Is everybody ready for Thanksgiving? I hope so, because it’s right around the corner. I made this Harvest Salad with Pomegranate Allspice Dressing with the idea of adding something fresh to the mix. It marks the first in a series of recipes I’ll be developing for O Olive Oil , a company I introduced you to a while back in an American Artisans post. We share a passion for big, bold, splashy flavor and simple, healthy ingredients. The company is based here in California, and makes a gourmet line of olive oils and vinegars that are so good you just want to eat them with a spoon. The oils are flavored with ingredients that are crushed right in along with the olives…Clementine Olive Oil anyone? And the vinegars are my secret weapons, I use them in sauces, soups, dressings, cocktails, you name it. Everything about O Olive Oil is creative, giftable, and delicious…it’s going to be a fun ride, let’s get going!
Here in California we wouldn’t dream of doing Thanksgiving without a big old salad on the table. And I think all of us, no matter where we live, need something to balance out all the heavy stuff. This is a salad you can adapt for everyday dinners, too, just pare it down a little bit. But for a holiday table I went all out and loaded it up with Autumnal favorites like hazelnuts, figs, pomegranate, and acorn squash. I even roasted the squash seeds for some great crunch. Don’t throw them away— they’re soooo much crisper and lighter than pumpkin seeds. I scatter them on the salad at the last minute for great crunch. You can roast the seeds and squash on a baking sheet together, 15 minutes for the seeds, another 15 or so for the squash. Toss them in a little O Extra Virgin Oil first ;)
The base of this salad can be whatever greens you like. I’ve fallen for kale lately, but only because I’ve discovered the secret — I shred it finely, which turns a tough green into a tender green. I also toss it with a little bit of the dressing first, before assembling the rest of the salad. This starts to soak in and tenderize the kale even further. And I like how kale can stand up to all the toppings I’m heaping on it. Baby greens would buckle under the weight.
The dressing is where O Olive Oil comes in. If you follow this blog you know that I totally think the dressing makes the salad, and I love fiddling around with new and unusual combinations. Because we’re going with a fall theme here, I chose to feature pomegranate. Pomegranates are becoming so much more common in regular grocery stores, it’s great. I’m using the fresh pom seeds in the salad, but the dressing is made with O’s Extra Virgin Oil and their Pomegranate Vinegar. Along with that I add pomegranate molasses and a dash of allspice, a warm dusky spice that really brings it all together. Allspice is interesting, a lot of people think it’s just a blend of spices, but it’s not, it’s its own thing. You can buy it in whole or ground form, and it’s popular in Jamaican and Caribbean cooking, and also in Middle Eastern and Palestinian cuisine. It got its name because it smells like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I love this dressing because it’s so completely new and unexpected. I mean, how many times can you make a balsamic vinaigrette without yawning?
I love the drama of these ‘staged’ salads. By that I mean I lay the base of greens down in a large shallow salad bowl, and then arrange the other ingredients on top in sections or stripes. What it does is make a showpiece that you can bring to the table and then toss just before everyone is ready to eat. You can also do them on individual plates or bowls, which works really well too and that way you can leave them undisturbed.
My cast of characters includes kale, roasted slices of acorn squash, black grapes, ripe pear, dried figs, pomegranate seeds, blue cheese, fuyu persimmon, wild rice, and roasted hazelnuts. Other ideas might be pecans, apples, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, quinoa, wheat berries, fresh figs, fennel…anything that says ‘fall’ to you.
I’d love to tell you that you can make this days in advance, but that ain’t gonna happen. You can shred the kale, cook the rice and roast the squash and nuts the day before, but definitely cut the fruit and assemble it close to when you want to serve it. Ok you can even de-seed your pomegranate ahead, but don’t press your luck!
What You Will Need
- I head kale
- 1 acorn squash
- O Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for brushing
- 1 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted and rough chopped
- 2 fuyu persimmons, diced (no need to peel)
- 1 cup cooked wild rice
- 1 ripe pear, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
- a handful of dried figs, halved or quartered depending on size
- 1/2 cup O Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp O Pomegranate Vinegar
- 4 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 - 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice, to taste
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Set oven to 350F
- Halve the squash and remove the seeds. Rinse the pulp off them and pat dry. Toss the seeds with a little O Olive Oil to coat.
- Thinly slice one half of the squash. Toss the squash slices with a little O Olive Oil and a little salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet, and put the seeds alongside them. Roast the seeds for 15 minutes, stirring once during baking. Turn the the squash and roast for another 15 minutes, or until tender.
- Wash and dry the kale. Stack the leaves and use a sharp knife to shred it finely. Cut the shreds in half if they are long. Put the kale in a large shallow salad bowl and toss with a couple of tablespoons of the dressing.
- Arrange the rest of the ingredients on top, either in stripes, or sections, putting the pomegranate seeds in the center.
- To make the dressing put the ingredients in a small jar, cover and give a good shake. Taste to adjust any of the components to your liking. Store extra dressing in the refrigerator.
- Use lemon juice to keep sliced apples or pears from turning brown.
- Fuyu persimmons are the round, apple-like persimmons. They stay firm even when ripe.
- Pomegranate seeds are usually scarlet red, but sometimes, for no particular reason, they will be translucent pink, or even white. Don’t worry, they are just as delicious, whatever color you get.
- Make sure your grapes are seedless, reach in and taste one if necessary.
- If you can’t find pomegranate molasses in the International section of your supermarket, you can buy it online.
- A large, shallow salad bowl works best because it has a big surface area to show off your ingredients.