a very special salad – of Quinoa, Pomegranate, Almond and Feta
We all know that a life well-lived, among those we love (and those we abide) involves compromise. Sometimes, just living with ourselves involves taking turns, listening, letting go, and just plain being “nice.” Some of us (me among them) have polarized opposite sides that occasionally do war with each other. Nothing violent, but at times they do squabble. How in any way does this relate to what’s for dinner? The other day I told you I’d share something special. And I’m about to, but it’s a salad. (I’m sorry…Was that a groan I just heard?) You were expecting something sweet and soft and darkly-chocolatey-naughty? Well, I’m saving that for tomorrow’s post, which is why tonight we’re having a dinner of salad. One very small example of how we compromise, and why.
(Another example – I’d just settled down to write this post late yesterday afternoon and had two sentences on-screen when the phone rang. My mother, who lives about an hour away in the middle of Oregon’s wine country, had headed out to feed her chickens and tuck them back into their coop for the night. These chickens live very well. We kid that at night they’re read bedtime stories and sung to. They’re not of course, but they do lead happy free-roaming, well-fed lives. As I was saying, before I interrupted myself, the phone rang and it was my mother. She’d locked herself out of the house and was calling from the neighbors. She had no way of getting back in. She’d already checked every door and window. I was the only one with a key. The post would wait. My mama could not.)
Two and a half hours later, the salad in its big bowl is waiting, outdoors on a table staying cool. My husband pours us glasses of wine, I cut pieces of bread from yesterdays loaf and toss the salad. We eat, hungrily, within minutes of my walking through the door.
I’m going to be very honest with you (I always try to be)…this salad was soooo incredibly delicious! We loved it, devoured every last bit. In fact, we entirely forgot we were compromising! And we still get our dessert tonight! Life is so good when we decide to play nice!
A NOTE on Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) for those unfamiliar with it — is a high-protein seed often referred to as a grain. It’s cultivated, high in the Andes of South America, in elevations exceeding 10,000 feet. Quinoa contains all eight essential amino acids, as well as other highly beneficial compounds, vitamins and minerals. It’s touted today to be one of the super-foods but thousands of years ago the Incas reverently cherished it as chiyasa mama, the mother of all grains. It’s very mild flavored, in fact hardly any flavor at all, which is why it takes well to any sort of flavoring you choose to add. It has just the slightest bit of delicate crunch. And, as an extra bonus, quinoa is gluten-free.
You may be able to find quinoa pre-washed, but if it isn’t specified, I’d play it safe and rinse in several bowls of clean water and drain in a fine sieve after. This removes the bitter part of the seed called the saponins, a compound that makes quinoa less palatable to birds. (Plants can be so smart!) Most quinoa you’ll see is white, but I chose a combination of black and white for the night’s salad. In eating, as in the rest of life, the more colorful the better.
Quinoa, Pomegranate, Almond and Feta Salad
(makes about 4 servings)
- ¼ cup white, black or red quinoa, rinsed thoroughly and drained in a sieve
- ½ cup water
- pinch of salt
- 4 cups greens – either all spinach, a mix of spring baby greens, or a combination of the two (I used combo)
- ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion (optional)
- 1 pomegranate, seeded (about 1 cup)
- 3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I chose a lemon-infused olive oil)
- 1 extra-full Tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rinse quinoa in several bowls of fresh water, using a fine sieve to contain the little seeds. Bring ½ cup lightly-salted water to a boil, add quinoa, reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for 12 minutes. Allow pot to sit, undisturbed for another 4 minutes. Remove lid and fluff the quinoa. Allow to cool.
In the meantime, toast almonds on a baking sheet in a pre-heated 350°F oven until fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Whisk up the vinaigrette’s ingredients and allow the flavors to marry as you prepare the pomegranate.
Removing the seeds from a pomegranate: I mentioned in an earlier post that I always wear an old shirt of my dad’s, my pomegranate shirt, to do this messy job. I discovered a new way that confines the juicy mess to the bowl! Cut the pomegranate in half, across its middle (not top to bottom.) Use a fairly deep bowl if you have one. Cup the cut-side of the pomegranate in your palm, holding it inside the bowl. Start smacking with a wooden spoon on the top of the fruit, and the seeds will begin tumbling out and through your fingers into the bowl. Remove any of the white pith that tumbles along with. (Have I mentioned before all the antioxidants in pomegranate? Another super-food, making this a super-salad.)
To a large bowl, add the greens, feta, onion (if using), quinoa, pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds. Toss with the dressing and serve immediately.