Autumn to Winter: Arugula with Orange, Pomegranate, and Goat Cheese

Monday, November 25, 2013

As autumn begins to draw to a close and ushers in the still beauty of winter, I begin to see new ingredients taking over at the local grocery store. Most people think of winter and the foods associated and think of heavy, meat-laden dishes, lots of baking and carbs, and the cold, dark days of winter. No need! Actually, this is an exciting time of year with bright and bold flavors like citrus, pomegranate, and sweet delicious pears. Even the greens are beginning their peak: spicy watercress and arugula are in their prime in winter, rich and delicious kales and dark greens are delicious these coming months, and cabbages can be both stewed and crisp in refreshing salads.
I picked up some pomegranates over the weekend and knew I wanted to do a salad. This simple yet bright and flavorful salad is balanced, light, and irresistibly festive. Spicy arugula creates the base. Orange segments add color and acidity while the pomegranate seeds offer a festive and bright color contrast in addition to that beautiful sweet-tartness. Simple goat cheese (chevre) adds creaminess for texture, and to top it off, some toasted pumpkin seeds. This is a fantastic side dish for a meal or a great light lunch to compliment a heavier cream-based soup. It's easy enough for a quick week night dinner and elegant enough for a holiday fete.
This recipe makes for 4 good portions. You can easily expand or contract it to suit your numbers. Enjoy it!  

Arugula with Orange, Pomegranate, and Goat Cheese
4 cups arugula
1 orange, segmented
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds*
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese (aka chevre)
2 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
course sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
good quality extra virgin olive oil
juice from the orange that is being segmented reserved for the vinaigrette

Make the vinaigrette first. As you're segmenting your orange, squeeze out the juice from the core left into a bowl. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil slowly to the juice and whisk together to combine. This is super easy and healthy vinaigrette you can use with a variety of dishes.

Place the arugula in a large mixing bowl. Add the orange segments and pomegranate seeds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the vinaigrette and toss very gently to coat. Add the goat cheese on top -- use your fingers to break off small pieces. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top and serve.

Conversely you can portion out the dressed salad onto individual plates, then add the cheese and seeds for a more elegant presentation (as above).

*An excellent post on how to seed pomegranates -- with pictures! Check it out here.

If you don't like pumpkin seeds you can substitute with walnuts or pecans. If you'd rather use a fancier orange you can use clementines, tangerines would be outstanding in this dish, but a simple naval orange will do it just fine too. I like using French chevre for this kind of goat cheese -- it's brighter in flavor and super creamy.

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