Pomegranate and poached pear salad
An elegant hors d’oeuvre for a holiday party or perfect first course for a seated dinner.
I’d like to take a moment to officially declare pomegranate as the most fun fruit to eat.
First comes the game of removing the tiny, shimmering pomegranate gems, called arils, from the hard exterior rind. Some people recommend a process of scoring the outer rind of the pomegranate, soaking it in cold water for a few minutes, then breaking the pieces open and allowing the arils to fall to the bottom of the water while the rind floats on top. Others recommend cutting the pomegranate into pieces and smacking the rind with the back of a spoon to loosen the arils, which should eject from the fruit. I like to simply cut the pomegranate into pieces and go to work, pulling apart the fruit piece by piece, systematically releasing the gazillions of juicy arils from within. There’s something incredibly satisfying about peeling back the layers of membrane within the fruit to uncover pockets of the sweet, plump gems.
The small effort of removing the arils yields a great reward; a bowl full of sweet, ruby gems. Pop one in your mouth and enjoy the sweet burst of juice as you bite into each delicious seed. Pick one up the next time you spot them in the grocery store. Now is the time to enjoy this delicious, fun fruit! And they’re super healthy for you, too!
If you can stop yourself snacking on this tasty fruit, save some of the pomegranate arils for this delicious composed ‘salad’ of sorts. This seasonally perfect dish would make a very elegant hors d’oeuvre for a holiday party or perfect first course for a seated dinner. (Pretty certain this is going on my Christmas dinner menu!) Fresh pears are poached until tender, then paired with salty Gorgonzola and vibrant pomegranate arils, nestled into a crisp leaf of Belgian endive. A simple pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette and candied walnuts provide the finishing touches.
Pomegranate and Poached Pear Salad
2 heads Belgian endive
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
1/2 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
For the Poached Pears:
2 ripe, firm pears (Anjou, Bosc, Bartlett…)
4 cups poaching liquid (water, white wine, champagne, apple juice…)
1/4 cup honey
1 vanilla bean (optional)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
For the Candied Walnuts:
1/2 cup shelled walnut halves
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon water
Pinch of cinnamon
For the Vinaigrette:1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup pomegranate juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
For the pears: Peel pears, cut off tops and bottoms, and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the core, using a melon baller or knife. Place the pears in a saucepan with your poaching liquid. (Any combination of water, white wine, champagne, juice, etc. would be delicious.) Stir in the honey. If desired, add a cinnamon stick and/or a vanilla bean to the liquid. Bring the poaching liquid to a gentle simmer. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pears from the cooking liquid and allow to cool. Once cool, chop the pears into small chunks and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Walnuts: Heat walnuts in a pan over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until they begin to toast. Add butter and cook for an additional minute. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and about 1 tablespoon water to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly until the water has evaporated and the nuts are glazed. **You may need to add small quantities of additional water to achieve a glaze. Allow to cool. The glaze will harden as the nuts cool. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
For the Vinaigrette: Whisk the oil, vinegar, pomegranate juice, and mustard together. Season with salt and pepper.
To Assemble the Salad: Rinse the endive. Cut off the core end and carefully separate the leaves. Fill each leaf with a bit of the pear, pomegranate, and crumbled Gorgonzola. Top with candied walnuts. Arrange on a platter to serve as an hors d’ouevres or plate 2-3 prepared endive leaves per person as a first course. Lightly drizzle with the vinaigrette.
Related post: Holiday cookie round-up
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