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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)

the vinaigrette:

  • 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.)

spanking the pomegranate

the near-empty pomegranate

a bowl of tartly juicy seeds, and no mess on your shirt

To a large bowl, add the greens, feta, onion (if using), quinoa, pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds. Toss with the dressing and serve immediately.

41 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dear Spree,

    This sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to try it. ‘Have all ingredients on hand except for the feta, so off I go to the market.

    BUT before I do I MUST tell you that I loved, loved, loved your recipe for Chick Pea Soup. We have eaten it for two meals and can’t get tired of it. Thank you for sharing these excellent culinary finds.


    January 14, 2012
    • Ronnie, thanks so much for letting me know! You know, as a blogging, recipe-sharing fool, we scatter our seeds and don’t know where they fall or if they take root! I’m SO glad you enjoyed! We LOVE it too!

      January 14, 2012
  2. Mama, what a beauty! And it sounds delicious. I have a recent love fest going on with quinoa, so I can’t wait to give this a try.
    The photos of the pomegranate and the bowl splashes are to die for. I could live in that photo for at least half a day.
    (By the way, thank you for taking such good care of Grandma. Love you.)

    January 14, 2012
    • Well, Ashley, I had no idea you had a thing for quinoa! Yes, you must try this – it’s everything you love! Including color, outrageous, gorgeous color! 🙂

      January 14, 2012
  3. Look and sounds absolutely delicious! Hopefully I’ll be able to find a pomegranate, because I would love to give this a try 🙂

    January 14, 2012
    • I don’t know where you live, but here, we find poms from at least November til February. Hope you do!

      January 14, 2012
  4. Gorgeous – we tend to eat our main meal in Spain at mid day and soup or salad in the evening (and we eat LATE here!) so this would be so good for us. We still have the last of the pomegranates too and I was so pleased to see that the tapping thing workd to get the seeds out. I have never done it as I didn´t believe it would really work! And yes, it´s a messy business and stains things black doesn´t it? We will definitely be making this one, thank you 🙂

    January 14, 2012
    • I’ve heard tales of your late-night (even midnight!) dinners! That’s so hard for me to fathom! I think I’m probably pulling up my covers while you’re putting on your coat and heading out for a night on the town. It looks intriguing and wildly fun but I think it would kill me. 🙂 As to the pomegranate method, it works fabulously well. Just a good spanking is all it takes. Don’t tell me you have pomegranates growing on your mountain, too! Oh Tanya, you are so lucky!

      January 14, 2012
  5. I love the base metal spoons, and the pomegranate splashes on the bowl. You know something of food photography for sure.

    January 14, 2012
    • I appreciate the kind words from you, Roger, a man whose work I so enjoy!

      January 14, 2012
  6. Love your story… I could just visualize you arriving to a lovely salad and some chilled wine… even the cold condensation that must have been on the glasses:) A beautiful and welcoming sight at the end of a day.. Thank goodness your mom got in touch with you!

    January 14, 2012
    • Thanks Smidge! I’m glad she called too! As well as those chickens live, I wouldn’t want to see my mom bunking down with them at night! 😉

      January 14, 2012
  7. Yummy! I am seeing recipes for pomegranates everywhere. Looks delish.

    January 14, 2012
    • Oh, it’s delish alright! 😉 I’ll have another recipe with pomegranates before the week is up. This time of year I can’t quite get enough to last me the many months without.

      January 14, 2012
  8. This sounds so refreshing!

    January 14, 2012
  9. I find it so hard to be nice to people I have to abide… hmmmm. I adore pomegranate, it looks so cool :D. It’s completely unexpected when you open one for the first time. This salad looks fantastic and I’d imagine almost entirely unique. I love it.

    January 14, 2012
    • I know! Isn’t it true? From the outside, a person hasn’t a CLUE what they’ll find when they open a pomegranate. There are no tell-tale signs, and no other fruit looks like it. I love things like that. Fantasmagorical! (spell-check doesn’t like it, but I do.) Hope you’ll let me know if you try this! It IS scrumptious!

      January 14, 2012
  10. Perhaps it’s time you bought those chickens a gift: a spare key to be hidden somewhere in their coop. 😉 I bet your poor Mom hated having to disrupt your day like that. There is so much to love about this dish, Spree. It looks so enticing and the ingredients go so well together. (We should all get along so well!) I’d welcome this for lunch or dinner anytime, not just after the holidays.

    January 14, 2012
    • You’re so cute, John, and so right! My mom felt very bad (though she shouldn’t have!) and yes, my next gift to the chickens will be their very own spare key! (if they had any idea how to use it though, I know they would – they’re pretty much crazy about my mon and would probably love living a bit closer.)

      January 14, 2012
  11. Great story, enjoyed….Its the same in this house, I mention salad for dinner and there is this kinda groan… but… when we do, we enjoy it so much and feel better for it ! Looks good, I have a pkt of quinoa in the cupd as well!

    January 14, 2012
  12. Ali #

    We tried this tonight. The timing of this recipe
    was perfect, as the Mister has decided its time for another salad cleanse! The flavors complimented each other so well and it really is such a beauty. I love how it is so different than any other salad we have ever had! We made a few substitutions simply because it’s what we had on hand and it all came together well…instead of red onion, we used shallots, instead of feta-goat cheese and we had some roasted balsamic chicken leftover that we sliced and had on the side. Our quinoa did need longer to cook though than the kind you used, so check your package directions for specific times. Thank you for another keeper!!!

    January 14, 2012
    • Ali #

      Oh one more thing, this spanking of the pomegranate thing you’ve turnd me on to is so completely fun and totally effective without the mess!!

      January 14, 2012
      • I knew you’d have fun with that!
        Thanks for the note on quinoa…some will tend to cook just a tiny bit slower, so following your package’s instructions is always best.

        January 15, 2012
  13. This salad sounds beautiful, I love everything in it, feta & pomegranate especially they are made for each other. I often use quinoa as a substitute for coucous it’s fab isn’t it, can only get the white stuff here though, I want the pretty colours too!!

    January 15, 2012
    • Yes, I love the combination of the salty creamy feta with the tart, squishy-then-crunchy pomegranates! A perfect foil for each other! And quinoa is so unobtrusive, so light, so healthy, what’s not to like! 🙂

      January 15, 2012
  14. This is just an awesome salad, so perfect for winner. And I too can imagine the wine to go with.

    January 15, 2012
    • Now, I know you’ve already left the “room” but I’d love to know what you’d pair this salad with. Rufus, come back! 😉

      January 15, 2012
  15. Deb schneider #

    Cannot wait to try. I have put quinoa in soups, but never in a salad. I am reminded, yet again, of your quote with the happenings of your day, “I’ve come to understand that those ‘diversions’ from my perceived agendas are where life is, waiting for me to show up, be awed, and be thankful”. Bless you.

    January 15, 2012
    • Deb, thanks so much for your comment! Really sweet of you to have made the connection. 🙂

      January 15, 2012
  16. I have been looking for different recipes to use my Quinoa with and this salad sounds perfect – everything I love. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    January 15, 2012
  17. What a gorgeous, colorful salad! YUM!

    January 15, 2012
  18. Spree! Your salad looks wonderful. Would love to try this. I like the crunch of the pomogranate and the almonds!

    January 16, 2012
  19. I just made this salad for dinner. Delicious, and quick – which as a working mum is incredibly important. Thank you.

    January 18, 2012
    • It’s always so nice to hear feedback! Thanks so much for letting me know and you’re so right – this is quickly assembled and altogether satisfying! Even for kids!

      January 18, 2012
  20. What a spectacular combination, beautifully prepared!!

    January 20, 2012
  21. Just made it this evening. awesome salad even in winter, will be a summer fav for sure. One for the file, the best recipe for quinoa so far for me…..many thanks 🙂 Tip for spanking pomegrantes works so well!

    January 23, 2012
  22. How clever! I’m going to try your way of prizing the gems out ! Thank you !

    November 13, 2012
  23. annikaacbblogs #

    This looks yummy. And what a great tip about removing the seeds from the pomegranate. Thank you 🙂 !

    August 5, 2013
    • You’re so welcome! I’m convinced it’s one of the neatest tricks in the kitchen! 🙂

      August 16, 2013

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