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Category: Salads

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate, Walnuts & Pomegranate Dressing

This is a nutrition-packed salad I make all the time. It’s simple to make but elegant enough for a dinner party. This spinach salad recipe uses tender leaves, crunchy and sweet soaked walnuts and tangy pomegranate seeds. What’s there not to love?

I went to my local Turkish shop a few days ago and bought three big bunches of spinach, on impulse. The spinach looked very fresh and lovely and its leaves were pointed. I soaked my spinach in plenty of cold water as soon as I got home to keep it fresh then carefully washed and rinsed it. There was a lot of sand in the roots so soaking helped get rid of that.

spinach-salad-with-soaked-walnuts-pomegranate-dressing
Lovely bunch of spinach soaked in cold water and washed. This is a variety with pointed leaves.

What to do next? I thought I’d use the smallest leaves to make my favourite spinach salad. I had bought a few lovely pomegranates, too. The other ingredient I needed was walnuts. I always have some at home. All set.

I poured boiling water over the walnut halves in a bowl and let them soak for a few minutes to remove the bitterness from the skin. Then I drained them and soaked again in cold water. Soaking gives walnuts a very lovely texture, almost like fresh walnuts. Us Persians are suckers for fresh walnuts. It’s a delicacy sold on the street in summer time. Here is how they looked after soaking:

how-to-soak-walnuts
Soaked walnuts are so much more delicious than dry.

I seeded all the pomegranates, picked the small leaves from the spinach and saved the big leaves and stems to use later for another favourite salad.

Pomegranate-seeds
Pomegranate goes incredibly well with spinach.

At dinner time the only thing that we needed to do was to make the dressing. I didn’t weigh the spinach, pomegranate seeds or walnuts. Too busy making the dinner. But I did measure the ingredients for the dressing.

I can’t live without salad. And by that I mean green, leafy, with other veg or fruit. Have you seen my Herby, Garlicky, Lemony Lettuce Salad recipe? That’s one I love too and make all the time.

By the way, using smoked sea salt flakes gives the dressing a bit of a smokey edge. I love that. But you can use any kind of salt that you wish.

 

Here is how to make the dressing:

Ingredients for pomegranate salad dressing to serve four to six people:

  • 6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses/syrup (Persian is best)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp smoked sea salt flakes or pinch of regular salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:

Put everything in a small jar and shake well. Pour over the salad just before serving.

Herby, Garlicky, Lemony Romaine Lettuce Salad

Romaine lettuce is my favourite salad leaf. The pale green leaves are so buttery and full of flavour I love to eat them on their own. The heart including the crunchy stem is always a treat. It usually doesn’t get to make its way into the salad bowl!

Romaine is the most popular salad leaf in Iran. The huge heads of romaine from Mazandaran in the Caspian Sea region are really fab. Even in old days when veg and salad weren’t so readily available all year round the romaine was always there to grace and cheer up the dinner table.

There is quite a lot of herbs in my salad. That’s quite a Persian thing. We don’t only cook or garnish with fresh herbs. We eat them like salad. No proper Persian meal is ever complete without a bowl or basket of mixed fresh herbs, radishes and spring onions (sabzī khordan). I’ll write about sabzī khordan in another post. But here is a peak of what it looks like:

sabzi-khordan
sabzi khordan

The winter version of my mum’s green salad usually had romaine, cooked barlotti beans, chopped boiled eggs, cubed boiled fingerling potatoes and was dressed with plain lemon juice. There was always sabzī khordan and her crunchy herb and garlic flvaoured vegetable pickles too.

My garlicky, herby, lemony romaine salad celebrates all the gorgeousness of the crisp leaves of romaine, the flavours of my childhood and the dazzling colourful British summers. The tart, lemony dressing makes this salad a perfect accompaniment to any strongly flavoured meat, chicken or fish. It’s excellent as a palate cleanser. Perfect for BBQs too.

There are many types of cucumbers. I prefer the small ones with thinner skin. They are really sweet and smell so “cucumbery”. I Score the skin of the cucumbers with the tongs of a sharp fork before slicing them. This releases the aromatics in the skin and the slices look prettier too.

Small cucumbers scored with sharp tongs of fork and sliced.
Small cucumbers scored with sharp tongs of fork and sliced.

Adding nasturtium petals to the salad gives it a bit of a kick and colour. Nasturtiums come in bright orange, yellow and reds and have a mild peppery flavour. The leaves taste sharper than the flowers. You can use tiny nasturtium leaves too, if you wish.

Edible flower- Naturtiums are good in salads. They have a mild peppery flavour.
Edible flower- Naturtiums are good in salads. Have a mild peppery flavour.

Make sure to wash the lettuce, herbs and flowers in plenty of cold water well. Spread them on clean tea towels to dry or spin gently in a salad spinner (the flowers are delicate, just air dry on a towel so the petals don’t get bruised). Add the dressing just before serving so your salad doesn’t get soggy.

Check out my Spinach Salad recipe too. It has a lovely pomegranate dressing.

To make a large bowl of this gorgeous salad to serve six people you will need:

  • Leaves from a large head of romaine (or two small), torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 small Persian/Lebanese/Turkish cucumbers or half an English cucumber
  • A handful of mint leaves, torn into pieces
  • A handful of dill fronds, torn into smaller pieces
  • A handful of tarragon leaves
  • a handful of chives, cut into 2 cm pieces
  • 5-6 large radishes
  • A few nasturtium flowers (optional)

For the dressing:

  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled (half a clove if the garlic smells too strong)
  • juice of one large lemon
  • pinch of salt (smoked if possible)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • pinch of sugar (if you are not a big fan of sharp, tart dressings)
  1. Finely grate the garlic and mix with the olive oil. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Pour through a sieve into a small jar and discard the garlic pulp. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, dried dill and dried mint. Shake well and set aside.
  2. Thinly slice the radishes.
  3. Use a fork to score the skin of the cucumbers. Place the fork at one end of the cucumber and pressing with a little pressure pull the fork all the way down to the other end. Repeat until the entire skin is scored. Slice thinly.
  4. Toss the romaine and herbs with the sliced radishes and cucumbers in a large bowl and scatter the nasturtium petals on the salad.
  5. Just before serving add the dressing and toss well to coat.

Quinoa Salad with Barberries & Nuts

This is quite an unusual quinoa salad recipe but both delicious and pretty. It’s a shot at recreating the flavours of the Persian zereshk polo (Persian rice with barberries) with a different grain. The resulting dish can be called a salad or a side dish. Whatever you call it it will still be damn delicious!

Zereshk polo ba morgh (barberry jewelled rice with chicken) must be among the top ten favourite dishes of every Iranian I know. It’s something you often make at home but also elegant enough to be on the menu of every wedding dinner. And it’s one of the simplest Persian rice dishes to make, i.e., if you know how to make rice the Persian way.

barberries
Barberries: The star of the show in Barberry Rice with Chicken and in my quinoa salad too.

The tiny ruby barberries have so much flavour and goodness in them and are so pretty I can never do without a bag in my freezer. They are dried but I keep them in the freezer to preserve their gorgeous colour for longer and they don’t even really freeze so I use them in my dishes after a quick rinse under the tap.

The dried berries are very light so a packet of 200g will really see you through a few dishes.Nowadays most Middle Eastern and Persian groceries in the UK and online suppliers stock them.

My quinoa salad with barberries was meant as a cold salad at first. It went down really well when I served it with my saffron-flavoured chicken skewers a couple of weeks ago. My home-resident food critics (the father and son) gave a very good review.

I took the leftovers to work the next day. It was a very miserable rainy day and at lunch time I just couldn’t face a cold salad so I popped it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Lo and behold! It was even tastier than the day before. So I made it again, this time steaming it like I would steam rice, the Persian way. It lent itself to steaming so well.

quinoa-salad-recipe-with-barberries-and-nuts
Toasted almond slivers, pistachio slivers and coriander add lots of crunch and flavour to quinoa salad with barberries.

Adding slivered nuts to this dish is really optional. They do add crunch and flavour but one can always do without them, or substitute pine nuts for the almonds, if you don’t have them in your cupboard. But I won’t make the dish without the herbs, especially if I’m going to serve it cold as a salad.

Slivered-pistachios-and-almonds
Slivered pistachios and almonds add crunch and flavour to many dishes. Great as garnish.

The Persian dish that inspired this quinoa salad doesn’t include herbs but we love to eat fresh herbs with whatever it is that we are eating. A basket of fresh herbs, radishes and spring onions (sabzi khordan) is usually on the table at every meal.

We eat herbs much like condiments, to add more flavour to the morsels of food, or to refresh the palate between the morsels. So I decided to add chopped herbs to the salad too. It worked very well, as could be expected. Or maybe I’m saying that because I’m Persian? Right?

sabzi-khordan
sabzī khordan is a a kind of “naked” herb salad served with most meals.

Serve this quinoa salad, room temperature or warm, on its own or with grilled chicken or even perk up rotisserie chicken from the supermarket with it. You’ll enjoy it, I promise!

Give this tasty salad (or side) a try, you won’t regret it in the least!

To serve 4 as a main or 6-8 as a side or salad you will need:

  • 300g quinoa
  • 1 1/2 litres boiling water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (not extra-virgin, it will overpower other flavours)
  • 50g barberries
  • 4 tbsp slivered almonds (or pine nuts) (optional)
  • 2 tbsp slivered pistachios (optional)
  • 30g chopped coriander, chopped
  • A few sprigs of mint, chopped

Method: 

  1. Put the quinoa in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain. Pour the boiling water over quinoa in a medium saucepan. Add salt, stir well and cook over medium-low heat until it’s cooked through but still has a bite in the centre. Drain in a sieve.
  2. Pick over the barberries, rinse in a sieve and dry on kitchen paper.
  3. While the quinoa is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium heat and lightly toast the almond slivers. Add the pistachios, then the rest of the oil and the rinsed barberries. Cook briefly until the barberries are shiny and a little puffed.
  4. Save a tablespoon of the barberry and nut mix and a tablespoon of the chopped herbs for garnishing the finished dish. Mix all of the remaining nut and barberry mix, herbs and quinoa. Return to the pot and place on low heat. Cover with a lid and cook for ten minutes or until completely heated through and steam is rising. Turn into a serving dish and fluff with a fork. Add a little extra olive oil and a twist of black pepper if you wish.
  5. Sprinkle the quinoa with the rest of the berry-nut mix and chopped herbs and serve on its own or as a side for chicken.

PS: Leftovers are really delicious, maybe even better the next day!