I see a lot of parallels between getting dressed each morning and getting dinner on the table each night. Unlike a lot of folks for whom these tasks fall squarely in the category of  “chore,” I (usually) embrace the creativity of both. With clothes, it starts with a glance through my closet where something grabs my eye — a cozy grey sweater on a cool day,  a pair of leather booties, a vintage belt from the Goodwill — and the outfit builds from there. The first piece is always the easiest, layering in what comes next is trickier.

Pulling together dinner is similar. I rifle through the fridge to see what elements add up to a main dish. Imagination unfolds: leftover chicken becomes enchiladas, a package of ground turkey transforms into chili. Once I have the center-of-the-plate sorted out, then it’s all about the sides. And sides are key, since that’s where the bulk of the vegetables at our table tend to reside. But I get stuck sometimes. Just like getting dressed, accessorizing can be the hardest part.

Enter a new resource designed to help with those all-important sides, a cookbook by Tara Mataraza Desmond called Choosing Sides. The book features 130 recipes for everything you could possibly think to serve on the side, from grains and beans to dinner rolls and all manner of vegetables. Just as handy is the guidance about matching up sides with mains. Each recipe offers a laundry list of suggestions for perfect pairings. Love that!

As we roll into what I consider the “season of sides,” starting off with Thanksgiving, Choosing Sides couldn’t come at a better time (hello, hostess gifts!). Consider, for example, this Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Pistachio Salad, which is the perfect counterpoint to the heaviness of typical holiday menus.

As for the perfect counterpoint to typical holiday outfits?  If only there were a new resource for that too.

Anyone?

Persimmon, Pomegranate, and Pistachio Salad

Sweet, ripe, and vibrant orange persimmons are a soft, satiny bed for a colorful tangle of greens adorned with shiny ruby pomegranate and peridot-hued pistachio bits. Fennel’s earthy anise notes weave through all the flavors, which are perfect accompaniments to the most popular tastes and textures on a holiday buffet. Pomegranate molasses is a reduction of pomegranate juice and is available bottled in Middle Eastern groceries, gourmet markets and some supermarket ethnic food aisles. It is supremely tart with a sweet finish. It’s used widely in desserts but it really shines on the savory side of the menu.
Course Salad
Servings 4 to 6
Author katiemorford

Ingredients

Salad

  • 2 medium ripe Fuyu persimmons
  • 1 small pomegranate
  • ½ cup shelled roasted and salted pistachios, chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced or finely shaved on a mandoline
  • 6 packed cups (about 6 ounces) mixed greens or arugula

Pomegranate Molasses Vinaigrette

  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (substitute honey if needed)
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 grinds black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. For the salad, use a sharp paring knife to cut the skins off the persimmons and then slice the fruit into very thin rounds. Line a large platter with the slices.
  2. Cut the pomegranate into quarters and tap out the arils, or juicy, edible seeds, from within. You’ll have to do some work with your fingers to separate the arils from the peel and white membranes, which you can discard.
  3. Toss the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and fennel with the greens and pile the mixture on top of the persimmons.
  4. For the vinaigrette, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the oils and then whisk briskly until the liquids emulsify into a slightly thickened vinaigrette.
  5. Drizzle the salad lightly with the vinaigrette, toss, taste, and add more dressing if needed.
  6. Serve immediately.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Choosing Sides: From Holidays to Every Day, 130 Delicious Recipes to Make the Meal by Tara Mataraza Desmond/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. Photos by Ben Pieper