This is one of my favorite winter salads. It has the qualities of a good salad: a good mix of textures (crunchy endive, smooth feta), colors (red – green- white) and flavors (sour-sweet pomegranate, bitter endive, fresh mint and salty feta) and it combines some of the best staples of winter: Brussels endive and pomegranate. Brussels endives, sometimes called chicory, were invented accidentally in Brussels in the basement of a place that now harbors a music and arts centre, the Botanique. One of their club spaces is still called the ‘Endive Club’ since the vegetable was ‘discovered’ there, as the story goes. The vegetable is bitter and therefore not everyone likes it, but I’m convinced the other star of this recipe, the pomegranate, balances the bitterness out very well.
There are many reasons to love this exotic red fruit: it’s really healthy, it preserves well for several weeks (also out of the fridge), but above all, most people love its tart taste. It also combines well in all sorts of dishes: Martha Stewart has a great tangerine-pomegranate-cranberry-champagne cocktail recipe, it goes well in salads, in hearty dishes, in desserts… I believe you have every reason to try this salad before the pomegranates go out of season again. There’s just one catch: extracting the seeds can be a tricky (read: messy) business. I recommend using a big bowl to avoid ending up with a wall that looks like you were slaughtering something, not standing near white walls that can’t be easily cleaned and wearing an apron (and perhaps a red shirt). Don’t be frightened by this advice: it’s also great fun! So let’s get to the recipe.
Ingredients for 4 servings
3 stalks of Brussels endive (also called chicory)
note: you can also add radicchio (a reddish-purple Italian type of lettuce) or the red version of Brussels endive to the mix, mostly to complete the color palette
1 large or 2 small pomegranates
one red onion, finely chopped
one tablespoon of raspberry vinegar (or regular red vinegar)
a handful of mint leaves
150 grams of good feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper
Remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Start by making an incision all around the fruit and then ‘breaking’ it apart with your hands, so you don’t have to cut through the seeds. With your fingers, remove the seeds and throw away the white bitter stuff between the seeds. (Some recipes say beat the pomegranate with a wooden spoon to remove the seeds, but frankly, this has never worked for me.) Mix the pomegranate seeds with the chopped onion and the raspberry vinegar and let the flavors soak for about 15 minutes.
Break the endive leaves and radicchio leaves apart and arrange on a large plate or in a salad bowl. Add the pomegranate mixture, add the mint leaves and the feta and top with some mint leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you’re using a salad bowl rather than a plate, you can alternate layers (endive-pomegrante-endive-pomegranate). Enjoy!