Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Red Pear, Grape, Pomegranate, Pecan Salad & Christmas Card

Merry Christmas from the MacGray Family! Nice little "Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" action going on over here.

I have said it before and I'll say it again. I like salads with character. Salads with lots of flavors and textures and great dressing and this one fits the bill! So, I give you a salad with a ridiculously long name that can actually live up to it. This is festive salad. It's holiday celebration salad what with all the pecans, blue cheese and grapes, pears and pomegranate seeds. I'm a sucker for stuff with pomegranate seeds.

I served this with honey baked ham, rolls and roasted potatoes with herbs for our White Elephant Christmas party this past weekend. I didn't have to do anything with the ham or rolls but set them out, so I decided I had to put some effort into the side dishes, not that it was much. You do have to make the dressing, but it's easy and takes 5 minutes of your time and can be done way in advance. Then there is the prep. The prep is a tad extensive (seeding pomegranates is not exactly my idea of a good time) But my secret is to fill a medium sized bowl with water and to rip apart and seed the pomegranate directly in the water, picking out large pieces of pith as you go. That way you don't get red juice splattering all over your kitchen and clothes and run away seeds on your floor. Just strain the seeds into a fine mesh strainer or colander and you are ready to rock.

As for the rest of the prep, I like to cut the pears first (about 1-2 hours before I will serve the salad) and toss them in the bottom of the serving bowl with a tiny bit of the dressing so they will not brown. Then I cut the rest of the ingredients (grapes, onion, cheese crumbles, pecans and pomegranates) and add them in with the pears. I pile the lettuce loosely over the top and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. When it's time, just toss the salad together with the dressing (you probably will not use all the dressing. See note below) and add the orange zest and ta da!

Red Pear, Grape, Pomegranate, Pecan Salad
Adapted from Country Living, October 2009

makes 8-10 servings

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 pound red leaf lettuce
1/2 pound butter lettuce
1 pomegranate, seeded
30 large, dark seedless grapes, halved
1 medium red onion, sliced in thin strips
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 ripe red pears, cored and sliced thinly
1 cup toasted pecans
Zest of 2 oranges

Combine vinegar, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved, about 4-5 minutes and set aside to cool. Whisk the oil into the vinegar mixture until well blended, or pulse together a few times in a magic bullet or small blender until emulsified. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Tear lettuces into 1-inch pieces and wash and drain in a salad spinner. Put lettuce in a big salad bowl and add pomegranate seeds, grape halves, onion slices, blue cheese, pecans and pears. Drizzle vinaigrette on top an toss together. Sprinkle top with orange zest. Serve.

Simplify entertaining by making the salad in advance, keeping in the fridge and dressing just before serving. One thing to note is that this salad dressing is relatively thin. It's supposed to be that way. It sort of absorbs into everything in the bowl.

NOTE: This recipe makes a lot of dressing, but it is hard to half so I left it as is. I doubled the recipe for the salad and kept the dressing amounts the same for my party and still didn't use it all.