Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lentil Salad with Sweet Potato & Pomegranate

I know it's supposed to be winter for another 6 weeks (damn you Phil!), but it's pretty much summer here in Phoenix. High 70's and mid 80's all week, now I remember why people live here, the amazing winter and spring. Since the weather is already warming up for me, I was craving a refreshing, cold salad. This salad is so fresh and full of nutrients, and did I mention absolutely delicious?!?!? I hope you enjoy my cold lentil salad with sweet potatoes and pomegranate seeds.

Sweet potatoes are packed full of vitamins A and C, calcium, folate, potassium, and are a great source of dietary fiber. The World's Healthiest Foods can tell you everything you could possibly need to know about sweet potatoes and their amazing benefits. Now lets add them to this dish! Chop up a sweet potato into small cubes.

Toss in salt, pepper and a light coat of cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes or until tender.

Pomegranate seeds are another great source of dietary fiber, as well as vitamins K and C. They're also known as a superfruit, meaning that they are packed full of nutrients and antioxidants. 

I honestly had NEVER extracted seeds from a pomegranate before. I've enjoyed them many times, but never had the pleasure to deal with them myself. I was a little bit intimidated by them, most people talk about how hard it is to get the seeds out. After a few google searches I found a simple way to get my delicious seeds without making a massive, blood-looking mess.

Fill a large bowl full of water and place your halved pomegranate in. Begin breaking apart the pomegranate and extracting the seeds. The water prevents the red juices from staining everything they come in contact with and makes it easy to separate the membrane from the seeds.

After discarding any large pieces of the membrane, the smaller pieces will simply float to the top of the water, leaving all the juicy seeds at the bottom. Drain the water and most, if not all, of the membrane will be gone.

You're left with delicious, juicy pomegranate seeds.

You can either use raw or sautéed onion in this dish, I prefer sautéed. I chopped up half of a medium sweet onion with a little bit of oil, salt and pepper just until they began to sweat.

On to the main star of this dish, lentils! I have really been branching out and trying so many new foods lately, today was lentils! Lentils are a type of dried bean full of more fiber, magnesium and folate. They have another long list of health benefits listed on The World's Healthiest Food. They were very simply to work with and had a nice nutty flavor to them. 

Start by rinsing your lentils, you may need to pick out anything that doesn't belong (leaves, rocks, damaged lentils). For 1 cup of lentils, add 2 cups of water and bring to a rapid simmer (small bubbles, not large bubbles). Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes uncovered. Don't add salt to the lentils until done cooking, this can make them tough. Remove from heat and let stand for an additional 5-10 minutes. Strain and set aside.

Simply add the lentils, pomegranate seeds, sweet potatoes, onions and some chopped green onions to a large bowl. Add 2-4 tablespoons of a fat free poppyseed dressing, to taste. I used Maple Grove Farms of Vermont dressing. Stir and refrigerate for at least an hour. This salad turned out better than I expected, it will definitely be a repeat recipe in this kitchen!

What else would you add to this salad? Do you have any other tips on extracting pomegranate seeds?

Lentil Salad with Sweet Potato & Pomegranate
1 cup dry lentils
1/2 medium sweet onion
1 medium sweet potato
2 pomegranates
1 bunch of green onion
2-4 tablespoons fat free popyseed dressing

Peel and cut sweet potato to small cubes. Coat with salt, pepper & cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes or until tender.

Rinse lentils. Add lentils and 2 cups water to a pot. Bring to a rapid simmer (small bubbles, not large). Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Extract all seeds from the pomegranates by cutting in half and submerging in a bowl of water. The seeds with sink to the bottom and the membrane will float to the top, making it easier to separate the two.

Chop 1/2 sweet onion and use raw or saute with salt and pepper just until it begins to sweat.

Chop green onion.

Add all ingredients together in a large bowl, mix in dressing. Start with 2 tablespoons and add more if desired. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Enjoy!

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