I love this winter salad recipe. It’s holiday-ish, the flavors are addictive, it’s got lots of texture and a fabulous sweet-tangy citrus dressing. The 15 minute start-to-finish doesn’t hurt either. Your guests will love it too.
I chose the ingredients in the winter salad recipe to honor the season. Green crisp ‘little gem lettuce’ (a cross between romaine and butter/Boston), deep red pomegranate seeds, pears, roasted pistachios and a bit of ricotta. Green, red, white. Get it (haha)? Needless to say, the options are endless.
I adapted the vinaigrette dressing from one I found on Food.com. Just the right blend of sweet, citrus and tang. More on the sweet side I’d say, so feel free to find the balance you like. It’s my new favorite dressing. My previous favorite is a maple-balsamic. The recipe also has some excellent shortcuts. Check them out below if you need them.
The pomegranate seeds play somewhat of a starring role so I wouldn’t leave them out. They’re a bit of a pain to extract, but not a big deal. I provided two ways to do that in the recipe. One way doubles as a frustration-reliever.
Tailor To Your Taste
The core ingredients of this winter salad recipe are the crisp greens, the pomegranate seeds and the dressing. Maybe the nuts too. After that it’s up to you. Here are a few options.
- Nuts: It’s fine to substitute the roasted pistachios with any other roughly chopped roasted nuts such as pecans, macadamia, walnuts, etc.
- Cheese: I like the mild creamy ricotta as a blank slate for the vinaigrette. Other good choices are feta and goat cheese. Or nothing.
- Vegetables/Fruits: Add or substitute with tangerine or orange sections, chopped apple, shaved carrots, chopped crunchy snap peas, julienned red pepper or jicama.
- Salad Dressing: You can add finely chopped green onion, tarragon, chives, garlic. And feel free to replace the orange zest with lemon zest.
Optional Serving Suggestion
I discovered a cool new way to serve this winter salad recipe while I was making it. Try it as an appetizer by using the little Gem lettuce leaves as lettuce cups. Fill them with nuts, ricotta, pomegranate seeds and julienned pear, then drizzle on some citrus vinaigrette. Winter salad cups – delish!
If you use all the following shortcuts, this salad recipe would take about 5 minutes to prepare! I’m always happy to use shortcuts with good quality ingredients.
- Buy pomegranate seeds. Costco and many grocery stores sell them in small containers now.
- Buy pre-washed Little Gem lettuce leaves.
- Buy pre-roasted nuts.
- Use a good store-bought vinaigrette and add a dash of maple syrup or honey and some orange zest if you like.
Make Ahead Winter Salad Recipe
The dressing can be made several days ahead. You can also roast the nuts ahead and store them in a sealed container when cooled to keep fresh. And, extract the pomegranate seeds up to 4 days ahead. Cut the pears and assemble the salad just before serving.
Festive Winter Salad Recipe
- 1 box 6-8 oz Little Gem lettuce (whole gems look like little mini 5" romaine hearts), washed and dried well. (romaine or butter lettuce can be used instead)
- 1 Pomegranate, bright red (the darker and deeper the color, the sweeter the seeds)
- 1 pear, julienned
- 1/3 cup roasted pistachios (or other nuts) Note 1
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, Optional (or use goat cheese or feta instead)
- 1/2 orange, juice and zest (2 tbsp juice, 1 tsp zest)
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ROAST PISTACHIOS. Note 1.
- EXTRACT POMEGRANATE SEEDS. Roll pomegranate on counter to loosen seeds. Cut pomegranate in half. Taking the first half, hold pomegranate seed side down over a bowl. Smack the outside with a wooden spoon (hard!) to release the seeds. Repeat with the other half. Alternatively, try this other option from Cooks Illustrated. You will get about 1 to 1 1/4 cups or a bit more from 1 Pomegranate. Note 2 to store unused seeds.
- MAKE VINAIGRETTE DRESSING: Combine all ingredients in a jar or sealed container. Shake well until smooth and emulsified. Alternatively, whisk all ingredients together except oil. Slowly add a stream of oil while whisking until smooth.
- ASSEMBLE WINTER SALAD: If your little Gem lettuce is whole, cut off bottom 1/2 inch and cut in half. Lay out lettuce on platter. Drizzle dressing - you won't need in all. Scatter pistachios, pears and pomegranate seeds evenly over lettuce. Add little 1 tsp clumps of ricotta if desired. Serve immediately.
- Roast Pistachios: Heat oven or toaster oven to 375F. Lay nuts on pan and roast for about 5-6 minutes until fragrant. Cool.
- To to store pomegranate seeds: Seeds can be extracted 4-5 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container or zippered bag. They can also be frozen by laying them on a parchment lined pan, freezing them for an hour, then transferring them to a sealed container or bag.
- Make Ahead: The dressing can be made several days ahead. You can also roast the nuts ahead and store them in a sealed container when cooled to keep fresh. And, extract the pomegranate seeds up to 4 days ahead. Cut the pears and assemble the salad just before serving.
- Shortcut options: To cut the time, try one or more of these shortcuts: buy pomegranate seeds (they sell them at Costco); buy pre-washed Little Gem lettuce leaves; buy pre-roasted nuts; use a store-bought vinaigrette and add a dash of maple syrup or honey and some orange zest if you like.