For the longest time, I was convinced that winter salads were a perfunctory gesture at best. Utilitarian sorts of salads, meant to satisfy a basic need for something cold and raw to balance out the hearty long-simmered staples of our winter diet, made of mixed greens, flavourless tomatoes and cucumbers, perhaps a little bit of shredded carrot to spruce things up. Healthy, perhaps, but boring as hell.
They paled in comparison to the glorious salads of summertime, which can easily inspire ode after ode detailing the perfection that is a single leaf of lettuce, picked fresh from the garden and still flecked with droplets of morning dew.
Summertime salads are easy. Even my basic wintertime formula of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes becomes a thing of beauty, made with freshly harvested vegetables that have been lovingly carried a few feet from my garden, instead of off-season produce tumbled around the back of a transport truck for thousands of miles. It’s the perfect example of why seasonal eating is the only option if you truly enjoy food.
But when I decided to change my eating habits last year, I realised that salads would have to become a year-round fixture on my menu, and that my off-season salad choices would need a little shaking up… and lo and behold, I discovered that wintertime salads have an appeal all their own once you move past the basic formula.
It turns out that winter salads are about juxtaposition, in the contrasts between flavours and colours and textures. They’re made from sliced blood oranges with slivers of red onion and wrinkly oil-cured black olives, from segments of juicy pink grapefruit with thin wedges of buttery ripe avocadoes and tangy poppyseed-yogurt dressing, from wedges of earthy beet with sweet caramelised nuts and a scattering of soft goat cheese, or from paper thin shavings of fennel tossed with fresh parsley and flakes of salty parmesan.
And in the case of this particular salad, they’re made with thinly sliced wedges of crisp sweet persimmons and buttery avocado wedges on peppery argula greens, scattered with juicy pomegranate jewels and tossed in a tangy Dijon vinaigrette.
It’s a perfect antidote to the miserable shades of cold white and grey outside. It’s the total opposite of those perfunctory winter salads of yore, with the kind of palette I associate with exotic travel brochures, Gaugin paintings and Bollywood movies – bright emerald, pale lime, sunset orange, and jewelled ruby-red.
I’ll admit, I’d still prefer a plateful of thickly sliced ripe August tomatoes drizzled with a peppery olive oil and shredded basil, but these bright persimmon wedges definitely do the trick while I’m waiting for summertime to return.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 cups baby arugula
- 1 firm-ripe Fuyu persimmon, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 large avocado, cut into wedges
- ½ cup fresh pomegranate arils
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegars and mustard until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss arugula with dressing until well coated. Distribute between four individual salad bowls, or transfer to a single large salad bowl.
- Arrange persimmon and avocado slices on the arugula, then scatter with pomegranate. Serve immediately.