Valentine’s Day is the worst. Or so I thought, until we started a new tradition with friends two years ago. . .
At least, we tried to start a tradition. So far, the day has not yet gone as planned. But we have high hopes for February 14, 2013.
Some history: three years ago, on the first Valentine’s Day Alex and I spent together, we embarked on a cooking project meant to cement our feelings of affection through cooperation. Together, we made dumplings from scratch then roasted a pork shoulder in the style of Momofuku. That was fun, if insanely filling.
The next year, work sent Alex to England, and I joined my friends Leora, Adam, and Jordana at a pizza dinner they had been having together for a couple of years (I think). Adam proudly took all three ladies out.
Last year, with Alex in New York, we had plans to eat pizza with the same group. Leora made a reservation. We were prepped for a Valentine’s Day of pizza and love with this fivesome when I found out that my beloved childhood cat was really sick. I went home and spent Valentine’s Day with Leo (the cat) and my mom. It was awful, the worst Valentine’s Day I’ve had by far.
New Year’s Eve is another holiday best spent with friends, in my book. This year, six of us gathered at my friend Essie’s apartment in Fort Greene. Though Essie made a lovely gesture of letting me appear to backseat chef the menu, in fact she choreographed most of the evening herself. We grilled flank steak on her terrace and topped the meat with chimichurri. There were potatoes. And then there was a salad with toasted nuts, pomegranate, arugula, and radicchio, that my friend Sami and I tossed together under Essie’s direction. But really, credit goes to her. As friends make Valentine’s Day awesome, so they make New Year’s Eve more fun.
I’ve made a similar salad several times since, and this is my latest version, festive and colorful and wonderful for Valentine’s Day. Whether the main course is as untraditional as pizza or as idyllic as filet mignon for two,
Arugula & Radicchio Salad with Pomegranate, Pecans, and Pecorino
Toss together this salad in the afternoon, if you like, but don’t dress it ’til right before serving. The endive and radicchio add some crunch, but if you don’t want to buy both, just use the radicchio.
For the salad
2 1/2 ounces washed arugula leaves, dried well
1/2 small radicchio, trimmed of outer leaves and sliced thinly
1/2 endive, trimmed of outer leaves and sliced thinly
1 carrot, peeled and grated
Seeds from half a pomegranate–about 1/4 to 1/3 cup
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely broken up
About 10 thin slices of pecorino cheese, shaved from a wedge with your peeler
For the blood orange dressing
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed blood orange juice (regular orange juice is fine too)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
In a salad bowl, combine the arugula, radicchio, and endive and grated carrot. Toss.
For the dressing: Whisk together the orange juice and mustard. Slowly drizzle in the oil 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking the whole time. Go especially slowly as you drizzle that first tablespoon, to make sure the dressing emulsifies. Add the salt and pepper. Taste on a lettuce leaf and add more salt if needed.
Pour half the dressing over the veggies in the salad bowl and toss to distribute. Artfully top with the pecans, pecorino shavings, and pomegranate. Serve, passing more dressing on the side.