Thursday, March 26, 2015

Herby Quinoa and Pomegranate Salad








I remember those afternoons when I would order freshly pressed pomegranate juice ubiquitous on the streets of Istanbul. The drink was rich in antioxidants and vitamins, so fresh, and unbelievably inexpensive; I never tired of more. The tight clusters of ruby jewels called arils nestled inside the fruit would release an impressive amount of juices once crushed - a fact that I testified the hard way having cracked open one by hand for the first time in my own kitchen.

Prized as they are where I live, I never really laid my hands on this exquisite fruit until I was recently gifted with two. Elated, my mind quickly raced for ideas to make the most out of these precious fruits. And should I have looked up the best ways to deseed a pomegranate, I might have averted spraying ruby stains up the walls, all across the kitchen floor, and into my eyes. And perhaps I could have excavated the fruit in a third of the time. But hey, as long as I enjoy the fruit of labor, who cares?

Rounding off the nuttiness of quinoa with homegrown herbs, salty olives, tart cranberries, toasted pine nuts, a hint of lemon and rich olive oil and - lastly - the sweet and crunchy "jewels in the crown"
Pomegranate seeds add vibrant color, crunch, a refreshing hint of sweetness, and a touch of festivity to just about anything. I came across Cookie+Kate's Mediterranean-inspired recipe and was instantly hooked. A healthy, light, but filling salad that you can enjoy as a main or a mezze side, this salad practically sings in your mouth with a symphony of contrasting flavors and textures. Substitute couscous for quinoa and leave out olives to suit your preference. If you crave for some creaminess and a savory tang, add feta or crumbled goat cheese. Experiment with different kinds of nuts; personally I find pine nuts a seamless match.

To prepare...
1/2 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons fresh pomegranate arils
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
8 Kalamata olives, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Rinse and place quinoa in a saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring water to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes, covered. Take pot off heat, leave covered for 5 additional minutes. Uncover the pot and fluff the quinoa with a fork, set aside.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, chop the herbs and toast the pine nuts either on stovetop or in an oven. Remove the nuts from heat as soon as they begin to brown, glisten, and turn fragrant. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper (optional).

3. Assembling the salad: Combine quinoa, the chopped parsley and mint, olives, cranberries, pine nuts, and pomegranate in a medium bowl and drizzle in the dressing. Toss to coat and season to taste, adding more olive oil if desired. Serve right away or make ahead and keep refrigerated for several days!
 
Adapted from Cookie+Kate's recipe on http://cookieandkate.com/2014/herbed-quinoa-and-pomegranate-salad/
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