Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday Brussels Sprout Salad


shaved BRUSSELS SPROUT HOLIDAY salad 
pomegranate // walnut // farmer's cheese // maple-mustard vinaigrette
Two weeks ago , Garrett and I celebrated our nine-year anniversary in the same fashion as the last six years, by going to Le Bouchon, my favorite French Bistro.  I absolutely love the atmosphere of the place, as it generally feels more French than most joints in France.  Meaning you're rubbing up against strangers and may at any moment cause the waiters to drop their trays on the parties packed between tables waiting for their own.  Generally we order the same staples every time: onion soup and cassoulet along with whatever rotating appetizers and salads look good.  We opted for the automne salad this time, and it was good enough to try and replicate at home.

The menu described it as "shaved brussels sprouts, fromage blanc, pomegranate, lemon-honey vinaigrette," but there were definitely some mystery ingredients in this hearty starter.  Positively identifying both mint and walnuts, I also had a hunch the dressing included mustard...but I guess I'll never know.  What I do know is that my homemade version is not exact, but still delicious.  For one, I was out of honey and found maple syrup not only a tasty, but festive substitution for the holidays.  Second, I had never encountered the type of "fromage blanc" nestled underneath the salad in any grocery, so went with the most mild and creamy cheese I could find, Lifeway Old Fashioned Probiotic Farmer Cheese.  I am now completely obsessed with this farmer's cheese and love how it pairs so nicely with sweet honeys and jams (I spread it on my English Muffins with fig-orange jam every morning).  It adds such a nice balance to this salad, as the mild richness counters the sweetness of the dressing and tang of the pomegranate.

In both its looks and taste, this salad would be wonderful for a holiday meal.  Since I recommend dressing the salad ahead of time and letting the flavors mingle for hours, it would be easy to prepare and serve to guests.  Dressed (and it should be well-dressed), it is even delicious and crisp after an overnight in the fridge.  



Salad Ingredients (serves 4-5):
  • 1 lb. (~ 4 cups) thinly sliced brussels sprouts
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
  • seeds of 1 medium pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup creamy farmers' cheese (or labneh)
  • salt and pepper to season

Dressing Ingredients:
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt 
Process:
  1. Remove the bottoms of the brussels sprouts, then using a mandoline, processor, or good knife, thinly slice them.
  2. For a trick on how to remove the seeds from a whole pomegranate, halve the fruit and while submerged in a bowl of water, separate the seeds from the membrane.  Scoop the pieces of membrane from the water and drain the seeds.
  3. Toss the sliced brussels sprouts in a large bowl with the pomegranate seeds, chopped mint, and walnuts.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and toss with the salad.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve at room temperature with a heaping tablespoon of farmers' cheese on the side, or underneath.
 

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