A little over three years ago, my dad came back from hunting and told my mom he wanted to change the way they ate. He’d read a book (yep, in the deer stand) by Dr. Carl Esselstyn titled Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, which advocated a vegan, fat-free diet. My dad—who is a family practice doctor—had long been fond of his meat and potatoes and my mother was “mildly surprised” at his declaration. However, she understood his interest when he explained that the science made sense and he thought the diet would be beneficial for some of his patients, but felt he should test it before recommending they make the change.
My mom was quite surprised when he said: “I want my patients to lose 10,000 pounds. And I want our county to lose 100,000 pounds.” Since then, they’ve been moving toward that goal in my dad’s practice and through his leadership at the local hospital. Dad lost about 30 pounds and lowered his cholesterol enough to discontinue medication; Mom got back to her pre-pregnancy weight and, let the record show, she had seven pregnancies.
I was suspicious about the new diet at first, but my struggle—with poor eating habits and weight gain in college—pushed me to take an extreme approach. I eventually gave being a fat-free vegan a try: it was an entirely new, challenging approach to cooking. I did it strictly for six months, then slowly found a personal balance: I don’t cook fat-free, but I do limit our fat intake (especially bad fat, duh) by using oils sparingly, or omitting them when appropriate.
This past Thanksgiving, Mom made this salad—so delicious and easy. The original recipe is posted on her blog, 100,000 Pounds, but I made a few modifications. The original calls for pomegranate molasses, but I couldn’t find it in the grocery store and didn’t have time to make some. Mom buys hers at a Mediterranean market and recommended that I check Whole Foods—I adapted the first time I made it and have since found the molasses at Whole Foods.
If there’s such a thing as a dessert salad—with actual lettuce—this it it. It’s sweet, but not cloyingly so. The liqueur balances the sweetness and pairs nicely with the savory pistachios and tangy mint.
I’ve scaled down the recipe for a smaller crowd (Mom’s called for 12 oranges!), but not the dressing recipe, because you’re going to want extra. It doubles as a syrup—my family loves it on waffles and pancakes.
If you don’t want the booze, add bitters instead of Cointreau or Grand Marnier. While high-alcohol by volume, it’s considered non-alcoholic because you’re using it by the dash (like an extract).
- ½ head of lettuce / bunch of kale
- 1 pomegranate
- 1 orange
- 5-10 pitted and quartered dates
- Juice of a lime
- ⅓ cup pomegranate molasses or regular (see instructions)
- ⅓ cup agave / coconut nectar / maple syrup
- ⅓ cup Cointreau / Grand Marnier / or 10 dashes of aromatic bitters
- Pistachios and mint to garnish
- Whisk together agave, Cointreau, lime juice, and molasses. If you don't have pomegranate molasses, you can throw a handful of pomegranate arils (1/4 cup) in with the other dressing ingredients and pulse in a blender, then strain out the seeds. This will substitute for the pomegranate molasses.
- Wash, tear and prepare lettuce.
- Peel and slice your orange.
- Top the greens with mint, orange, the rest of the pomegranate arils, pistachios and drizzle with the dressing. DONE.
Note: #1 The original recipe calls for agave and Cointreau, but I had neither, so I used Grand Marnier and coconut nectar. I was quite pleased with the result. #2 I also blended some of the pomegranate arils with the other dressing ingredients, because I didn’t have pomegranate molasses, although it looks super easy to make. You can also order it on Amazon here. #3 A note about the sugar–woof. I estimated the dressing will serve 12, you may find it serves more. Furthermore, the sugar is mostly from natural sources, with the dressing accounting for only 11g of sugar. Just compensate by making this dish your dose of sugar for the day.