Beautiful and festive, this easy arugula salad can be thrown together with little-to-no prepwork. It’s the type of salad that makes you look like a pro when you bring it to a potluck, BUT you can actually pick up the ingredients at the market on your way to the event, tossing it quickly in the host’s kitchen. It’s a showstopper (what dish with pomegranates isn’t?) and has a little of everything: peppery arugula, sweet pomegranates, crunchy almonds, salty parmesan, and tart balsamic dressing.
What Makes This Salad So Easy?
Markets often have each of these ingredients washed and prepped for you, just begging to be combined. Doesn’t get much easier than that! I know several of our local markets, including Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Ralph’s, carry (1) washed, bagged arugula, (2) shaved Parmesan, (3) containers of pomegranate seeds, (4) toasted and sliced almonds, and (5) high quality balsamic vinaigrette (I always look for one using olive oil). So the next time you’ve signed up to bring a salad to a dinner party, and you’re running short on time, consider this your go-to recipe for a quick pick-up on the way to your event.
If you have a little more time to prepare this salad, I’m including directions below on how to seed your own pomegranate and make your own balsamic vinaigrette.
And Good for You, Too!
One of the reasons salads — and in particular this easy arugula salad — can be such a terrific way to round out a meal is because you use them to cover a lot of nutritional bases. Here, we’ve got our greens and all of the disease-preventing, exercise-promoting benefits that come from them; pomegranates and their famous antioxidants; the healthy fats of almonds; parmesan’s vitamin K2; and an olive-oil based vinaigrette for its longevity-promoting health benefits.
BUT — and this is an important “but” — not all salads are created equal. Many salads include processed ingredients, such as certain cheeses, croutons, and dressings, that have traded their inherent nutrients for preservatives and chemicals. So a good rule of thumb when buying a pre-packaged salad mix, or even choosing your own ingredients, is to read the ingredients label and make sure you understand everything on it.
Presentation is Everything
What I like most about this easy arugula salad is just how pretty it is. The contrasting and vibrant colors are striking, and the ingredient sizes and weights are balanced enough that the pomegranate seeds, almonds, and parmesan get tangled up in the arugula rather than falling to the bottom of the salad bowl as so often happens. But one key I’ve found to presenting a pretty salad is to set aside 1/3 of the toppings, and after everything has been dressed and tossed, add them to the top so eaters can quickly see what’s in the salad and appreciate the beauty of the ingredients.
All About Arugula
- Flavor: Arugula is an herb with an assertive peppery flavor; when purchasing it, you should know that smaller leaves will have a less bitter taste. If you can’t get your hands on arugula, you can substitute with spinach, watercress, or another of your favorite greens.
- Uses: I love making an arugula salad, but I find the herb should be combined with equally assertive ingredients (such as the sweet pomegranate seeds and salty parmesan here; another idea is with delicata squash and a curried dressing). I also think it’s great to add to the top of pizzas and pastas right before serving (it will wilt quickly if cooked); it’s peppery flavor successfully balances the salty cheese and acidic tomato sauce.
- Benefits: Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable (think broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts), and has similar health benefits to most vegetables: prevention of cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
All About Pomegranates
- To Buy: Pomegranates, one of the most beautiful fruits in my opinion, are in season September through January. Look for large, round pomegranates for best flavor and longest shelf life.
- Benefits: They also have an array of health benefits: they contain phytochemicals and antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- “How-To”: If you are seeding the pomegranate yourself, the key to separating the red arils from the white pulp is to open the fruit in a bowl filled with water. Using your thumb, break through the red skin in a soft spot near the top, and tear the fruit apart into a few pieces. As you work to release the arils from the flesh, they will sink to the bottom while the white bits rise to the top.
Easy Arugula Salad
Beautiful and festive, the ingredients for this arugula and pomegranate salad can be thrown together with little to no prepwork.
- 8 cups arugula washed and dried
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds or one whole pomegranate, seeded
- 1 cup parmesan shaved
- 1/2 cup almonds sliced and toasted
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 tsp djon mustard
- 1/2 tsp honey
Combine all of arugula with approximately 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds, 2/3 cup parmesan, and 1/3 cup almonds. Save remaining ingredients to sprinkle on top after tossing salad.
Combine all dressing ingredients in mason jar or airtight container. Secure lid and shake to combine.
Add dressing to salad. Toss to combine.
If serving from bowl, sprinkle remaining pomegranate seeds, parmesan, and almonds on top of bowl and serve. If plating salad, divide among four plates and sprinkle remaining ingredients on plated salads.
You can save yourself a step by purchasing a store-bought vinaigrette. For superior taste and nutrition, find one that is olive-oil-based with minimal ingredients.
If seeding pomegranate yourself: open the fruit in a bowl filled with water. Using your thumb, break through the red skin in a soft spot near the top, and tear the fruit apart into a few pieces. As you work to release the arils from the flesh, they will sink to the bottom while the white bits rise to the top.