Sunday, December 5, 2010

Salad of Asparagus with Artichokes, Arugula, Pomegranate and Beetroot with White Balsamic Dressing

Salad of Asparagus, Artichokes, Beetroot & Pomegranate 1

I know that many of you right now are wrapped in thermals and "downy" jackets, and shivering beneath several feet of snow.  Meanwhile, down here in the southern hemisphere, we are throwing off our "cardies", booking in for an emergency pedicure and breaking out our jandals (that might be flip-flops or thongs where you come from).  It's time to bring out the sunhats, beach towels and togs (or that may be bathers, cossies, or swimsuit to you), which of course raises the issue of how far away from the beach can you wear your togs before they become undies ... check out this hilarious NZ television ad which addresses the issue.

Okay, so I headed a little off topic there, but as we head towards Christmas you might now be starting to get the idea that down here it's definitely not all about holly berries and snow, roasted turkey and plum pudding.  Down here, it's more about sun, sand, surf and pohutakawa flowers, barbeques, seafood, shandies, salads, strawberries and pavlova.

The recipe I'm sharing with you today, could not be more quintessentially Kiwi summer if it tried, and I make no apology for that - even if it doesn't fit with you right now, bookmark it for later because I'm pretty sure you are going to want to try this one.  The dramatic colours of this salad give this a very festive look, making it the perfect addition to the Kiwi Christmas table, very reminiscent of those flowering pohutakawa trees.  In my opinion, this salad has real class - it is stylish and sophisticated in its choice of ingredients and compositon, which is a great counter-point to the flavours which are bold and earthy.  This would be perfect as a main course salad for a light lunch, or would make a very elegant starter to a more substantial evening meal.  And, as if all that is not Kiwi enough, I chose this recipe from "Salads: The New Main Course" by Peter Gordon - a Kiwi chef, now living in London where he co-owns The Providores and Tapa Room, he is considered by many to be at the absolute forefront of "fusion food".

A couple of small changes I made to the recipe - I couldn't get pretty pink striped beetroot, as suggested, so used regular red ones instead;  also, I couldn't get purslane and nasturtium leaves, so substituted rocket (arugula) instead - I think watercress would also be a good alternative, and Peter Gordon also suggests that sea kale if you can get it is a great substitution - really any good looking, great tasting leaves will work.

Another note - this salad uses white balsamic vinegar, which you should be able to find in most specialty stores (New Zealand residents refer to my Source Guide).  This has a similar, though less intense flavour, to regular balsamic vinegar, but is pale in colour - this makes it perfect to use on occasions where you don't want such a dominant flavour profile (for example to accompany a fish dish perhaps), or where you don't want the colour of your dressing to spoil the look of your dish.  If you can't get white balsamic vinegar, then I suggest that you substitute with something like a cider or champagne vinegar.

Salad of Asparagus with Artichokes, Arugula, Pomegranate and Beetroot with White Balsamic Dressing Recipe
Slightly adapted from Peter Gordon's
Serves 2 as a main meal or 4 as an appetiser
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

2 medium sized beetroot
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (refer Source Guide)
4 globe artichokes
2 lemons
1 large pomegranate
12 asparagus spears
fresh rocket (arugula), or other leaves
nasturtium leaves to garnish, if available
extra virgin olive oil

Put beetroot into a pan with the cider vinegar and salt, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, and cook until tender - about 30-40 minutes.  Set aside to cool in the cooking liquid, then remove and peel.  Slice as thinly as you possibly can with a sharp knife, or even better with a mandoline if you have one.  Mix with the white balsamic vinegar and set aside.

Slice one of the lemons into rounds and put into a pot of cold water.  Juice the other lemon (don't discard the shells), and add the juice to the pan of water.  The artichokes oxidise quickly, so keep rubbing them with the inside of the reserved lemon shells as you work.  Firstly peel off the tough outer leaves - they will kind of snap off near the base.  Then using a knife, trim around the bottom of the artichoke and peel away the tough, fibrous, outer layer of the stem.   Cut off the top half of the leaves. Then cut them in half lengthwise,  and scoop the "hairy" choke out of the middle.  Add each one to the pan of "lemony" water as you go, and once they are all done, set the pan over heat and bring up to the boil.  Cook at a fast simmer until a knife slides easily into the thickest part of the heart - about 20 minutes.  Drain, run under cold water, then leave to cool.  Slice into pieces about 1cm thick.

Cut the pomegranate in half and remove the jewel-like seeds - I find the "spanking" method works best - hold one half of the pomegranate over a bowl, flesh side down, and "spank" firmly and repeatedly on the shell with a wooden spoon until all the seeds and any juice drop out into the bowl.  Discard any of the white pith that might also fall into the bowl.

Lastly, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the asparagus, bring back to the boil, and cook until the asparagus is just tender - about 2 minutes depending on thickness of the spears.  Drain and immediately refresh in iced water, and drain again.

To assemble:  Arrange asparagus spears on a plate and place slices of artichoke over the top.

Scatter over the rocket, or whatever leaves you are using.

Salad of Asparagus, Artichokes, Beetroot & Pomegranate 3

Nestle the beetroot slices in amongst the leaves.  Scatter the pomegranate seeds and their juice over the top, garnish with the nasturtium leaves if you have them.  Drizzle the vinegar from the beetroot over the salad, and finish with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

Salad of Asparagus, Artichokes, Beetroot & Pomegranate 2

I hope you give this beautiful salad a try, and if you're interested in more wonderful and innovative salad ideas then I highly recommend this book - imagine Cape Gooseberry, Smoked Duck, Sunflower Seed, Yoghurt & Chive Salad on Deep-Fried Tortilla Chips as an appetiser, or Panko-Crumbed Turkey, Honey-Glazed Parsnip & Watercress Salad, Cranberry-Pomegranate Compote & a Deep-Fried Egg as a substantial main, or Warm Salad of Brioche-Honey Croutons, Saffron-Poached Pear, & Rum Sultanas with Vanilla Mascarpone for a heavenly dessert.   Of course, I'll be bringing you more recipes from this wonderful book, but why wait? - why not get your very own copy by following the link below.

Salads: The New Main Course

Available from Amazon

I'm submitting this post to Cookbook Sundays, hosted by the lovely Brenda at Brenda's Canadian Kitchen.  She's worth a visit any day of the week, but why not head over there right now and see who else has dusted off their cookbooks - you'll almost certainly find some great recipes, and maybe you'll discover a new book you'd like to add to your collection.

cookbook sundays          

I'm also submitting this post to the Hearth and Soul blog hop, a place where you'll find lots of wonderful people who are passionate about great food and cooking from the heart - do go and have a look at what they're all cooking this week.

I'm also sharing this post at Food on Friday:Beetroot hosted by Carole at Carole's Chatter.


  1. I love the differences in season from my end of the world to yours. It's always fun to know someone is sunbathing while we freeze :-)

    I'll have to check out these Bittman recipes. Your salad looks divine!

  2. Sue, I loved the commercial! If you can't see the water you're in underpants, lol! This is definitely a salad I would absolutely enjoy. So many delicious ingredients and gorgeous to look at! I too find it so interesting in our season differences. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe AND the commerical with Cookbook Sundays!

  3. Great commercial! Enjoy your togs and jandals!

  4. Beautiful salads, Bikini, sun...I have admit I am quite jelaus right now:))

    Have a nice day

  5. This book can't be more handy than right now. I really like salad of any kind and the addition of crunchy bits such as pomegranate.

  6. Golly, I am just surrounded by nasturtium plants, in fact I have to keep them back! I only eat the flowers and buds, never the leaves, must try :-).


  7. Seeing summer food over here is what keeps me going. It gives me hope that someday winter will end... This salad sounds delicious! Great combo of flavors and textures.

  8. i really love how pretty this salad looks!! yum!! thanks for sharing this post.

  9. That ad is hilarious! One of my best friends is from Australia, I'm going to share your site with her. The salad sounds great too :).I found you on the hop and I am now following you. Please follow me back at Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

  10. Hi SuzyQ! That commercial was hilarious! I love it! though, up here, unless a man is on a swim team, they dont usually wear bathing suits like that! Very small! As for your season and your salad, it makes me warm and feels so fresh! I love that I can imagine you in your um, togs while I am in my sweater! Big hugs baby and thanks for sharing on the hearth and soul hop! Alex

  11. Sue, what a beautiful salad and so full of good for you vegetables. PS going to watch the commercial now

  12. Oh, the salad just shimmers like jewels...absolutely gorgeous! And I love artichokes...sounds amazing! And personally, I don't even like togs ON the beach ;) LOL...funny commercial! Thanks for sharing w/ the hearth and soul hop, Sue!

  13. I seriously envy for sun, warm and light how wonderful the ad was very funny and stunning salad :) perfect summery :)

  14. Love this salad. I was just telling my hubby the other day that we should be having more salads! Great timing! Amusing video! Thanks for the smiles!

  15. Sue, your salad looks beautiful and I have almost all the ingredients on hand (except the asparagus)! I love all balsamic vinegars, but white balsamic is one of my favourites. Even though it's winter here I think your salad would be a lovely colourful dish to serve for Christmas entertaining. Thank you for sharing it.

  16. If you can't see the water you're in underpants. (Thanks for the chuckle)

    This is truly a beautiful salad Sue! It looks stunning.

  17. Beautiful! Oh my goodness, Sue, that's a magazine worthy photo. I love beets & artichoke hearts, so I cannot wait to give this a try. I can't wait to show the video to my Australian friend, she's going to love it!

  18. I will be saying "undies, undies, undies, togs" all day now - what a great commercial - I love that through your blog we get to enjoy a second spring! I do have this bookmarked! Thanks for sharing this with us at the Hearth and Soul Hop!

  19. Your salad has all the right components that I love and none that I don't and looks gorgeous too!

    US Masala

  20. Stopping over to wish you A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Enjoy your holidays!

  21. Thanks you all so much for all your lovely comments. Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and my very best wishes to you all for the year ahead.
    Sue xo

  22. This salad sounds right up my alley & I often have all of these ingredients from the "Bountiful Baskets". Can't wait for the summer produce to come in it is beginning.

    1. Thanks, Roslyn. This is one of my favourite salads to make the minute the first asparagus spears of spring appear. Hope you enjoy your summer.


Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I love hearing from you and your comments are like gold to me. Your comment will be visible as soon as it has been approved.