Quinoa Salad with Fennel & Pomegranate

Quinoa with Fennel & Pomegranate

Hello friends! I hope everyone has enjoyed their holidays thoroughly. If you’ve noticed I haven’t posted for the past week, it’s because we’ve been trekking across the eastern half of the country visiting family. In the past week we’ve traveled from NYC to Nashville, TN (my family) to Adairville, KY (my extended family) to Kalamazoo, MI (B’s family). There’s been lots of cooking, eating, movie-watching, shopping for (and opening of) presents, and lounging by the fire. But unfortunately, not much time for blogging!

Regardless, I wanted to share with you all an amazing recipe I tried over the holidays. I cannot take credit for the recipe–it belongs to Yotam Ottolenghi, my new chef crush. I got his cookbook Plenty for Christmas, and have completely fallen in love with his incredible Mediterranean-inspired vegetarian dishes, ranging from simple (baby lettuce and herb salad) to wonderfully complex (leek fritters with herbed yogurt sauce). Israeli-born Ottolenghi runs several high-end “to-go” food shops in London that sell the same sorts of fresh salads, roasted vegetables, grains, and soups that fill his cookbooks and his long-running vegetarian column in The Guardian newspaper. (Perhaps he will expand his shops to NYC one day??)

There’s a big spread on Ottolenghi and his vibrant vegetable dishes in the January 2012 issue of Bon Appetit that includes this gorgeous quinoa salad. I made it for dinner the other night, with some roasted salmon and steamed green beans, and it was such a welcome respite from all the heavy holiday fare. I love the combination of nutty quinoa with sweet caramelized fennel, fresh herbs, and jewel-like pomegranate seeds. And considering the not-exactly-small ingredient list, it’s actually pretty simple to make.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but one of my themes for 2012 is health. Though it’s certainly not all in my control, I am on a mission to help Brandon kick his Lyme and babesia with a healthy diet, and starting in January we are going to be cutting back on lots of foods that cause inflammation, like dairy, wheat, sugar, red meat, caffeine, and alcohol. It’s definitely going to be a tough adjustment for a gal like me whose basic food groups include bread, cheese, wine, chocolate, and coffee BUT if there’s any chance of improving the way B feels by eating a cleaner, leaner diet, then I’m all for it. I am excited to experiment with new vegetables and grains this year, with new herbs and spices, and to eat as simply, healthfully, and deliciously as possible. (And don’t worry, I am not giving up ALL coffee and wine and chocolate–that would be cruel and unusual!) Stay tuned in January for more adventures in healthy eating…

Happy New Year!


Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe in Bon Appetit

Serves 6

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 small fennel bulbs, cut lengthwise into 1/4″-inch thick slices
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup quinoa rinsed
1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1/2 small pomegranate)*

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the fennel; season wit salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is tender and lightly golden, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, cumin, and sugar; cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring the quinoa and 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is cooked, about 10 minutes. Drain; return to pan. Cover; let sit for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, transfer to a large bowl.

Using a small sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from the lemon. Cut between the membranes to release the segments; discard membranes and roughly chop. Add lemon with any juices and the remaining tablespoon of oil to the quinoa; stir. Add the fennel mixture and herbs and toss gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer salad to a large platter and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

*The easiest way to remove pomegranate seeds is to cut the pomegranate in half crosswise (rather than from stem to stem). Hold one half of the pomegranate over a bowl, cut-side down and smack it on the back with a wooden spoon until the seeds start falling out. Continue to smack the back of the pomegranate, lightly squeezing the sides of the fruit to release more seeds. Discard any bits of white membrane that fall in the bowl.

My name is Anna Watson Carl. In a word, I love food, I love France, and I love throwing dinner parties. Over the years, I've worked as a personal chef, taught cooking classes, edited cookbooks, written for magazines, tested and styled recipes, and traveled whenever opportunity has arisen. But at heart, there's nothing I love more than sharing a meal with friends around the yellow table.

For me, cooking has always been a way of life. As a (mildly precocious) ten-year old, I planned and prepared a four-course Valentine's dinner for my parents, birthing a lifelong passion for dinner parties. That was just the beginning. I've been cooking ever since, whipping up souffles at a chateau in Burgundy, searing filet mignon for a wealthy client's dog (bizarre, but true), butchering ducks for confit de canard in Paris, baking the night shift in Nashville, and bathing the floor of my NYC apartment in turkey brine...the story continues.


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