Yotam Ottolenghi’s unique pink grapefruit and watercress salad is delicious and packed with nutrition.
I grew up with a meat and potatoes kind of mom. She was a great cook, but she specialized in chops, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, that kind of stuff. We did have salads, but they tended to be diced iceberg and cucumbers. With Wishbone dressing, of course.
There was one time however, when all that was turned on its head. It was when she came to visit after my first daughter was born. She was there waiting for us when we arrived home from the hospital. We were completely bedraggled and exhausted, clutching our new little treasure in our arms, and the first thing my mother did was make me a huge watercress salad. I have no idea where she got the notion, or even where she got the watercress, but let me tell you that salad was the most utterly invigorating, life-affirming meal I’ve ever eaten. Maybe it was the exhaustion of childbirth, or the stress of trying to breastfeed, or maybe it was because, in the midst of having to deal with being a mother myself for the first time, my mother was feeding me… I don’t know, but I gobbled that thing down like nobody’s business and with every bite I felt stronger, and little more able to manage. To this day I’m convinced that watercress has magical healing powers.
If you peeked down at the recipe you already know this salad is an interesting blend of some beautiful and healthy ingredients. You might have also have noticed that it has Yotam Ottolenghi’s stamp on it. The sumac might have given it away. I tweaked his formula a little bit, and I don’t believe in getting too precise with salad recipes, I think it inhibits creative spontaneity. A rule of thumb is one good handful of greens for each serving, followed by the other ingredients according to your taste. The important thing here is the artful combination.
a unique combination of ingredients
Every element brings its own special ‘edge’ to this salad. Start with the watercress…it’s incredibly peppery. You can eat the whole thing, leaves, stems and all, they taste great and have a wonderful light crunch. The pink grapefruit is sort of sweet, but also slightly sour with a touch bitterness. The endive adds more pleasant bitterness, and the red onion brings crunch and a sweet-hot tang to the party. The herby basil pierces through it all, but I have to say it’s the dressing that really rocks this salad.
the sumac dressing is phenomenal
It’s a combination of pink grapefruit juice, reduced down to a syrup, mixed with olive oil, lemon, hot chili pepper, and lots of tangy sumac. Sumac is a middle eastern spice that looks like chili powder and has a vivid citrusy taste. Yotam uses a touch of sugar, I substituted honey.
if you love this watercress salad I think you’ll also love
- Green Goddess Wedge Salad
- Snap Pea Salad
- Watermelon and Couscous Salad
- Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad
- Charcuterie Salad
Ottolenghi’s Pink Grapefruit and Watercress Salad
for the salad
- 2 red or pink grapefruits
- 1 bunch of watercress, about 2 large handfuls
- 1 small head red Belgian endive
- 2 large handfuls of baby spinach
- 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves, torn or left whole if they are small
- 1 cup fresh pink grapefruit juice
- 1/2 tsp hot chili pepper flakes
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp honey
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tsp sumac
- a pinch of salt
- Cut off one end of the grapefruits and run a small serrated knife along the rind to remove it. Cut in between each of the membranes to remove the segments of fruit. Set the fruit in a colander to drain over a plate. Squeeze the remains of each grapefruit to get all of the juice out of it. Gather any juice that has drained from the segments, and put it all together in a small saucepan. There should be about a cup.
- Add the chili pepper to the juice and boil the juice down until it is a thick syrup. This shouldn’t take too long, maybe 15 minutes or so.
- When it is thick, combine it with the rest of the dressing ingredients in a small jar and give it a vigorous shaking until it has emulsified.
- Meanwhile assemble the salad ingredients in a large bowl, drizzle the dressing over it, toss lightly, and serve.