I find that it's important to cook with color in the winter months. It keeps me hopeful for Spring. Drab days call for exciting food.
And who really likes to eat salad in the winter? It's not exactly my "go to" lunch come late February. But throw some mint and cilantro in there, fabulous fennel and seasonal citrus... now there's a salad!
The picture in Bon Appetit of this salad is what won me over. I loved the pomegranate with the herbs. But with a few blood oranges on hand, I thought I would take matters into my hands.
Fennel and Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate and Blood Orange (adapted from Bon Appetit January 2012)
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
2 meduim fennel bulbs cut length wise sliced thin
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
1 1/2 ground cumin
1 tsp sugar
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 blood orange segmented (original recipe used lemon)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint chopped
1 tbsp chopped fennel fronds (original recipe used dill)
Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
(Bon Appetit also included Serrano chiles which I was so sad to forget at the store, but I don't think the salad even needed them!)
Slice your tops off the fennel. Keep the fronds for the herb medley later. Love that anise smell.
Slice them about 1/4 inch think.
Heat your 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pan with medium heat. Begin to sauté your fennel with salt and pepper. We're looking for soft and brown, about 12 min. Stir occasionally.
Now add your lemon juice, cumin and sugar. Simply magic favors with the fennel! Cook another minute or so. The lemon juice will make your fennel as little more "chatty."
Turn off the heat and set aside.
Time for the quinoa. It's serious food for you, and seriously easy.
Bring quinoa and three cups water to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 10 min covered. Then drain, and return to saucepan. Cover and let sit for15 more minutes. Quinoa is known for a little spa time. It likes to steam after it's bath... beauty foods, sheesh.
Fluff with fork after 15 minutes and set aside.
Now it's time for your mint, cilantro and the fennel fronds. The original recipe called for dill, but I'm not a fan and it wasn't on hand... and the fronds just help connect the flavor- cooked and uncooked fennel lovin' goodness.
It's a rough chop. Toss together and fluff into quinoa. Add your fennel as well. Also toss in an extra tablespoon of olive oil and any extra lemon juice you can get out of your lemon wedges.
Now for some COLOR!
To segment an orange, cut off the tops and slice the peel off the sides until it's just a ball of juice held together by segments.
Cutting carefully on each side of the segment seperation gently lift out each precious and undefiled wedge. Pure juice held together with thin membrane. Truly amazing.
And don't get scared of the blood orange. I remember when Chris brought home oranges as requested from the store one day and was horrifed when he cut them open! It is a little startling if you're unaware of what you bought. I was delighted. You never know how ruby they will be: some of them firey and others crimson. Oh the possibilities!!!
Add your segments and pomegrante seeds to the dish. If you didn't already know how to get seeds out of a "pome:"
1) cut in half with one nub on each half.
2) put an apron on and gird your loins, this is a messy and juicy stain loving fruit!
3) hold over a bowl and with the back of a wooden spoon WHACK the heck out of it.
Sounds silly, but they fall right out.
Hope you enjoy this salad as much as I did. I'm getting pumped up just looking at it.