This festive salad is a light, bright addition to any holiday table with juicy pears, crunchy pomegranate seeds, and fresh greens all dressed up in a sweet and tangy poppyseed dressing. Plus, some simple instructions for how to seed a pomegranate. (Skip to recipe.)
Wow, it’s the beginning of December already!
I’m not sure how that happened, but everywhere I look, red and green are the colours of the season. Christmas trees are stacked in the tree lots, red bows trim lamp posts, and piles of pomegranates shine in grocery store bins. Mandarin oranges and bright red pomegranates are the two fruits that signal the holiday season more than any other produce.
Pomegranates are like early little Christmas presents themselves – shiny round red balls, that when broken open, reveal the gleaming treasure of hundreds of glowing ruby jewels bursting with flavour. This salad showcases their gleaming beauty and sweet-tart crunch. It is worthy of a place on a holiday table alongside other festive foods. The pretty red and green speak for themselves.
The first time I ever tasted a pomegranate, I was 10 years old. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was in grade five in a small country school in a tiny little village in southern Alberta, with only 12 students in my whole grade – 9 girls and 3 boys. The school was on the outskirts of the little hamlet, and the distance to country store at the center of the bustling metropolis was all of 2 blocks. We sometimes walked there on our lunch recess. Sweets were worth pennies and nickels. For a quarter we could procure quite a stash of candy.
But, every now and then the storekeeper would bring in a few exotic red fruits. He labelled them pomegranates and sold them for a whole quarter each! A classmate, who was much more worldly than the rest of us, knew what they were and used up her share of candy money to buy one of these strange new fruits. She broke it open and shared it with us behind the carragana bushes lining the edge of the playground. As we bit onto the crunchy little seeds that squirted their tangy juice onto our tongues, we all fell in love. Every time the store keeper brought in another batch of pomegranates, word would spread, and we would pool our money to rush to the store and buy a precious sweet pomegranate to share out behind the hedge.
I think I still love them almost as much. My kids do, too.
There are lots of different opinions on how to get the little red jewels out of the pomegranate treasure ball. I have tried them all – taking the whole fruit apart under water in a large bowl or cutting the fruit in half crosswise and holding it cut-side-down over a bowl, then beating the heck out of it with a wooden spoon. I still like the simple way of prying the seeds out with my fingers. Much less messy and just as quick, really, with a few tricks to make it easier.
First and foremost – wear an apron! Mandatory if you want to save your favourite t-shirt from a case of the pomegranate freckles.
Secondly – crank up the music and enjoy the process. It’s totally rewarding to see the pile of glowing seeds grow.
Thirdly – crunch a few seeds as you work. Self-evident.
To de-seed a pomegranate: Cut a shallow cone out of the top of the pomegranate and a flat slice off the bottom of the pomegranate. Score the peel from top to bottom in quarters.
Gently hold the fruit in both hands, putting both thumbs into the indent, and pull apart. It should easily break into half, then each half easily breaks into quarters.
Over a bowl, gently pry the seeds (called arils) loose by pushing at them with your thumbs and kind of rolling them out. A gentle hand produces a minimum of squirting juice and bruised arils. Discard the bitter white membranes between the sections. Collect the seeds in a bowl, picking them over to remove any last bits of membrane and ta-da!
A bowl of edible rubies.
Kitchen Frau Notes: The dressing for this salad contains pomegranate molasses – a thick, dark, sweet-sour concentrated form of pomegranate syrup. It is used in Persian and Turkish cooking, but can often be found now in import stores and supermarkets. If you can’t find it, substitute in an extra ½ tablespoon vinegar and ½ tablespoon honey. The dressing won’t have the same tang, but will still be very tasty. (I know, I know. I’m a hypocrite. After pronouncing that we don’t like sweet salad dressings, here I go giving you one. But this salad is worth making an exception for. The fruit begs for a touch of sweetness to offset its tang. If you can find red pears, they do look pretty. Any kind of small-leaved greens will do, but I like the combination of half spinach / half mixed baby greens. Straight spinach works, and so does some torn romaine, or half spinach / half romaine.
Mint adds a bright freshness, but if you can’t find any in the winter time, use parsley or omit it.
This recipe makes more dressing than you’ll need. Use about half for the salad, and save the rest in the fridge for another day. (Good on a mix of cut up fruit as a salad to a meal). If you’re serving a crowd, make the amount of dressing and double the salad ingredients.
*If you have light-coloured countertops and they get stained with pomegranate juice, sprinkle baking soda liberally on a wet cloth and scrub at the stains – with a little elbow grease they’ll disappear.
Poppyseed, Pomegranate and Pear Salad
Serves 4 as a first course and 6 as a side salad.
- 5 oz (142gms) washed salad greens (half baby spinach/half mixed baby greens). This is about 4 big handfuls, or 4 cups loosely packed.
- 1 ripe pear, red or bosc
- 2 green onions (scallions)
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves
- ½ cup (120mls) pomegranate seeds (arils)
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons/60ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) liquid honey
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) poppy seeds
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) salt
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) pepper
Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small jar or bowl until smooth. Set aside.
Cut the pear into eighths lengthwise, then half-inch slices. Thinly slice the green onions. Stack the mint leaves on top of each other, roll up, and slice thinly. In a large bowl, toss the salad greens, pears, green onions and mint.
Add half the dressing (start with a little less than half, then add more to taste). You want the leaves very lightly dressed. Toss gently til everything is coated. Reserve the remaining half of the dressing for another purpose.
Arrange on 4 individual salad plates, or in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds.
(If you mix the pomegranate seeds in with the salad ingredients, they tend to sink to the bottom of the bowl and their stunning effect is lost. So for maximum visual impact – add them last.)
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