It’s so easy to get into a salad rut – lettuce, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, bottled dressing. A salad like that is just fine, but not every day. It becomes a chore. At least it has in my house. I’m a cook and even I’m guilty of making the same salad a hundred times.
I bought a great salad cookbook for a Hanukkah gift, Catherine Walther’s Raising the Salad Bar. It turned out to be one of those gifts you just have to have for yourself–I promptly bought a second copy to keep. Walther’s goal is to get you out of the salad rut and into using far more varied ingredients like fruits, cheeses, grains, beans, and quick homemade dressings from various vinegars.
This salad comes almost straight from Walther’s pages; I’ve only made a few quantity adjustments and I didn’t have any arugula, so I picked bright green leaves from a spring mix and added black pepper to make up for the lack of arugula’s spiciness. I’m keeping arugula in the recipe, though, as it would have been even better.
If you’ve never opened a pomegranate, there is a great picture guide here. It seems like a lot of steps but it’s very quick. The ruby seeds, glistening like jewels on your plate, will be worth it. Pomegranates are expensive (mine was $2.99 at Whole Foods) but you only need one for several servings of salad.
When slicing apples, there’s no need for an apple corer. Simply cut a very thin slice from the top and bottom of the apple. With the apple upright on its newly flat bottom, cut the cheeks from the apple in four sections, leaving the core with squared edges, as pictured below. The sections can then be laid flat on the board and easily sliced as thinly as needed.
A little salad trick: Serve beautiful salads on a plate, not in a bowl. The ingredients will spread out, be more visible, and be much more attractive. In this salad, the pomegranate seeds would become invisible in a giant salad bowl. Salads are also easier to eat this way because the heavier bits don’t sink to the bottom and you can easily load each forkful with a variety of flavors.
A unique salad can really set the tone for the rest of the meal, even if you’re just having another rotisserie chicken or spaghetti dinner. This is especially true if you’re having guests over. If you start with a unique, gorgeous salad and a glass of wine, everyone is already happy and the pressure is off.
Apple, Pomegranate, and Arugula Salad with Apple Cider-Honey Vinaigrette
Crispy apples and tart pomegranate seeds add serious crunch and flavor to peppery arugula. Tossed with a simple tart vinaigrette made from apple cider vinegar, honey, and olive oil. A final sprinkling of toasted almonds and goat cheese round out the flavors.
adapted from Catherine Walther’s Raising the Salad Bar, 2007
1 apple (I used a Fuji), thinly sliced
6 to 7 cups arugula, washed and dried, large stems removed
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
goat cheese, crumbled
for the vinaigrette:
2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 ½ tsp. honey
6 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, optional
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients until emulsified. The mixture will turn from clear to cloudy. Adjust salt and pepper.
Seed the pomegranate. (Instructions here.)
Slice the apple. Toss the slices with a little of the dressing to keep them from discoloring.
Just before serving, toss the apples and arugula with just enough dressing to coat the leaves. Divide among four plates. Sprinkle each plate with pomegranate seeds, almonds, and crumbled goat cheese. Use the tip of your whisk to lightly drizzle with a little extra dressing if needed. Serve immediately.