Oh my goodness! What can I say about this festive Shaved Fennel Asian Pear Salad with Pomegranate and Watercress? It’s such a mouthful of a title for such a simple salad. Just a few seasonal ingredients that are magical when combined. I actually posted this recipe several years ago and it was high time I revisited it. I’d forgotten just how much I love the array of colors, flavors, and textures. What can I say? I’m a salad lover through and through.
When Kelly and I were planning our PLANTSGIVING feast, she asked if I had a salad I’d like to include in our menu. I did a little search through my archives and came to this salad. It’s incredibly pretty, which is a plus, but it really is a refreshing salad. I think every holiday feast needs a pretty salad and I implore you to try this one! (And not just for Thanksgiving – Christmas, New Year’s, anything!)
Asian pears aren’t around all the time like other varieties – you’ve got to grab ’em while you can. They taste like a really juicy, crunchy pear. I’ve said before that the texture reminds me a little of jicama; a really fresh, crisp texture. This salad is really all about textures: those juicy pear slices, thinly shaved fresh fennel bulb, ruby red pomegranate arils, toasted hazelnuts, and tender watercress.
If you haven’t tried watercress before, time’s a-wastin’! Get on that! It’s one of the healthiest greens you can eat. Maybe even more so than kale! Usually you’ll see hydroponically grown watercress in the produce section; sometimes in a sealed plastic bag. But you’ll most likely always see it with the root ball attached. It may be labeled as “upland cress.” In my opinion, the best cress is available during the cooler months. During the summer it can get really spicy or strong. (That doesn’t happen so much with the hydroponic watercress though.) Anyway, the leaves and stems are really tender and make a great leafy green for any salad, but cress is really good paired with fruit. If you don’t care for watercress or aren’t able to find it, arugula would be a great substitute here.
Our first course of PLANTSGIVING included Kelly’s DELICOUS Pumpkin Bisque (with a special ingredient!). I love having Thanksgiving in courses so I have time to really taste and enjoy all of the things and not just go straight for the stuffing. (Ahem.)
The last thing I want to say about this salad is THE DRESSING IS AMAZING. (Sorry for yelling.) I go through these phases where I just want to put vanilla bean paste in anything and everything. It found its way into vinaigrette, and it’s kind of there to stay. Vanilla can definitely cross over from sweet to savory. It’s a very simple dressing and it’s good on loads of salads, not just this one. So you may want to tuck that away for later. :)
- 1 large bunch watercress, washed, stems trimmed
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 large fennel bulb
- 2 medium firm, but ripe, Asian pears
- 1 cup pomegranate arils
- ½ cup roughly chopped hazelnuts
- 2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
- ½ to 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
- Pinch sea salt
- Have a medium mixing bowl filled with cool water. Add the lemon juice and set aside.
- Cut the tough stalks and trim the bottom of the fennel bulb. Cut it in half lengthwise and remove the core by cutting a v-shape and carefully twisting the knife to get it out. Thinly shave the fennel using a very sharp knife, mandoline, or food processor slicing attachment. Place the fennel into the bowl of lemon water to keep it from turning brown.
- Cut the pear in quarters and remove the core, then carefully cut into very thin slices with a sharp knife, or using one of the other methods mentioned above. Place the pear slices in the water with the fennel.
- Arrange the watercress in a bowl or on a large platter. Drain the fennel and pears well and add them to the platter. Sprinkle the pomegranate arils and hazelnuts on top.
- In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, vanilla bean paste, and pinch sea salt. (Or shake together in a small jar with tight-fitting lid.)
p.s. My original post with this Shaved Fennel Asian Pear Salad wtih Pomegranate and Watercress was part of a monthly series I did with another friend, Becky of Project Domestication. I made salad and she made a fabulous Lingonberry Jam Baked Brie – the perfect Thanksgiving appetizer. Becky is also has a great recipe for Herb and Orange Compound Butter.
And here’s the original photo: