Since I had Hassan M'Souli's Moroccan Modern out on the counter to make charmoula, I figured I'd search for an intriguing new vegetable dish as well. It was serendipitous that I actually had grapefruits, green olives, parsley, hazelnuts, avocado and pomegranate in my kitchen. The only ingredient I needed to purchase was watercress, and then I'd be set to whip up M'Souli's Smashed Green Olive and Ruby Grapefruit Salad.
Pomegranate season is in full force right now, and I for one am always looking for a convincing way to use the finger-staining seeds. They're fun to eat on their own for awhile, but I bore of that rather quickly. It's so messy! In Santa Cruz we used to make a solid salad of frisée, roasted butternut squash, goat cheese and pomegranate seeds, but still I search for something new.
M'Souli's salad is a riot of textures. There's the crunch of the toasted hazelnut, the pop of the pomegranate, the squish of green olive, and the buttery smoosh of avocado. Undeniably there is a lot going on flavor-wise as well. The saltiness of the olives, the zing of the grapefruit, the vegetal bitterness of parsley and watercress, and the sweetness of pomegranate make for a whole lot of stimulation for your mouth.
I've never tried anything quite like this salad before. I really liked it. I didn't love it. I'd make a couple of changes and I think it would be right up my alley. I feel like one other contrasting flavor would be necessary to truly bring the salad together. That is to say that the recipe is sorely missing shallot or perhaps garlic. There isn't much of a dressing, beyond two tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. I'd either mix the two together with a tablespoon of chopped shallot or I'd mix the lemon and olive oil together with a clove or two of smashed garlic and let that sit for about fifteen minutes before drizzling over the rest of the ingredients.
I'd also cut back just a bit on the green olives. I was suffering from olive fatigue by the end. Instead of eight ounces, perhaps five would suffice. With those few easy changes, I think this salad would be spot on.
The beauty of the recipe is that it is a snap, aside from segmenting the grapefruits and pitting the olives, which once you get into the rhythm of it is really no big thing. M'Souli suggests placing the olives between paper towels and hitting them with a mallet or rolling pin to release the pits. I recommend squashing each one with your thumb and removing the pit. It's more straightforward.
Plus, this salad is amazingly healthy and fresh, and perfect for the season, not to mention easy on the eyes.
Hassan M'Souli's Smashed Green Olive & Ruby Grapefruit Salad
8 ounces green olives
2 ruby grapefruits, peeled and segmented
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsely
3 1/2 ounce snowpea sprouts, if available, or watercress
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the olives between layers of paper towels and hit each olive with a mallet or rolling pin to release the stones.
Place the olives, grapefruit, parsley, watercress, hazelnuts, and avocado onto a serving plate. Mix pomegranate seeds, oil, lemon juice, and pepper, and pour over salad. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes prior to serving, for the flavors to mix and enhance.