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pomegranate-pear salad with cheese & walnuts

And how inspiration may oddly strike

When I take a “day off,” I love to pack up my camera and go exploring. Where I end up is often left to whim or chance, with little or no conscious attempt to lay out a plan ahead of time. Day before yesterday was such a day. Dressed for whatever weather may come, my camera bag loaded, car gassed up, I headed out. As it turns out though, all day long it was the grayest of days. No rain, no peeking sun, no moody fog. Just gray. Utterly flat, not a highlight or a shadow to be found anywhere. My camera never left its bag.

When I take a “day off” and am on my own to wander, my second favorite thing to do is amble through antique or second-hand stores. I’m never looking for “fine” things – nothing expensive and rare, but rather more common and sweet. A peace overtakes me as I comb the aisles. Most often, I buy nothing at all.  (OK, this is confession time, so get ready for it.) Every once in a while though, a nostalgia rises so strong that I’m nearly overcome by it. This is a bit embarrassing, but sometimes tears will swell – and even fall – and my heart does pirouettes. The day before yesterday was such a day.

My car had driven me to a little town that’s pretty much an antique itself, as quaint as can be without even trying very hard. I went into one of my favorite stores – upstairs, downstairs, room after room of other people’s lives laid bare for strangers (like me) to see, to finger, to turn over in our hands and examine; books inscribed with faded pen in loving words; tablecloths and bedspreads with histories and the stains to prove it; wooden telephones that hung on kitchen walls no longer standing; wicker doll carriages that little girls pushed beside their mothers’; toy rifles, cowboy hats and vests with fringe; large wide wooden bowls, like our Yaya’s, where yeasted dough would rise on the counter in a sunny spot. Uncommonly lovely remnants of people’s “ordinary” lives. Sometimes it just makes a person cry.

Upstairs, past an extraordinary, imposingly large dining table, set as if for a huge family for Sunday dinner, or maybe Thanksgiving with aunts and uncles and cousins, there stood a simple, painted open bookcase. On it, stacks of mismatched dishes. It was the color that first drew me, my eyes seemingly hungry for red. When I first saw it, mixed with pale cream as it was, I think I might even have let out a little gasp. I know I made some sound. And my heart did that thing I told you about. And my eyes welled up. And I was a goner. I believed or pretended  that I had a decision to make. But really…it was already written.  There wasn’t a chance I was leaving the store without a couple of these loveliest (to me) strawberry plates.

~ ~ ~

I think perhaps Amit had planted a pomegranate seed in my mind a few days ago.  I couldn’t quite shake it.

And when I saw these sweet little dishes, I knew, they were destined for a salad such as this.

~ ~ ~

For most salads I won’t specify amounts. What I like in this salad is a mix of greens – the delicate appearance of the watercress, with its arching stems and little leaves, and the pale prettiness of the endive, and the soft big cupping leaf of the Bibb lettuce, all make for a beautiful contrast. But baby Romaine leaves or a mixed spring blend would also work. Be your own guide as to the amounts of each you like. This would be a lovely salad on a Thanksgiving or Christmas table – or anytime while pomegranates and pears are still in season.

Pomegranate-Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

  • 1 pomegranate
  • Bibb or Boston lettuce, washed, dried & torn
  • Endives, washed, dried and sliced lengthwise
  • Watercress, washed, dried and thicker stems removed
  • 1 Red Pear (or apple if you prefer), thinly sliced
  • Cheese – blue or Gorgonzola (or perhaps goat cheese if you’d rather)
  • Walnuts – toasted long enough to have a toasted-walnut taste (at 325°F for 10 or 15 minutes – watch carefully & taste)

the dressing:

a simple balsamic vinaigrette, proportions of 3 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic, with salt and pepper to taste. (You might remember I was given a gift of  pomegranate balsamic and naturally I couldn’t resist using it here! Another perhaps equally good option – a pear balsamic. But any balsamic will do!)

another option for a dressing: a raspberry vinaigrette – 2 parts olive oil to 1 part raspberry vinegar, zest of orange, a touch of maple syrup, finely diced red onion, and salt to taste.

If you wanted to make this salad into a main course for a light supper- simply add strips of poached or roasted chicken, and a side of warm, crunchy bread.

A note on opening pomegranates and removing their sweet/tart juicy little seeds. It’s messy business. I have a shirt, with worn cuffs, that my dad used to paint in. It’s my go-to pomegranate shirt. If you remove from the top and bottom a piece the size of a quarter, and then score the pomegranate, just going through the skin, from top to bottom into fourths, you can then pull it apart into four pieces and more easily remove the seeds and separate out the pith. I do this at the bottom of a deep sink and still manage to get little sprays from time to time. That’s part of the fun. It’s not quite predictable and will never be completely tamed.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. This looks lovely, you are a fantastic photographer.

    November 11, 2011
  2. I love the journey contained in this post — through antique store treasures to the savoring of color and flavor. The places of intersection here are beautiful. And I love that shirt. Thank you for sharing again and again the gift of your “travels.” What beautiful work you do.

    November 11, 2011
    • Ashley, thank you for your words! You’re such an appreciative encourager!

      November 11, 2011
  3. beautiful photos, and I love putting fruit and nuts in a salad, it’s oh-so-tasty!

    November 11, 2011
  4. deb #

    I learned a little more about you, which I loved. The shirt is priceless! I have some of my Dad’s and never thought of wearing one in the kitchen. I just came home with a pomegranate, and had I thought about it, would have guessed you’d have a recipe using one! The salad I must try.

    November 11, 2011
  5. Ali #

    You knew, before you even posted this, that this salad and these plates were for ME!! The photos and your story are beautiful… so YOU! As for the salad, I have made one very similar and loved it! May I bring this one for Thanksgiving this year?! Love knowing Papou played a part in putting this love on your table. I cheat with pomegranates and buy the seeds at Trader Joes, surely not as fun, but being a busy mommy, I find plenty of other ways for such messy fun!! Thank you!!

    November 11, 2011
    • Thanks for the cute comment Ali – and Yes, you may Absolutely bring this salad to Thanksgiving!! Please!

      November 11, 2011
  6. I’m so in love with your photos. I love the red and green and your dishes. So inspiring. I think I shall make this salad tonite! Have you published a cook book yet? I totally think you should and let me know if you need any help with the graphic design or layout. -Annie

    November 12, 2011
  7. where did you get those red & white dishes? Have you had them for a long time? -Annie

    November 12, 2011
    • Annie, not yet! : ) You’re very sweet in your enthusiasm! You might just have made my day! Thank you!
      As for the dishes – aren’t they wonderful? Made by Johnson Brothers out of England, mid-century I think. Pattern is Strawberry Fair. I found these in the little Oregon town of Aurora.

      November 12, 2011
  8. What a perfect fall salad.

    November 13, 2011
  9. carolyn #

    I’m going to adopt one of my Dad’s old shirts out of his closet and set about tangoing with a pomegranate. This is a perfect holiday salad!

    AND I agree with Annie…you need to be publishing books.

    AND I would love to meander through Aurora with you while our eyes well up.

    You have exquisite sensitivities.

    November 14, 2011
    • Let’s get you a little basket and let’s head for Aurora! (Thanks – always – for your such sweet comments, C!)

      November 14, 2011
  10. Ani, I am honored to possibly have planted a pomegranate seed in your head! Would be a fitting payment for the bean you planted in my head a couple of weeks ago.


    November 15, 2011

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