I love the start of fall, not only because I get to dig out my blue jeans and jackets and can get a long run in without getting up at the crack of dawn, but because I love how the produce changes with the seasons. I knew fall had arrived when I saw stands of pomegranates on display at the grocery store, along with loads of local apples. When pomegranates went on sale for $1 each, I stocked up and started thinking about what I could make.
I wanted to make something where the flavor and texture of the pomegranate seeds would shine through. Pairing it with quinoa for a protein-rich vegetarian salad seemed like a good idea, but I’ve struggled sometimes with my quinoa retaining a nice texture when I use it in a salad. The dressing can overwhelm it, and turn the texture mushy, which is one reason I’ve started using wheat berries and beans more than quinoa. I was happy to find an easy solution to this problem in a New York Times article. It passes along a suggestion from Martha Rose Shulman (who does the NYT “Recipes for Health” column) to simply reduce the ratio of water to quinoa from two to one (twice as much liquid as quinoa) to 1.5 to one, and then reduce the cooking time as well.
That seemed like a good start, but I still worried about the texture softening too much after adding dressing, especially since when I cook I plan on leftovers that I hope will last for at least a day or two. Usually by the next day the dressing has absorbed into the quinoa, which makes it flavorful by decidedly soft.
I thought a bright lemon-based dressing would work well with the pomegranate, so it seemed a good idea to simply cook the quinoa in a lemon juice mixture and forego dressing all together. Since I planned to skip the dressing I wanted the quinoa to be as flavorful as possible. To accomplish this I started by toasting the quinoa (which brings out some nice nutty undertones), and adding a little white wine (and salt) to the cooking liquid.
My last decision involved what else to add to the salad. I like to combine textures, so I wanted something crisp and seasonal. I settled on chopped apple (tossed in lemon juice for flavor and to keep it from turning brown) and toasted pumpkin seeds. The end result was a simple lunchtime salad, with very few ingredients, but plenty of leftovers to enjoy tomorrow.
To start, rinse well in a fine-mesh colander:
- 1 cup quinoa
Drain, then place in a 1.5 quart sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat and cook, stirring very frequently, until it is dry. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning, several more minutes until it is a little toasted and fragrant. You’ll probably hear some of the quinoa seeds popping while you’re toasting it.
Carefully add to the pan (being careful of steam):
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp. salt
Return to high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Steam for 15-20 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed (check after 15 minutes, which will probably be enough time). Remove from heat, place a clean towel on the pan, then replace the lid and let sit for 15 minutes. After this, fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
Put cooled quinoa in a medium bowl, then add:
- Seeds from one pomegranate. (this site has a terrific explanation of how to remove the seeds easily)
- 1 medium apple, cored, thinly sliced, and chopped (I used a honey crisp apple), tossed in 2-3 Tbsp. lemon juice – add both the apple and the juice to the quinoa
- 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (I buy them raw, in bulk, and toast them myself in a dry pan)