Friday, April 12, 2013

Pomegranate, tomato & onion salad


In large volumes.

It’ll eat out your insides until you feel like an empty, emotionally incontinent shell. And then, when it finally lets up, and your psyche begins to accept nourishment again and to heal itself, they (your insides) don’t grow back quite the same as before. You don’t see life through the same lens. You are changed, as if some pranksters broke into your brain while you were asleep and moved all the furniture around.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing though. The most awful periods in your life — while horridly, seeringly traumatic, seemingly endless and life draining — always have something to teach, or bring into focus.

I guess you can tell I’ve had a rough few months. Six, to be exact. The Guinea Pig too. I won’t go into detail, suffice to say that I haven’t felt like cooking, which is always a bad omen — a proverbial dead canary.

So my being seized by a fierce desire to make these couscous cakes on the Wednesday Chef’s blog was a sign that the old Robyn is still banging around in there, somewhere.

I was gathering ingredients for the cakes, thinking I’d like to have them with a salad, and possibly some kind of lamb deal. I think the recipe was Ottolenghi-based, so I’d have to stick to a Middle Eastern theme... A sharp tomato and onion salad seemed like the thing. I found this recipe on my iPhone while trawling the isles at Pick n Pay. Cumin! Of course! A tom and onion salad with parsley and cumin sounded perfect.

I bought coriander though, because I prefer it, and I had some pomegranates at home from a recent visit to my folks in Calitzdorp, so those were definitely going in. By now I was getting inordinately excited about this salad.

Back home, I put on Frank Sinatra Duets (so very cheesy, so perfect to cook to), poured a glass of wine, and spent the next two hours in the kitchen... Not because that’s how long the meal took to make, but because I wasn’t in any hurry. I was enjoying myself. I was getting drunk.

The Guinea Pig only arrived home at 9pm, which was perfect timing, and we feasted like starving peasants. The cakes were nice but frankly a little bland (though I admittedly did not follow the recipe to the t). I’d bought some lamb frikkadels (meatballs) from Woolworths, which were surprisingly lovely — savoury and lamb-y — but the salad... Oh my hat, that salad was out of this world. Crunchy, tart, sweet, salty, fresh... Towards the end, the Guinea Pig and I were just spooning it into our mouths right from the salad bowl. (And, after that, I lifted the bowl and drank the dressing, a thin stream escaping down the side of my neck — it might have been vaguely erotic, if it wasn’t salad dressing/I were sober.)

I made that salad three consecutive days in a row, and I’m still pining for it. But I’m out of pomegranates, and although I know the salad would still be lovely without, there’s something about those sweet little rubies that makes it. If you ever needed an excuse to splurge on pomegranates, this is it. (This is another one.)

So even though we’re going into winter, I feel a bit like spring. I can sense life returning to the parts of me that fell dormant in recent months, and I feel pathetically, irrationally grateful to this salad. 

Pomegranate, tomato & onion salad
Serves 4

Amounts are not all that important in this salad, really, as long as there’s enough dressing. Most shop-bought tomatoes are pretty awful, though, but I find a trick that makes them immeasurably tastier is to chop them up and scatter some salt over them. Allow them to sweat for about 10—20 minutes, then drain the liquid. It really intensifies their flavour.

8 medium tomatoes, chopped, salted & drained
2 small (or 1 large) red onions, chopped
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
1 tbsp cumin, ground
Sea salt, to taste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine the tomato, onion, pomegranate seeds and coriander in a salad bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the lemon juice, cumin, salt and olive oil.
3. Add dressing to salad, toss to coat, devour.