In my family, Christmastime means Swedish food. Our gatherings feature plenty of hearty and heavily spiced fare — like pickled herring, meatballs and plenty of butter — but until recently, not much in the way of vegetables or other healthy fare as counterbalance.
So in the past few years, I’ve made it my mission to seek out side dishes (like this braised red cabbage) that have the effect of lightening the gastronomic load of our annual Christmas smorgasbord calorie bomb.
Swedish cuisine isn’t known for its fruits, salads or vegetables, though my ancestral peeps definitely eat them. Largely because the growing season is so short and winter lasts so long, fruit and vegetables were historically pickled (I recently sampled pickled parsnips at a fantastic Swedish restaurant in Minneapolis) or preserved (like the ever-popular lingonberry jam). Root vegetables are particularly popular and feature in the two recipes below.
I’ve made each of these salads for holiday potlucks at work, where I knew there would be plenty of starchy and fatty foods, and they provided bright counterpoints. You can eat them right away, but I found that both dishes benefitted from marinating overnight in the citrus.
Carrot and Swedish turnip salad
I took liberties with the original recipe to accommodate for quantity, and because this is the kind of salad we like to keep around for lunches all week at home. Plus it’s probably easier to use the entire rutabaga all at once.
1 18-ounce bag of carrots, peeled and grated
1 rutabaga, peeled and grated
1 leek, rinsed and finely chopped (white part only)
Juice of 2 lemons or 1 orange
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
Peel the carrots and rutabaga and grate using a food processor. Slice leeks and combine with carrots and rutabaga in a large bowl, tossing well to combine.
Juice the lemons or orange, or a combination thereof, add sugar and stir to combine. Pour over the vegetables and mix.
Finnish turnip and apple salad
This one comes from the excellent Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. Serves four.
1 cup turnips, peeled and grated
1 cup tart green apples, peeled and grated
½ cup parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel the apples and turnips and grate them using a food processor. Chop parsley, and place everything in a bowl.
Whisk together lemon juice and oil and pour over salad, tossing to combine. Season with salt and pepper as needed and serve.