When I originally shared my Autumn Salad with Nancy’s Sweet and Tangy Dressing, my friend, Christine, mentioned that she serves a similar salad with a vanilla vinaigrette. Christine said that she first enjoyed this unexpected salad dressing at a restaurant while on vacation. She liked it so much that she set out to replicate it.
After getting it right, Christine kindly shared her recipe. The very next day, I served my Autumn Salad with the new vinaigrette to a hungry group of cross country runners and their families. There was not a speck of salad left in the very large bowl! As we enjoyed several more salads in the weeks that passed, I knew this flavorful, easy to make dressing would be a perfect pair with pomegranate.
In the Northern Hemisphere, pomegranates are typically in season from September to February. In the Southern Hemisphere, the fruit is in season from March to May. The entire seed of the pomegranate is consumed raw, although the watery aril is the prized part. The flavor will vary from sweet to tart depending on the variety and ripeness. Look for a pomegranate that feels heavy for its size with no soft spots.
Separating the red arils is easier in a bowl of water because the arils sink and the inedible white pulp floats. I like to cut the fruit in half and score around the seeds carefully with a knife. Then I squeeze the pomegranate half over the bowl of water, using my fingers to gently dig out the seeds that don’t readily release. After picking out any white pulp that floats to the surface, simply drain the ruby red arils. Enjoy immediately or cover and refrigerate for later use. Be cautious of the juice, as it can stain.
This vibrantly colored salad is a festive addition to a holiday table yet simple enough to enjoy throughout the work week. The options for advance prep are welcome in either case!
Yields 4 large or 6 side dish servings.
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach or baby spinach
- Seeds from 1 pomegranate (easy seed removal is described above)
- 1/4 of a small to medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (spiced or candied pecans work well, too; see recipe link below)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (blue cheese is an equally delicious alternative)
Mix the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, vanilla, salt, and pepper in small bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Alternatively, add everything to a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until emulsified. The vinaigrette will appear whitish in color. The vinaigrette may be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for several weeks. Shake well before serving. (The olive oil may harden, so allow to sit at room temperature for a few minutes to fully incorporate.)
Add the remaining ingredients to a large salad bowl and toss with approximately 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette. As an option, you may divide among individual serving plates.
Spiced Pecans are a delicious option to toasted walnuts in this salad: