Friday, February 18, 2011

Blood Orange salad with Pistachios and Pomegranate

Pomegranates are good for the soul. An iconic fruit, they flourished in the garden of Eden and symbolized fruitfulness to Greek and Turkish cultures, and are traditional at Rosh Hashanah.

The ancients thought pomegranate to have healthful properties, and small scale studies have backed that up in the areas of heart disease (the enzymes in the fruit are thought to protect LDL, the bad cholesterol, from breaking down, a process accelerating the formation of the plaque blocking the arteries and leading to heart disease)and prostate cancer. A half cup serving of pomegranate has just 80 calories and is high in vitamin C. Eating the seeds whole provides valuable dietary fiber.

Whether or not this is true, the pomegranate is delicious. In season, which in the Northeern hemisphere is from November to February, I hoard them for decorations, and keep a jar of the peeled seeds in the fridge to sprinkle on salads and yogurt. Out of season, the juice is good for spritzers and champagne cocktails; grenadine syrup, a component of the infamous children's libation Shirley Temple, is sweetened reduced pomegranate juice. Researching this article I came across a recommendation to freeze them for easier peeling; I wonder about keeping a few in the freezer to see if I can extend the season.

In this recipe, the sweet juice is reduced into a syrup with balsamic vinegar, a sweet tart that firmly anchors crunchy fennel, fresh arugula and tangy blood orange, with a sprinkle of pistachio as a bonus crunch.

Its one of those win-win dishes your grandmother used to tout: good and good for you, but definitely not your grandmother's salad. Try it with a heavy meat dish, like the lamb stew I served it with, short ribs or an Osso bucco.

Blood Orange Salad with Pistachios and Pomegranate Reduction
Serves 4-6

4 cups frissee, torn
1 fennel bulb sliced thin
2 blood or naval oranges, peel cut off and cut into thin slices across the pith
1 avocado, peeled and sliced thin
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Simmer pomegranate juice until reduced to 1/2 cup; add balsamic and reduce further, to half cup. Let cool.

Mound a cup of arugula on a salad plate and arrange sliced fennel, oranges and avocados. Drizzle with the reduction. Sprinkle with pistachios.


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