Rustic Pomegranate and Quinoa Kale Salad
Even though the winter isn't typically the time of year when we think of incredibly vibrant salads, I find that some of the more hearty winter vegetables and flavors make for some of the most delicious and creative salads! If you know me at all by now you know that I basically think it should be a crime to combine iceberg lettuce with a couple of cucumbers and tomatoes and call it a "salad". There is a reason why salads over time have gotten such a bad rap as being boring, or underwhelming. But not my salads! Salads should be vibrant, loaded with so many antioxidant rich vegetables, satisfying proteins, and heart healthy fats that they make you look forward to eating them because you feel nourished! In the winter I really look forward to making warm salad bowls, that I typically wouldn't eat as much during the warm summer months, and find them to be some of the most comforting meals I can have.
This warm rustic salad bowl is no different and is one of my best combinations to date. Mostly I think this is because the flavor profile is really well balanced, between tart/bitter and savory/sweet. Using kale as the base (you really can use any other dark leafy green as well) starts the salad off with a slight bitterness to it so whenever I am using kale in my salads I make sure to really rub olive oil well into the leaves to try and soften them for easier digestion, and release some of that biter flavor. I also love that when served with a hot cooked grain like quinoa, the kale leaves themselves will naturally begin to wilt, making them much easier to digest.
Speaking of quinoa, I have had many friends and clients tell me that there is something about quinoa that just doesn't seem to sit well with them and many people have asked me for a good alternative. First of all I just want to say congratulations to all those people! You successfully listened to your body, and rather than trying to force it to like a "healthy superfood" you are looking for other healthy options that will better support your digestion. Guys this is amazing, and one of the hardest things to do. Listening to our bodies and paying attention to how they are responding to the foods we are putting in them can be very difficult to pin-point, but with a little due diligence we will feel better in the long run if we just check in with ourselves quickly after eating, and note how we feel.
Quinoa in-particular is a great grain for vegetarians because it is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the nine essential amino-acids that our bodies cannot produce ourselves and we need to get from food. However, there are many other healthy whole-grain options that are perfectly suitable substitutes like brown rice, teff, farro, and wheat berries.
Note: Farro and wheat berries are not gluten free, and should not be consumed by anyone with celiac disease or someone with a known gluten intolerance.
But while we are on the topic of digestion I want to reiterate that there are just some foods that no matter how good for us they may be will cause us discomfort because our personal bodies are not very good at digesting them. In-particular a lot of my clients have issues with digesting raw leafy vegetables. This is something that I have noticed overtime will absolutely cause me GI distress, and I have a much more comfortable and enjoyable experience eating salads when the vegetables are slightly cooked, making the fibers more easily digestible.
This concept is not new news, and goes all the way back to Ayurvedic Indian medicine that focuses on our health being determined not by the foods we choose to eat, but by ability to digest and metabolize them. For some raw salads are completely fine and a person's digestive track is able to handle and digest them just fine. While there are others that need a little coaxing and can benefit from cooked vegetables that can help aid the digestive tract and decrease any stress.
Now that we have talked a whole lot about digestion, why don't we get back to this delicious salad. Personally, I have been loving delicata squash this season because it is packed with antioxidants, vitamin A and C, and adds a delicious sweetness to any salad or side-dish. When paired with the nutty flavor of quinoa, and the tangy citrus dressing and pomegranate seeds this salad ends up being so well balanced, and is full of delicious flavors that is sure to keep you feeling satisfied!
holiday pomegranate and quinoa kale salad
1 large bunch of baby kale
1 cup chopped grape tomatoes
1 delicata squash
1 cup quinoa
Seeds from one fresh pomegranate
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon Tahini Dressing Ingredients
4 tablespoons olive oil
Juice from 1 large lemon
2 tablespoons of tahini
1 tsp himalayan sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Preheat over to 375 F
Rinse delicata squash and slice in half down the middle of the squash.
Scoop the seeds out of the center of both halves of the squash, and then cut your squash into circles.
Spray a cookie sheet with coconut oil and arrange squash rounds on cookie sheet.
Spray squash with a light coating of coconut oil as well, and place in over for ~25 minutes. Flip squash rounds at 10-15 minutes or until the bottoms begin to brown slightly.
While squash is cooking, place two cups of water in a medium saucepan on the stove, and bring to a boil.
Rinse 1 cup of quinoa and add to boiling water, cover and reduce to a simmer for ~20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is cooked.
While squash and quinoa are cooking, rinse and slice tomatoes. Next rinse kale and tear away leaves from thick stem.
Next, seed your pomegranate by cutting in half and squeezing over a bowl in the sink. This will loosen the pomegranate seeds allowing you to remove them from the white skin.
Once cooked, remove squash from oven, and take quinoa off the stove.
Rub 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil into kale leaves to soften the leaves, and then begin to layer your salad with squash, quinoa, pomegranate, tomato, and top with walnuts and a drizzle of your lemon tahini homemade dressing.
Serve warm, or cold and enjoy!
In a food processor combine all of your ingredients for the lemon tahini dressing, and blend until you have a smooth, creamy liquid.
Note: If you feel as though your dressing is too thick you can add a little more lemon juice/olive oil until you achieve the consistency you prefer.