Winter is almost here but that doesn't mean we have to stick with boring foods! We still enjoy making dishes with pops of colors and full of flavor.
This salad, consisting of pistachios, pomegranates, beets and cheese, all dressed with a Pomegranate Balsamic vinaigrette, is heavily influenced by flavors of central to northern Italy. From the cheese, Ricotta Salata, to the vinegar used in the vinaigrette, this salad will make your taste buds feel as though they are venturing through the roaming hills of Tuscany and walking the extraordinary streets of Modena
What is Ricotta Salata?
Ricotta Salata which simply means “salted ricotta” in Italian, is just that, Ricotta that has been salted and then aged for at least two months. This is done to remove some of the moisture and to create a nice crumbly texture with a slightly intensified flavor.
To me, the texture is fantastic, similar to feta, with a more mild flavor. This cheese is the perfect pairing for this salad because it assimilates seamlessly with all of the other ingredients in the salad and almost morphs with the vinaigrette to give a cream-like viscosity.
Ingredients for this Pomegranate, Beet and Citrus Winter Salad
We love this salad because it's so easy to make and tastes absolutely so fresh that you forget we're in winter! Here's your grocery list:
Greens: I like to use a mixture of different greens. I find that the zesty-zing presented by arugula goes great in this salad. I also like the texture that baby chards and spinach offer but you can elect to use only one type of green if you choose.
Vegetables: Roasted beets really are the perfect vegetable for this salad. Their subtly-sweet but earthy flavor brings everything together and lends some nutritional value to the salad as well. Nothing quite makes the dish like the addition of the beets.
Fruit: Because of the natural sweetness in many of the ingredients, I always like to add a citrus of some sort, typically orange, and a fruit that has a “tart-er” flavor, hence the pomegranate seeds. I find that the balance of sweetness between the orange and pomegranate are a perfect pairing but you can use other fruit, just keep the sweetness balance in mind. If you want to use a sweeter fruit such as a strawberry or raspberry, you may want to use a more acidic citrus, such as a grapefruit or lemon instead of the orange.
Nuts: While pistachios are my personal favorite for this salad, walnuts also pair very nicely with the beets and work as a fantastic substitution.
Cheese: For the cheese, I like to use Ricotta Salata because of its perfect crumbly texture and mild flavor. If you cannot find Ricotta Salata, Queso Fresco is a comparable substitution. If you would prefer a little more funk, feta would be a great option. Goat cheese is another great option.
Vinaigrette: While the Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette really is the perfect pairing for this salad, you could use any store-bought Balsamic vinaigrette you like. A raspberry vinaigrette would also be a nice substitution for this salad.
Tips for the Best Salad
Shake the Vinaigrette: Be sure to shake the vinaigrette before adding to the salad greens to ensure the vinaigrette hasn’t separated.
Zest the Orange Whole: When cutting the orange segments, I recommend you zest the orange whole and then you cut it into segments. For that, you'll want to cut the top and bottom first, to make it sit flat. Then, you almost peel the outer layer away from the orange. Peeling it with a knife (serrated) is best so you can get the white rind off (it tastes bitter). Once you've done that, cut the orange between those citrus lines (the white veins) to create wedges and put them all in a bowl with the zest. Then, make sure to squeeze the remaining carcass to extract the remaining juices.
Seasoning the salad: Don’t forget to season your greens slightly. Remember, salt is a flavor enhancer and it opens the pores on your tongue and allows you to taste. For that reason, you should even season your fruit with salt (but just a little). Try it in small batches to see how much salt you like first. Also, if the salad as a whole is missing a pop of flavor, try adding the zest of 1 lemon. You would be amazed at what the zest can do to brighten the flavors in a dish!
You HAVE to try this salad. We guarantee it'll be a weekly favorite!
Cheers and eat well!
Pomegranate, Beet and Citrus Winter Salad
This Italian inspired Winter salad will serve as a ray of sunlight during those cold and gloomy winter months. With pops of flavor in every bite, this dish will make you forget you are eating a salad!
Toss the beets in the 1 tablespoon olive oil and add them to a pan and wrap with aluminum foil.
Bake at 350 F for about 60-75 minutes until you can easily pierce with a fork.
Once finished baking, pull the beets from the oven and immediately transfer them into a container that has a cover or that you can wrap with plastic and do so. Keep them covered for about 10 minutes. (The steam created helps release the skins and makes them easier to peel).
Once the beets have cooled to room temperature, peel the skin off of them and cut them to your desired size.
Toss the beets with olive oil and salt to taste before eating.
To Complete the Salad:
Zest (with a microplane), segment, and juice the oranges and place them in a bowl to set aside. If you are adding the optional lemon zest, zest that into that same bowl.
Once the beets have cooled, add the mixed greens into a large bowl and season them with the 2 pinches of salt.
Once seasoned, add the vinaigrette and toss to evenly distribute.
Add the orange (zest/juice/segments), the optional lemon zest, the ricotta salata, the fresh pomegranate seeds, the diced beets, and the pistachios to the dressed greens and toss to evenly incorporate. Serve and enjoy.
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