This is a post about repeating themes (are you flashing back to High School English class yet?? What were you wearing??)
This salad is not unlike the Arugula, Orange and Fiery Pumpkin Seed Salad posted back in September. And the seeds are a bit similar to those found in the Rubbed Kale Salad from November. Sometimes, repetition is key.
The art of creating in the kitchen (or in layman's terms: cooking) often comes down to finding a formula that works, and altering the ingredients to generate something new and brilliant. Because of my love for all things salad, this post is meant to be a guide for creating a delicious and interesting salad, customized for any season or occasion, using a simple formula and a good dose of creativity.
And so here are the building blocks:
Fresh Greens: Baby Spinach, Mesclun, Leaf Lettuce, Shredded Cabbage, Torn Kale, Arugula, Dandelion, Frisee, etc.
Crispy vegetables: Thinly sliced cucumber, Cherry tomatoes, Grated beets and carrots, Snap peas, Scallions, Radishes, Blanched asparagus, Sprouted French Lentils or Alfalfa Seeds etc.
Sweet Element: Apple chunks, Roasted squash, Orange segments, Dried cranberries, Currants, Quartered figs, Pomegranate seeds etc.
Savory Booster: Spiced Nuts and Seeds, Blue Cheese crumbles, Spice-rubbed Goat Cheese, Slivered Manchego, Homemade Croutons, Smoky Shitake Slices, Herbed Tofu, Olives etc.
Complimentary Dressing: Herbed Dressings, Fruity Vinaigrettes, Vegan Creamy Ranch or Caesar etc.
Go forward and be bold! Want a salad to match an Asian meal? How about shaved Napa Cabbage, shredded Daikon Radish, Avocado Chunks, Ginger Toasted Sesame Seeds and a Miso Sesame Vinaigrette? Latin? Try Red Leaf Lettuce, Cherry Tomato Halves, Kalamata Olives, Goat Cheese, Fiery Pumpkin Seeds, and a Cilantro Lime Dressing. Indian? Baby Spinach, Roasted Eggplant Cubes, Chickpeas, Slivered Red Onion, Cashews and a Toasted Cumin Tahini Dressing sounds nice.
You get the idea. The possibilities are endless, but the pattern simple.
So here is this week's "Italian holiday" creation. To take it up a notch, I would throw in some roasted winter squash (I'm thinking delicata) and a few crumbles of the best blue cheese you can find (for those Vermonters out there, have you ever tried Boucher Blue?? NO? Please run, don't walk, to you nearest gourmet cheese supplier now. You can thank me later. Hunger Mountain Co-op is one such purveyor.) But this might push it into the category of a "meal in a salad", so it depends on how far you want to go. This time I served it with a Polenta Torta with eggplant, fire-roasted tomato sauce and tofu pesto ricotta, as well as garlicky Cannelini beans in a vegan cream sauce. I don't think the squash or cheese were missed.
Holiday Spinach and Pomegranate Salad
1/2 lb. baby spinach
1 pomegranate, deseeded
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 tbs. maple syrup
1 tbs. tamari
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
a dash cayenne
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 2 large lemons
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp mustard
1 tsp. white miso
1/2 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
2 tbs. fresh sage leaf
To remove the seeds of the pomegranate, cut in half and carefully use your fingers to release the seed pockets, picking out any pith that tried to hang on. Don't mind the blood splatter pattern on your cutting board, it will come out.
Heat a medium cast-iron pan to medium heat. Toss in the sunflower seeds and toast, stirring frequently for a few minutes until they begin to brown. Add maple syrup through cayenne and continue to cook for one minute. Remove from heat and cool.
To assemble, toss spinach and currants with dressing, using just enough to coat the leaves without over-dressing (you may have some leftover). Place in serving bowls, and top with pomegranate and spiced sunflower seeds.
Relax. Eat Well.