food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

After an unfeasibly long absence, hello! I’ve been in Florida the past couple of weeks visiting my lovely Dad and younger sister, getting a bit of sun/Vitamin D and eating in some of Tampa Bay’s great new local-food restaurants. I won’t take over a whole post with restaurant reviews but I must say that even since my October visit the food scene has spiced up considerably. I’ll pop down some recommendations  in a soon-to-be-written page of travel finds (she typed hopefully), but I was quite impressed by Wimauma and Boca, both in south Tampa.

The former specialises in what it terms “Cracker Cuisine”, referring to the jokey name given to native Floridians, indicating a “frontier people who did not just live but flourished in a time before air conditioning, mosquito repellent, and bug-screens.” Although I did not see squirrel on the menu, my sister and I split, and enjoyed very much, a dish of juicy shrimp (although anything but shrimpy – the suckers were HUGE)  sauteed with tomato, basil, white wine and pork bark, and served over the creamiest, softest grits I have ever tasted. Green tomatoes, hush puppies, collard greens, Florida seafood, boiled peanuts and many other native treats get the gourmet treatment at this unusual, family-friendly restaurant. My only criticism – too much salt. I noticed that many higher-end restaurants take the French way of seasoning to the extreme. I should have done a pre- and post-trip blood pressure check. Could’ve been quite alarming though. I am hoping the copious amount of backyard grapefruits and star fruits that I scoffed will somehow have mopped up the excess sodium. Note to molecular biologists  and biochemists: please do not write in and disabuse me of this new but strongly-held belief.

As I have been back less than 24 hours, this post will be short-ish and to the point (-ish). I have an urgent appointment with a comfy sofa…

What can I say about the pomegranate that you don’t already know, or haven’t heard about already? Well, probably not much. I know – as do you, I am sure – that pomegranates are one of only a handful of foods that deserve the accolade ‘super food’. However, although they are great sources of fibre, vitamin C, folate and vitamin K, that’s not really why they are so good for us.

The fruit of the Punica granatum tree quite literally drips with antioxidants: The taste, the colour, and the scent of a cut pomegranate leaves you in no doubt that something special lies within. That special something is an abundance of tannins and anthocyanins . When it comes to heart health and anti-ageing properties these particular polyphenols are more potent than vitamin C, vitamin E and co-enzyme Q-10, and pomegranates probably have the most of any known plant. Interestingly, and quite like tomatoes in this respect, the juice is a more concentrated source than the fruit, and commercial juice more so than home-pressed. Just make sure to get 100% juice and not any blended with other fruit juices or with sugar added (it’s sweet enough as it is). And please don’t get it in commercially made smoothies: Smoothie King’s Pomegranate Punch weighs in at a hefty 464 calories for a 20 ounce serving, although you can go ‘skinny’ for a mere 414 calories. An 8 ounce glass of pure juice sets you back 160 calories (6 ounces is more than enough in my opinion), but this monster smoothie adds blueberries, banana, apple juice, turbinado (a fancy name for sugar) and the obligatory soy protein. I say, make your own (see sidebar).

Although credited as far back as Biblical times with “extraordinary medicinal properties”, the ruby seeds of this winter fruit were relatively unexplored by Western medicine until recently. Research from 2006 onwards has shown pretty convincing evidence  that pomegranates may help prevent and treat (yes, treat) numerous cancers and also heart disease (specifically atherosclerosis).

The latest information from both cultured (‘test tube’) and animal studies credits this refreshing fruit with selectively inhibiting the growth of breast, prostate, colon, lung and skin cancer cells. An initial Phase II clinical trial of pomegranate juice (similar to what we can buy in shops) in prostate cancer patients with rising PSA levels significantly slowed the ‘doubling rate’ in 38 of 46 men who drank 8 ounces of the juice for three years. As rising PSA levels can indicate a growing tumour this 2006 finding is very important. A follow-up study is due to report in 2013. For more information on the studies, have a look at this review by Adhami et al in the academic journal, Nutrition and Cancer. For a layman’s look at the pomegranate and health literature, click through to this piece in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. And for details of the  current prostate cancer study go to this page. And promise me that even with all this good news about pomegranates that you enjoy them in moderation, and don’t eat the peel (it is sometimes on sale in dried form – AVOID). Those of you  on blood thinners and ACE inhibitors such as captopril should skip pomegranate juice unless okayed by your physician. The rest of you, drink in place of other juices occasionally, and no more than one glass a day, or eat the seeds as you wish.

Nutrition lesson over, I’ll get on to the recipe. But first, for gorgeous images of pomegranates, and quite a lot of tips on how to use them, amble over to Sally at My Custard Pie. I differ with her on the best method for extracting the seeds as I find the roll, cut and whack method fine for my purposes, but you might find her method better for you. And don’t worry about getting the juice on you and your clothes: unlike my beloved beetroot, pomegranate juice washes out no problem.

This Week, 2011: Tawny Seville Orange Marmalade

Pomegranate, Pistachio and Sour Cherry Bulgur Wheat Salad

This salad features not only pomegranates but also something called pomegranate molasses. Not to be confused with grenadine, pomegranate molasses is just boiled down juice, all thick, brown and tart-sweet. I love it. You can make your own (you literally just boil it to syrup-thickness) or buy it in larger supermarkets, online or any Middle Eastern deli. It makes a terrific marinade for lamb and fish, in salsas and green salads, and even in yogurt, but I also recommend it to chemo patients as a taste-bud tingling cordial – great for when even water tastes terrible. As for eating a pomegranate, maybe you know this already, but the best way to get at the gorgeous ruby seeds is to roll it around on your work surface and then slice it in half at its ‘equator’. Hold one-half face down in your palm and, over a large, wide bowl, whack it all around with a long-handled wooden spoon. The seeds should more or less rain down into your fingers and the bowl. Repeat with the other half. Take care to fish out all of the loosened white (inedible) membrane that will inevitably fall into the bowl. Hopefully this trick will make this salad a doddle for you, although I know some of you will have fond childhood memories of prising each seed out with a pin. I am far too impatient for that method. Feel free to use raisins or cranberries instead of the cherries, or walnuts instead of the pistachios. I often add in ripe, crisp pear slices. Other combinations would be good too but it is the sweet-sour, crunchy thing you are after here, with a pretty fleck of green.

200 g bulgur wheat (or make up some quinoa or whole wheat couscous)
400 ml boiling water
good pinch of salt (optional)
seeds and juice of one pomegranate
palmful (50-70 g) of dried sour cherries (sugar-free)
50-70 g pistachios, dry toasted and roughly chopped (you want texture, so keep it chunky)
20 g each of flat leaf parsley and mint, chopped (or more to taste)
1 heaped tbsp pomegranate molasses (or juice of one small lemon and 2 tsps honey)
a couple of pinches each ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground white pepper
a good pinch of salt
2 tbsp hot water or pomegranate juice (this loosens the molasses or honey)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Put the wheat and salt in a medium bowl; pour over the boiling water. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 20 minutes. Remove the cling film and fluff the wheat with a fork to separate (if for some reason the water has not fully absorbed, drain it off). Add the pomegranate seeds, sour cherries, pistachios and herbs; toss to mix. Put the pomegranate molasses (or honey and lemon juice) into a screw-top jar along with the spices, hot water/juice and extra virgin olive oil. Give the jar a good shake and pour the contents on the salad and mix well. Serve at room temperature with other salads, grilled lamb or fish, or in a pitta bread.

This salad will keep – dressing and salad separate – for a few days. 

More protein: add a tin of rinsed chickpeas or nuggets of best feta cheese

Makes four to six servings.

24 thoughts on “Pomegranate, Pistachio and Sour Cherry Bulgur Wheat Salad

  1. Delighted you are back and sending us all some more scrumptious recipes. This is certainly a joy to the eye and I am quite sure a joy to the taste buds too. I look forward to making it so thank you!

  2. Sally says:

    Enjoy your sofa! Thanks for the nice shout out and oooh what a lovely dish…in a lovely dish (have a thing about blue and white).

  3. Faith says:

    Sounds like a very fun trip to Florida…welcome home! This salad is just gorgeous and packed with healthy goodies. I love the pomegranate triple punch with the arils, molasses, and juice!

  4. Shira says:

    Looks gorgeous and inspired, I live for grain salads like this….Yum!

  5. so colorful!!

  6. Conner says:

    Great to have you back – glad you had fun in the sun! Your latest dish looks so delish! Must rush out and buy pomegranates tomorrow and rustle this one up for the weekend!

  7. m&m says:

    I love adding pomegranate seeds to my salads! That burst of juice and the color is great!

  8. This looks so good!

  9. It looks wonderful; I’ll have to try it!

  10. Gorgeous! This looks like it would brighten up any day.

  11. Welcome back! This salad sounds delicious, I love pomegranate it’s so pretty as well as good for you, anything looks better with sprinkled with pomegrante jewels!! I need to get back to my healthy diet after eating out twice a day for 3 weeks and this salad looks like the perfect place to start, thanks! PS I answered your question on my blog…

    1. Thanks Natalie. I agree about the pomegranate seeds – they are very like jewels and make me want to eat anything they bedeck. It sounds like most of your eating in SA was very healthy (give or take a pasteis de nate or two!) so I’m sure it’s just a matter of picking up where you left off, and all the washing up that entails. Welcome home, and one again, congrats on the Elle interview.

  12. Welcome back-we missed you! So nice you got to visit your dad and sister 🙂 Love this Sald combo, and I would definitely make it with gluten-free quinoa. I agree it’s so disappointing when good food is over salted. I do like a little salt on my food, but when you’re used to less, a heavy hand ruins the food. Now go get comfy!

  13. Kellie, oh my, this sounds like the kind of salad we love to eat. I used to sell Pomegranate Molasses when I co owned the cooking school and cookware store. It is wonderful stuff. Incidentally, is the recipe for passionfruit and lime leaf curd on your blog here? I had a look but couldn’t see it, would love the receipt pls xox

    1. Thanks Karen! I haven’t blogged it but pretty sure it’s standard measures sugar eggs + 8 passions & 1/4 tsp chopped lime leaf (all sieved of course). Did I mention this on 101Cookbks?

  14. Annie says:

    This salad is a very intelligent and superior salad – I made it at the weekend and it was obligingly easy to put together and had a wonderfully interesting and refreshing taste – we felt healthier by the mouthful – thank you so much – this one is a real winner

    1. Thank you Annie. It is one of our favourite winter salads. I sometimes have goats cheese in it to make it more of a meal but I think I prefer the purity of the salad as is. And have the goats cheese toasted on bread alongside. Haven’t had breakfast yet so this is making me hungry!

  15. Wow this looks great. I have been enjoying finding new things to add to my menus thanks so much! I see you use grains a lot and am curious if you have any thoughts about the Paleo diet and cancer nutrition. I have a lot of friends who have switched to the Paleo diet recently which is why I ask.

    1. I am flirting on the fringes & will probably be reviewing a good paleo book recommended by a cancer nutritionist (Conner of ‘zest for life’). Lately I have put a few grain things up (and a cake will probs be next!) but I hope I balance it with more vegetable based offerings, or where vegetables are the base. I’m not a huge grain eater myself but I like to make recipes that other folk find accessible, but with a healthy twist, using lower GL options. But yes, less is more when it comes to grains – but also meat too. Still reading up on pros & cons but there is not any reliable clinical data. Research still emphasising less meat & more whole foods. The challenge is incorporating this very sound research with the healthier aspects of paleo. There are some really irresponsible paleo books out there, but a few that are more balanced with the meat. Thanks for your thought-provoking comment.

  16. This looks delicious!

    1. Thanks Karen! Love your site.

      1. Thank you.

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