As we enter our annual season of indulging in overly rich—and too often sweet—foods, today I thought I would share a recipe that is neither of these things....yet at the same time is eminently "of the season". It is a recipe for a simple and refreshing salad filled with Clementine pinwheels and pomegranate seeds.
Clementines (and their relatives in the Mandarin Orange and Tangerine families) come into season during the fall and continue through the winter months. Even though I eat them all winter long, I associate them particularly with Christmas. Apparently there is good reason for my association: according to Wikipedia they are at their seasonal peak during the month of December.
It is only in recent years that they have become widely available, but now, when they are in season, grocery stores of every size boast large, prominent displays of small crates that are filled with these juicy, sweet and seedless little fruits. So small, you can eat two or three in one sitting, they look beautiful mounded into a big bowl. They make a simple and lovely table centerpiece. And for a holiday dessert, you could do worse than offering those Clementines alongside a few soft, sweet Medjool dates and a saucer of freshly roasted almonds.
In my mind, pomegranates too, are a Christmas fruit. Also available throughout the fall and winter, their bright red color makes them particularly appropriate for the holiday. They can be eaten as a snack...or sprinkled over your breakfast yogurt.
But where they really shine is in a salad—whether the salad is fruit, lettuce or grain-based.
For years I only occasionally enjoyed pomegranate seeds because extracting them from their leathery skin and crumbly white interior membrane seemed like such a tedious activity. In the past couple of years I have noticed that the cleaned seeds (also called arils) are available in the cold prepared foods section of many grocery stores. This of course makes them much easier to eat, but for some reason I have never purchased them this way. Then, I came across a description in Yotam Ottolenghi's book Plenty of how to quickly and efficiently extract pomegranate seeds from their tight little case. This method is so fast and easy, I can't believe it isn't more widely known.
To remove the seeds from a pomegranate, first cut the pomegranate in half horizontally (through the "equator").
Hold one half over a bowl with the cut side against your palm. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, begin to knock on the pomegranate skin.
Continue tapping with increasing force (although not so hard the seeds are bruised) until the seeds have all naturally fallen out and into the bowl (they should fall through your fingers). Once the seeds have ceased to fall, turn the half over and flex the skin inside out to pick out any seeds that remain embedded in the membrane...there shouldn't be too many. Repeat with the second half. Finally, pick through the seeds in the bowl to remove any bits of white skin and membrane that may have fallen in.
I would only add a couple of things to this brilliant method. First, wear an apron. There may be some splattering of the juices and pomegranate juice will stain. Secondly, the first time you utilize this method, be patient. When you begin, you will think nothing is happening. But as you continue to rap—rotating the pomegranate half in your hand so that you are rapping all over the skin's surface—the seeds will begin to fall one by one. Then, they will begin to rain out in abundance.
You will be astonished at the speed of this method—it should only take two or three minutes. There is no longer any excuse not to enjoy pomegranate seeds. And a great place to start would be in this salad.
2 large ripe, but not too soft, avocados (preferably Haas)
8 small handfuls of mixed baby lettuces (about 5 to 6 oz.)
3/4 to 1 c. Pomegranate seeds from one medium pomegranate