I thought I had discovered the perfect winter salad a few weeks ago, but it turns out there was room for improvement.
Last summer, on a vacation in Vermont, a jewel of a vinaigrette made itself known to me at an unassuming Turkish restaurant. Clearly a house staple, the mixture sat in small glass bottles atop each of the six tables in the dining room. One might mistake it for a simple duo of red wine vinegar and olive oil, except that three distinct layers formed its base. The menu did not have an extensive salad selection, and I settled on one of two options which featured arugula, walnuts, pear and asiago. The compilation of ingredients was nothing remarkable, but a few drops of the mysterious vinaigrette really brought it life. The ribbon of tart, sweet and dark molasses flavor was magical in the way it wove the ingredients together. Upon inquiry, the waitress was quick to divulge the three-part recipe: olive oil, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. One doesn’t forget something so genius, or simple to remember, and I quickly filed the idea away for later use.
With dark ruby pomegranates on store displays like Christmas ornaments, and a hungry desire for something light to off set my holiday indulgences, this thought quickly sprang to mind. It was a wonderful marinade for the pork tenderloin I had on hand, and I reserved half the batch to dress a bed of greens for the grilled meat. I took the restaurant’s cue and added sliced Bosc pears, whose sweet crispness are a perfect contrast to peppery arugula. Toasted walnuts and shaved Parmigiana Reggiano create a richness to balance the tartness in the vinaigrette, and small beads of crunchy, red pomegranate seeds dress the whole thing up for the holiday season.
Chicken, or any type of fish, substitute well for the pork here but do make a point to use part of the recipe to marinate whatever protein option you go with. When grilled or broiled, the sugar in the molasses helps the surface to nicely caramelize, creating a perfect crust on top.
1/4 C pomegranate molasses
1/8 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
For the salad:
1 pork tenderloin, trimmed and halved
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 C fresh spinach
2 C arugula
1/4 C toasted walnut pieces
small handful of Parmigiana Reggiano shavings
2 Tbsp pomegranate seeds
salt and black pepper
Method: Combine the pork, rosemary, garlic and 3 Tbsp of the vinaigrette in a bowl and allow to marinate for at least one hour, refrigerated. Preheat your grill to 400 degrees, or for about 10 minutes on high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper then grill each side for about seven minutes, or until the outside is nicely caramelized and the internal temperature registers 140 degrees. Allow the meat to rest for ten minutes before slicing into 1/2 inch medallions.
To assemble the salad, toss the greens with the walnuts, cheese and 3 Tbsp of the vinaigrette. Place the sliced pork on top of a pile of greens and garnish with the pomegranate seeds and an extra drizzle of the vinaigrette.