost: Autumn Salads

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Integrating fruits into your diet can be a challenge, especially during the fall and winter months when many of the farmers’ markets dry up. The good news is that there are many hearty fall fruits like apples, pears and grapes can serve as staples for your meal.

In the fourth installment of our Cooking for Compost series, we’ll take on the challenge of creating a healthy, low-waste salad. This fantastic autumn salad can be easily tweaked and combined with your meals throughout the day for a tasty, good-for-you burst of fruit.

Why Eat Waste-Free?

We all know why it’s good for us to eat fruits and vegetables, but what’s so important about low-waste cooking? Did you know that U.S. households toss out about 150 tons of food daily? The items most likely to be discarded are fruits and veggies, which can easily be composted.

First, of course, do your best to avoid food waste. All it takes is some planning, organization, and storage techniques. But even with the most careful shopping plans and creative recipes, you’ll still have trimmings, stems, and seeds that you can’t eat. That’s where compost comes in!

But I Don’t Have a Compost Pile

If you have a yard, you can easily start your own compost. There are even ways to compost if you live in an apartment or don’t have much room to compost. If you’re lucky enough to live in a community with curbside compost pickup, just follow the rules for what they accept in the bin.

But if you don’t have that option, or simply don’t want to start your own compost, you can easily store your scraps before taking them to a local compost. Try a small compost pail with a carbon filter for the smell. If you think it will be a while before you can get your scraps to someone who can compost them, just store them in the freezer in a closed container until you’re ready.

Recipe: Multi-Functional Autumn Salad

First, we’ll start with the basics ingredients needed to create your salad. Be sure to store the salad in reusable container with a good seal because you’ll likely want to add the salad to different meals for the next couple of days.

Your Shopping List

  • 2 apples
  • 1 pear
  • 1/2 cup grapes
  • 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 lemon

Scraps, peels, and seeds from your apples, grapes, pear, and lemon can be composted.

How To Make It

The great thing about salads is their simplicity. Simply toss together your ingredients, and viola! you’ve created a dish worthy of any restaurant.

  1. Cut apples and pear into bite-sized pieces. Squeeze lemon juice over fruit to stop from browning.
  2. Slice grapes in half.
  3. Mix all ingredients and place into a large, resealable container.

Ways To Eat It

  • Breakfast: Start the first meal of the day off right. Add your fall salad to granola or oatmeal.
  • Snack: Add a few spoonfuls of your salad to yogurt for a fruit- and protein-packed pick-me-up.
  • Dinner: Take bland greens and spice them up to create our take on the classic Waldorf salad. Add your fall salad to red leaf or butterhead lettuce — top with gorgonzola cheese, olive oil, vinegar, and a dash of salt and pepper — now you’ve got a salad that can stand on its own.
  • Sweet treat: Instead of munching on packaged treats, veg out (or is that fruit out?) with your fall salad topped with cinnamon and a dash of sugar.

Recipe: Roasted Pear and Arugula Salad

Pears provide a hint of sweet to your autumn salad. For this recipe, we used the peppery arugula to balance out the sweetness of the pears and the raspberry vinaigrette. Throw in some blue cheese crumbles for an even richer flavor.

Your Shopping List

  • 5 ounces of organic baby arugula salad
  • 2 soft pears (Bartlett or Bosc pears work best)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese (optional)

How To Make It

The Salad

  1. Slice pear lengthwise into quarters, depending on the width of your pear. Slices should be no thicker than 1 inch.
  2. Melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a skillet. Place pears on skillet for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they’re golden brown.
  3. Remove pears and let cool for 5 minutes. In the meantime, mix together arugula, pecans, and dressing (see recipe below).
  4. Add warm pears to the salad. Top with blue cheese.

The Dressing

The sweetness of the pears allow for this salad to easily stand alone without a dressing. But if a dressing is desired, a raspberry vinaigrette pairs nicely with the ingredients. Pre-made vinaigrettes are easy to find at the grocer, but we say homemade is always better. Try this classic Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing recipe from allrecipes.com.

More Fun Autumn Salads

  • Spicy Squash Salad With Lentils and Goat Cheese
    This spicy squash salad recipe from Smitten Kitchen combines sweet and spice with a kick of grain for an interesting twist on a classic autumn vegetable.
  • Sautéed Pear Salad
    Featured on Delish, this Good Housekeeping recipe calls for pears, but apples can be used in their place.
  • Heirloom Pumpkin with Blue Cheese Crostata
    You just simply can’t go wrong if the title of your dish includes “heirloom.” These savory (and cherished) vegetables add a special flavor to any recipe. This recipe from Chef John Sundstom of Lark Restaurant in Seattle features the fall classic blue-cheese-and-pumpkin combo.

Editor’s note: Originally published on November 8, 2010, this article was updated in October 2019.

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