Apple, Fennel + Pomegranate Quinoa Salad

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For my birthday in May 2006, my college roommate and good friend gave me a paper bag full of apples. To this day, I  consider it to be one of the simplest and most thoughtful of gifts.

Though I tend to avoid using them in recipes (because I eat them all fresh), apples are my all-time favorite food and I tend to be persnickety about what a good apple tastes like. I have a slight obsession with the kind of apples that can’t be found in most grocery stores and with unique names like Zabergau Reinette, Poundsweet, and Sheepnose. There used to be an old-timer named Joe at the Corvallis market this time of year who would talk my ear off about the 100+ heirloom apple varieties in his orchard while handing me slices to taste, each with a different complex flavor. Basically, I looked forward to market day just to hear his apple stories.

 

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When I was working in Ireland several summers back, I traipsed around counting, weighing, and mostly eating berries all day but one of my highlights was the day Andy asked if I’d like a tour of the orchard. I practically jumped in the jeep before the words were out of his mouth. Prior to that, I toured a couple orchards in northern Washington during my experience at the farm & cooking school, Quilasascut. I was the nerdy annoying girl asking too many complex questions the day we visited the apple trees. And before that in pomology, my favorite class at UCD, we visited farmers who, like Joe, had orchards filled with hundreds of varieties. On our farm tours, we walked and talked, eating apples all the while.

Basically, I love any chance to follow farmers around all day letting them share some of their wisdom about apples.

 

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If ever I come into possession of a few acres to plant a gazillion ancient apple varieties, I might be on to a new calling. In the meantime, I’m trying to convince William to tear out all the worthless pretty flowering cherry trees in our front yard and replace them with apples. He’s basically the yard maintenance guy in this household and after all the work he put into those cherries this summer with no payout, he’s mostly convinced.

 

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Apple, Fennel + Pomegranate Quinoa Salad, serves 4

For this month’s Recipe Redux, we were asked to show what’s in our Plant Protein Power Bowls, or what I refer to as grain salads. Packed with protein, fiber and color, plant power bowls are trendy and delicious. William and I happen to eat some variation of a one-dish grain salad for dinner at least a couple times each week and have been since way before eating plant-based or from a power/Buddha/yoga/nourish/etc.-bowl became a thing. This one, with it’s seemingly interesting ingredient combination, came together out of what was on hand one evening–and because from previous experience, I love the caramelizy-sweet fennel, fresh sage and apple combination. The kale, quinoa, and baby lima beans just happen to be good additions and the pomegranate seeds provide a little festive something extra. I made this twice in a row and much to my dismay and delight, William (who avoids leftovers) took most of what was left for lunch. This little well-rounded salad was so good, colorful, and as I said, festive, that I might just be making it again for some of our upcoming holidays. Enjoy!

3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked baby lima beans (or other white bean)
2-3 cups finely chopped kale
1-2 Tbs. fresh sage leaves, minced
1 small apple, sliced thin
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup roasted/toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1-3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, use to taste
sea salt + pepper, to taste

  • Rinse and drain the quinoa and then place it, along with the 1 1/2 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • In a sauté pan over medium-high, heat 1/2 Tbs. olive oil and then sauté the onion and fennel, about 5-8 minutes, until both are soft and golden. Remove from the heat and slide into a big bowl, along with the cooled quinoa, and lima beans.
  • In a small bowl, combine the chopped kale and remaining tablespoon of oil with your hands, gently squeezing the kale to soften it up a bit. Then combine it, along with the sage, sliced apple, pomegranate and hazelnuts, to the quinoa mixture.
  • Add 1-3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, tasting as you go, and season with salt and pepper as needed.

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