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.
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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.
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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)
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.