This is the season for candy bowls, for cookies and fruit cakes, and for sweet drinks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes, a break is needed in the middle of the holiday season, a pause button on the gingerbread, hot cocoa and candy canes. It’s the time for a green salad, one filled with bright colors and crunchy things, lightly dressed and beautifully presented.
I like to make salads at all times of the year, and though it isn’t really true, I believe that salad balances all things. A salad for lunch erases the buttery scone eaten for breakfast. And a big salad for dinner makes the side of fries innocent and free of all fat, calories and salt. At least, this is the story I say in my head.
In this guilt-canceling salad, I made good use of the bowl of clementines that show up on the kitchen counter and stick around through late winter. Clementines are great for snacking: they fit in a purse or a pocket and maybe, just maybe, will keep you from reaching into that candy bowl again and again. But they’re also handy for baking and cooking. There are clementine cakes and smoothies, and they play a starring role in this salad, plus support in a not-too-sweet dressing.
The salad is made from items with contrasting colors, but also plenty of different tastes. Peppery arugula is a bed for the sweet clementines, tart pomegranates, creamy avocado and bitter walnuts. I added a scattering of sunflower seeds only because I like their tiny size and nutty flavor. Finish the dish by adding a fluffy layer of salty cheese, grated on a zester. A little goes a long way with a zester.
This salad, or any salad, won’t really save you from the candy bowl. But if eating a salad makes one feel better (and this one surely will,) then I say eat the candy, enjoy the cookies and have another slice of fruitcake. The salad makes it all okay.
Clementine Lovers’ Salad
- 4 cups arugula
- 4 clementines, peeled and separated
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds (about ½ pomegranate)
- 1 avocado, peeled and sliced
- 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1 ounce Manchego cheese, grated on a zester
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 juicy clementine
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
On a large serving platter, spread out the arugula. Arrange the clementines, pomegranate seeds, avocado, walnuts and sunflower seeds over the greens. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and drizzle just enough to lightly coat the salad. Top with the cheese and black pepper. Serve right away, with the extra dressing on the side.
Caroline Barrett writes about food and families. She teaches cooking classes at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Albany. You can find her at www.carolinebarrett.com.