I always vow to curb holiday excess; to eat lighter, healthier fare each new year. What I refuse to give up on, though, are the brightness and good cheer that belong to the December season. This refreshing salad is a nod to both health and holidays. It features pomegranates, which are Persephone's food—jewel-like winter kernels, bursting with antioxidants—and pairs them with other super-nutrients that will satisfy your resolutions: spinach, oranges, and walnuts. Pomegranates also play an important role in Greek New Year's customs; gently tossed at the threshold of a home, their spilling seeds indicate prosperity for the coming year. Popping with color, playing with texture, this salad anticipates the joyful, springtime reunion of Persephone and Demeter. Add some excellent feta and a dressing of olive oil and pomegranate molasses, and you've got a meal that any mother would approve of. —Allison Cay Parker
4 (as a starter)
For the dressing
white balsamic vinegar
grated orange zest
sea salt, or to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad
loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves
feta cheese (I use Greek sheep-milk feta)
orange (try the Cara Cara orange for its orange-red hue)
Prepare the dressing. Combine the pomegranate molasses, balsamic vinegar, honey, orange zest, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and shake well to blend. Add the olive oil; cover and shake again. Adjust seasoning to taste. (Alternatively, whisk together all ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl until well blended. Then, drizzle in the oil while whisking continuously until thoroughly combined.) Set the dressing aside while you prepare the salad.
Prepare the salad ingredients. Rinse the spinach leaves thoroughly in cool water and give them a whirl in a salad spinner to dry; or, you can blot each leaf gently between kitchen (or paper) towels to dry. Cut feta cheese into eight slices, approximately 1/2-inch thick. Slice four thick rounds of orange, removing the peel and as much of the white pith as possible from around the outside and inner core of each slice. Measure out enough fresh pomegranate seeds and shelled walnuts for the salad.
Assemble the salad. On four plates, arrange the spinach leaves to form an attractive bed of greens. Next, on each plate place two slices of feta and one orange slice. Scatter the pomegranate seeds and walnuts over all, distributing evenly. Drizzle the salad dressing over each salad—just enough to moisten (up to 1 tablespoon, but I find that just a teaspoon or two works best). If the dressing has separated, be sure to shake or whisk it again before pouring over the salad.