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by Liren Baker

Liren Baker is the voice behind the blog Kitchen Confidante, where she shares taste and inspiration in the kitchen. Inspired by the beauty of food, what it represents, what it invokes, and what we can create out of it, she shares recipes and images that remind her of her heritage, her childhood in New York, and the vibrant culinary culture she has learned to embrace in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she currently lives.

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  • chestnut salad
    Photo: Liren Baker
  • I've always been a nostalgic person. Some may call me sappy, but I prefer "nostalgic." It sounds less weepy and a little more refined. But I'm sure most people would agree that the holidays tend to make most people a little bit more sappy. Christmas music and the scent of evergreen surely conjure up those memories we all hold near and dear to our hearts.
  • pomegranates
    Photo: Liren Baker
  • Thoughts of the holidays bring me back to the bustling streets of New York, where I would walk in wonder as a little girl, feeling the cold on my cheeks and the brush of hurried strangers on the sidewalks. Carts on each corner would steam with roasted chestnuts, their nutty aroma filling the air. And at home, my parents would score the brown nuggets, roasting them in the oven until our house was filled with the same aroma. We would sit with warm napkin-fulls of chestnuts in our laps, peeling and popping the sweet nut fruits into our mouths as we watched Frosty, Rudolph, and Santa come to life on the television screen.
  • pomegranate dressing
    Photo: Liren Baker
  • These days, chestnuts are harder to find in my present day life. They seem to be a rarity in West Coast markets, so when I find them, I am instantly transported to my Christmases in New York. I wanted to create a salad that marries what I love the most from my two coasts. This chestnut salad with pomegranate dressing is a winter salad that combines the freshness of the west with the nutty earthiness of the east. The ruby pomegranate aerils glisten like ornaments among the silky red dressing, making this a fantastic salad for the holidays.
  • chestnut salad
    Photo: Liren Baker
  • Chestnut Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

    Serves 4

    For the pomegranate dressing:
    1/2 cup pomegranates aerils—yields 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1/4 teasoon salt
    1/4 cup olive oil

    For the salad:
    Assorted salad greens of baby greens, baby kale, and baby arugula
    2 clementines or tangerines (or 1 naval orange), peeled and sliced in thin round slices
    1 cup roasted chestnut nut meats
    1 cup pomegranate aerils
    1 parsnip, peeled and slivered with a peeler
    1/4 cup gorgonzola, crumbled

    Place the pomegranate aerils in a blender and blend on high speed. Pour the seeds through a fine sieve over a cup, collecting the juice by pressing the seeds with the back of a spoon. Alternatively, you can use store bought pomegranate juice.

    Rinse the blender of any remaining aerils. Pour the pomegranate juice back into the blender bowl, along with the sugar, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, and olive oil. Blend on high speed until the dressing becomes creamy, and the olive oil has emulsified the dressing.

    Assemble the salad by placing the salad greens on four salad plates. Scatter with the citrus slices, chestnuts, aerils, parsnips, and gorgonzola. Drizzle each salad with the dressing. Serve immediately.

    Note: The dressing can be prepared two days in advance, and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Whisk before using.
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