I've only ever spent January in one of two climes: St. Albert, Alberta or Victoria, British Columbia. In Alberta there are bundles of sun and blazing white snowscapes. It's frosty, sure, but in an invigorating, heart (or should I say throat?)-catching, snot-freezing sorta way. Inside, you're kept perfectly warm by the reassuring roar of the furnace turning over in the middle of the night.
Victoria is a bit different. There's plenty of green on the ground, but grey in the sky. It's usually damp and dismal, wet with a deep-sinking chill. Any heat that manages to be found indoors quickly disappears out the poorly-insulated windows and sometimes, just for fun, when you check the temperature of your living room with a candy thermometer, it reads 13 degrees Celsisus.
Oh winter! As my Dad never ceases to remind me, we must eat to stay warm. Onion-heady braises bubbling in the depths of your oven, plump beans dancing to tenderness on the corner of your stove. Bright, piping soups, thick, homey stews. Potatoes in any form. These signify January. At least for me. Yet, every once in awhile, in this mid-winterest of months, I crave freshness, a snap to echo the outside air. A salad of sorts.
For awhile, my go-to winter salad contained crisp slices of celery, half moons of Belgian endive, ribbons of radicchio with some celery and parsley leaves thrown in for good measure. A puckering mustard-laced dressing, a sprinkle of toasted nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, what-have-you) and I was in winter bliss. Well, all that changed when I made this sweet-sour dream of a salad. There's bite and brightness, crunch and crackle, enough tang to tantalize the tastebuds and a swipe of sweetness to smooth it all over. It's enough to wake anyone from a mid-winter reverie. Just the sort of thing we need.
Adapted from Casa Moro
1/2 cup medium bulgur
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp water
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small head radicchio, thinly sliced
1/2 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
1/4 large cauliflower, separated into tiny florets
1/4 cup (or more) roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp (or more) roughly chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp roughly chopped toasted walnuts
seeds of 1/2 pomegranate, all bitter yellow membranes removed
Place the bulgur in medium bowl and cover generously with warm water. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the bulgur has swelled but is still toothsome. Drain in a sieve.
Mix the garlic, cinnamon and pomegranate molasses together, then add the water and whisk in the olive oil to form an emulsion. Check for seasoning.
Combine the bulgur, radicchio, fennel, cauliflower, herbs, walnuts and pomegranate seeds. Toss with the dressing just before you are ready to eat, and check the seasoning once again.
Makes enough for 4, generously.