My favorite Winter Salad: Smoked Salmon, Pomegranate, Pecans and Cheese on mixed greens

This salad.  Anytime.
It's nice to have a go-to dish that you know will always work, no matter where you are going or when you need it or how many people you'll be feeding.  For me during the Winter months, this salad is that kind of dish.  I love it. I've made it for a party of one (that would be me).  I've made it for a party of 40. I've served at birthday parties; at Christmas parties; at New Year's parties; and for "hey, you're coming over?  Sure, I'll make something quick" kinds of occasions. I've eaten it for lunch, dinner, and as a snack, and it's never been a disappointment.  In fact, on days when you want to celebrate, and on days when you feel like there is nothing worth celebrating, this salad is a winner.

The ingredients are easy to come by and there are no special tricks.  But the magic is in the dressing and the way it ties all of the other ingredients together.  You'll need to get yourself some raspberry vinegar and a little maple syrup.  Add in some good quality olive oil, a little salt and a little less paper.  Shake it vigorously.  Set it aside.  You'll pour over salad just before serving.  Mix the salad just enough to coat everything in the dressing - but make sure you don't drown it.  Serve immediately.

As for the other ingredients:  buy a mix of different salad greens.  Toast the pecans (don't skip this step -  the toasted flavor is key.  Buy good-quality warm-smoked salmon.  Fresh, juicy, sweet pomegranate seeds add a pop of jazzy color.  Cucumber for some crunchy fun. And the cheese.  In Finland there is this wonderful oven-baked cheese called "leipäjuusto" in Finnish and "squeaky cheese" by some of my American friends because of the sound it makes between your teeth when you first bite into it. Since it's extremely hard to find outside of Finland, Indian paneer cheese or even a nice mild Gouda cut into bite-sized pieces will work just as well.

This will brighten even the gloomiest of Winter days
Smoked Salmon, Pomegranate, Pecans, Cheese & Mixed Greens Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Make the dressing: 
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon genuine maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the dressing ingredients in small jar with a lid.  Check well to combine, then set aside. 

Prepare the salad:
8 cups / 2 liters of washed, loosely packed mixed salad greens
200g / 1/2 pound hot-smoked salmon, cut into pieces
100g of Finnish leipäjuusto or Gouda, cut into bite-sized chunks
100g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 English cucumber, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
seeds of 1/2 pomegranate

Combine the salad greens, cheese, pecans, cucumber, 3/4 of the pomegranate seeds, and 2/3 of the salmon in a bowl.  Just before serving, shake the dressing in the jar to make sure it is well mixed.  Pour it over the top of the salad and mix the salad with your clean hands to coat everything.  Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and top with the remaining smoked salmon and pomegranate seeds.

Serves 4-6.

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