This salad’s flavor is built around bitter greens, sweet fruit, and crunchy nuts—if you follow those flavors as a guide line you make the salad many different ways. You could swap endive for the watercress, clementines for the pomegranate, and toasted hazelnuts for the sunflower seeds. Or I might use chicory for a bitter green, grapefruit for the fruit, and fried shallots for the crunch. Watercress is easy to find year round and pairs well with bright, sweet-sour pomegranate seeds are in-season in the winter, and toasted sunflower seeds add the crunch. Adding pomegranate molasses or juice to the vinaigrette amplifies the pomegranate flavor from the seeds in the salad. Although I usually only make salad dressing with extra-virgin olive oil, when using nuts in a salad, I sometimes swap out the nut’s oil—in this case, a cold-pressed sunflower oil. Be careful with nut oils however; they turn rancid quickly. Once opened, I keep the bottle in my fridge and use it quickly.
I like to get whatever greens I am using super crisp by cleaning them in very cold water, draining them gently in a colander and then wrapping them in a dry cloth, which absorbs the residual moisture and keeps the greens protected while sitting in the fridge for at least an hour and up to overnight.
6 to 8
pomegranate molasses (could substitute juice of half the pomegranate if that makes it easier)
extra virgin olive oil (or cold pressed sunflower oil)
Clean and prep the watercress by destemming long tough stems and cutting the rest into finger length pieces. Ideally, if time permits, once the greens are washed, they should be covered with a damp clean dish towel and stored in the fridge for at least an hour. This lets the greens really crisp up. Peel the pomegranate and deseed, removing the white membranes. (If using pomegranate juice instead of molasses, cut the pomegranate in half and juice one half on a manual citrus juicer.)
Toast the sunflower seeds in a dry pan over medium low heat for about five minutes, until slightly browned and fragrant.
Make the vinaigrette by dicing the shallot finely. Place in the bottom of a mixing bowl or the salad serving bowl and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Add the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. Let steep for about five minutes. Add the whole grain mustard and then slowly whisk in the oil in a steady stream to emulsify. Emulsifying a vinaigrette is tricky and is easier to do in a food processor or blender but then you mush and mash up the integrity of the diced shallots. I can never decide which is better and so go back and forth. Make a decision you’re comfortable with and live with it! When the dressing is finished, whisk in the herbs.
Assemble the salad with the pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, and watercress. Dress with dressing and serve immediately.