Savory and Sweet Christmas Salads
When Christmas rolls around I’m always in the mood for festive winter-themed salads—something sweet and savory with jewels of flavor that lighten up the holiday menu. Candied nuts and cooked pears, apples, and grapes always come to mind. I like to contrast these sweet notes with creamy, robust blue cheeses and peppery greens like arugula or watercress.
One of my favorites is this Arugula and Pear Salad—with large “filet- like pieces of pear roasted to perfection. My favorite pear choice for cooking is the Bosc pear, which holds up well when roasted. For an elegant presentation, I serve this salad with three large pieces of pear on top. It calls for toasted pine nuts, but you can easily substitute toasted pecans for an equally elegant variation.
This Watercress Salad is on my holiday menu this year; it incorporates grapes, which also marry well with the spicy watercress and nutty Marcona almonds. Remember: A salad serves as a nice palate cleanser before a heartier meat dish on any Christmas menu.
Or if you want to make something versatile, here’s a simple recipe for candied nuts. I like to make these in big batches. Not only are they great for snacking and for having on hand when friends drop by, they’re also great for packaging as homemade gifts. But my hands-down favorite way to use the nuts is to chop them into smaller pieces and toss them in any simple mixed green salad for an added note of texture.
Salads are great for holiday menus because the ingredients are easily prepared in advance and tend to be the least time consuming of all the dishes. This means I’m spending more time with friends and family and less time in the kitchen.