I was having a few friends over for dinner the other night, and it was in the middle of a strange dip into winter that NYC was having – it went from being 70 degrees and sunny to whipping winds, freezing rain and just overall misery. I knew I wanted to make a soup, which is my go-to on days that my insides feel like they need a hug, so I put together a little Moroccan Lentil and Sweet Potato number that I’ll be sharing next week. While hearty enough for a meal, the soup alone didn’t feel like quite enough for a dinner party. While wandering around my local market, I spotted pomegranates and knew I had to utilize them somehow. Tossed with some fresh mint leaves, sweet, bursting orange chunks, crispy almond slivers, spicy harissa sauce, and whole grains (I used farro, although quinoa, wheat berries and rice would all work wonderfully), it made a perfect hearty seasonal salad.
Harissa sauce is the base of this dressing. It’s a spicy chile paste that’s used frequently in North African and Middle Eastern cooking – I became addicted to it when I was traveling in Morocco, slathering on flat bread whenever I got the opportunity. It’s made from a blend of spices and roasted red pepper. Here, I thin it with a bit of olive oil and sweeten it with a touch of honey (although you can absolutely sub agave if you’re vegan). Prepared this way, it makes a wonderful dressing – spicy and sweet and hearty in a way that makes the rest of the flavors burst.
The pomegranate and mint Moroccan grain salad stores really well – in my opinion, the flavors were even better after a few days in the fridge. This makes enough for 4 as a meal sized serving, or with a small side like soup – I’d recommend cutting it in half if you want it to truly be a side dish.
- 3 cups cooked, cooled grains of choice (I used farro, but quinoa, rice and wheat berries would all work great)
- 1 cup packed mint leaves (stems removed), roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup pomegranate
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1 orange, cut into chunks
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 2 large red bell peppers, halved and seeded
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
- Preheat oven’s broiler and set the oven rack at about 6 inches from the heat source. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil, place red bell peppers with cut sides down onto the prepared baking sheet. Cook under the preheated broiler until the skin of the peppers has blackened and blistered, 5 to 8 minutes. Place the blackened peppers into a bowl or pot with a lid and cover, allowing the peppers to steam as they cool, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, stir coriander and caraway in small skillet over medium-high heat until they smell amazing, about 30 seconds, before transferring them to a food processor or blender. Cook garlic in same skillet, covered, over medium-low heat until tender, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Let cool, then peel garlic and add to processor. Remove red peppers from steaming bowl and discard skins. Blend peppers with all other dressing ingredients.
- Toss with grains, mint, pomegranate, almonds and orange. Can be eaten immediately or stored in the fridge an air-tight container for up to 4 days.