Winter Salad with Spiced Sesame Clusters

This winter salad recipe is light and playful, and incorporates elements tantalizing all five taste receptors.
By / Photography By Shea Evans | January 15, 2015

About this recipe

Taste, A Delicate Balance

Playing a leading role in flavor, the elements of taste seek a harmonious balance. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and, of course, the fifth and most recently recognized element: umami, sometimes thought of as savory in a “meaty” way (and delicious). It’s the subtle marriage of these tastes, as well as texture and aroma, that determines the success of a recipe’s flavor.

The following recipe, Winter Salad with Spiced Sesame Clusters, is light and playful and it incorporates these elements.

Starting with sour, a sour taste can typically be attributed to acidic foods. Apple cider vinegar brings the sour, but adding an element of sweet provides balance.

Then on to the spiced sesame clusters, which cover both salty and sweet—the perfect pair for these delicious and crunchy morsels. (P.S. They also check the texture box!)

And since we have such a pleasant balance of other tastes, bitter is invited too, in the form of chicory or, in this case, radicchio. Bitter is generally not meant to stand alone.

It’s of course, fitting that the umami portion of the recipe, feta cheese, is optional. After all, we’ve lived for years without acknowledging umami as a basic element of taste!

Finally, flavor is not complete without aroma. From the fennel and ginger vinaigrette to the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove–spiked sesame clusters, olfaction is
on high alert, in a good way. Try it for yourself!


Spiced Sesame Clusters:
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350°.

In a small bowl, whisk egg white until slightly foamy. whisk in sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. add sesame seeds and toss to coat.

Spoon sesame mixture in 1⁄2-inch clumps on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. when done, remove from oven and let the clusters cool completely.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. add chopped fennel, shallot, ginger and fennel seeds. Cook, stirring often, until tender but not brown, 8–10 minutes. mix in vinegar and honey, let cool. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Grate zest from 1 orange and set aside. using a sharp knife or peeler, remove all peel and white pith from all oranges and/ or grapefruit; discard. then cut between membranes to release segments into a medium bowl; discard membranes.

Toss greens, parsley, fennel fronds, winter citrus and dressing in a large salad bowl. Check and adjust seasoning. Serve salad topped with sesame clusters, feta (optional) and reserved orange zest.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit.


Spiced Sesame Clusters
  • 1 large egg white
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup white (untoasted) sesame seeds
  • 1⁄3 cup olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup fennel bulb, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 4 large oranges and/or grapefruit (substitute other winter citrus like tangerines or blood oranges)
  • 10 cups winter greens mixture: baby romaine, beet greens, arugula, radicchio
  • 1⁄2 cup fennel fronds, lightly chopped
  • 1⁄2 to 1 cup crumbled feta (optional)
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
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