Although I'm vegetarian, I actually am not the biggest fan of salads. Well, let me clarify: I won't eat any old salad. It has to be really good. Throwing a bunch of raw vegetables into a bowl with dressing does not qualify as such. But a salad that is comprised of several complementary ingredients and textures - now that's a different story.
I first made this salad a few years ago after I returned from a two-week trip to Turkey. Pistachios are ubiquitous in Turkish desserts but also show up frequently in savory dishes; the ones grown there are an incredibly bright shade of green and taste far more intense than the California variety. Pomegranates are also another staple of Middle Eastern cuisine and the molasses made from their juice also often makes an appearance in savory dishes. The pairing of the two is natural, and using both of them as ingredients in the dressing as well as the salad gives the dish depth. The addition of tangy blue cheese, sweet and crisp pears, which are abundant in this still-cold winter weather, and lightly peppery baby arugula makes for a final product that is far greater than the sum of its parts.
This salad is incredibly simple to put together but does require some advance planning to make the pistachio oil, which gives a huge boost to the flavor of the salad. If you don’t make it in advance, you can make a shortcut version which isn’t quite as flavorful, but will still be much more flavorful than plain old extra-virgin olive oil.
Pear, Pomegranate, and Pistachio Salad
(from Raspberry Eggplant)
serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side
vegan if not using cheese; gluten-free
For the pistachio oil
¼ cup pistachios
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad
3 tablespoons pistachio oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground green pepper (if unavailable, use black pepper)
1 large D’Anjou pear
2 cups mixed baby greens
4 cups baby arugula
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 ounce blue cheese (I like Point Reyes), crumbled (optional)
Make the pistachio oil
Lightly toast the pistachios either by placing them in a single layer on a plate and heating on high power for 2 minutes in a microwave oven or by toasting in a skillet set over low heat. Let the pistachios cool and then finely grind them. Transfer the ground pistachios to a small jar. Heat the oil in a small pot until just shimmering. Pour the oil over the ground pistachios and stir well. Cover the jar and let sit overnight. The next day, strain through a slightly damp coffee filter or cheesecloth into clean small bowl and set aside. The oil can be stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Shortcut method: Let the oil and ground nuts sit for a half hour, then gently pour off the oil for use in the dressing. It’s ok if you pour off some of the ground pistachios into the oil for the dressing.
Assemble the salad
Make the dressing by whisking together the pistachio oil, pomegranate molasses, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Cut the pear in half, remove the core, and cut each half into large chunks (about 1”).
Add the cut pears, greens, arugula, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and cheese to a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss well to combine. Serve immediately.