Oh me, oh my. You guys. I've just returned from one of the best weeks of my life. For real. No joke. I'm serious. Phoenix was all kinds of over-the-top fun. So many moments seized; so many times I had to pinch myself it was real. I'll tell you all about it...in good time. I'm a total meanie, I know! There are photos that need to be tinkered with and a million thoughts running through my brain, but hopefully by the weekend you'll hear all about it. In the meantime I have a lovely, lovely salad to share with you. See, I'm not a total meanie, after all.
I ate a lot of delicious food on vacay. Don't we all? So, upon my return I've sensed a need to lighten things up around here, starting with this wonderful salad I can't quite get enough of. The recipe is loosely based on one from Yotam Ottolenghi's fine, fine book Plenty. Instead of arugula, I used mixed greens. Instead of sheep's cheese, I used torn up fresh mozzarella that I found discounted for 50% with two days to go before expiration date. Cheese doesn't last long in my house, so winning all around. Instead of pomegranate molasses in the vinaigrette (an ingredient difficult to find in Saskatoon) I used maple syrup. Instead of basil, I used mint. You see where I'm going with this. Salad ingredients can be mixed and matched in a variety of ways...use what's hanging out in the fridge, or whatever you find discounted at the cheese shop. It's a salad, not brain surgery so feel free to be loosey goosey when it comes to ingredients.
One thing not to substitute is the fresh, almost caramel-like Medjool date. They lend a lovely decadence to the salad, and are super good for you, bursting with fibre and potassium. I bit into a succulent sliver and thought to myself, Renee my dear you must put dates in all of your salads from now on. Their sweetness is tempered by the creamy, salty cheese and herbaceous greens. A good grind of fresh pepper and a light handed dash of good salt is all that's needed for an exquisite lunch or starter for a heartier meal. Mr. Ottolenghi did not add pomegranate arils to his version, but for some reason I don't think he would object to their presence on this salad. Fun Fact: In the plant world, dates are otherwise known as Phoenix dactylifera, belonging to the genus Phoenix. I love a good coincidence.
Winter's Salad of Dates, Pomegranate & Fresh Mozzarella
3 tbsp whole almonds, lightly toasted
6 large Medjool dates, pit removed, cut into slivers
2 1/2 cups baby greens, arugula, or spinach
as much cheese as you would like - I used fresh mozzarella, but feta, bocconcini, ricotta, would do
fresh dill leaves, torn
fresh mint leaves, torn
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
3 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp pure maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste
On a platter, arrange the greens. Top with toasted almonds, slivered dates, cheese, herbs and pomegranate seeds. In a small jar, shake the olive oil, vinegar and maple syrup. Pour over salad. Sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper. Serve immediately. Enough for one person, or two as a starter. Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's book Plenty.