March 20, 2013

Caramelized Plum and Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate Dressing

Last weekend, I was flooded with this overwhelming feeling. The feeling that comes with living in Washington - the need to be outdoors, surrounded by nature, the big snowy mountains, lush green forest, the beautiful wonders of the Pacific Northwest. This usually happens around mid March, when the cherry blossoms begin to bloom, the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips are all as bright as can be. The birds become much more vocal, and we start to see the sun at least a few times a week. Although spring-like and vibrant in Seattle, the mountains still bear their winter coatings and are a bit harsh, and a little unpredictable. And although I want to pack up my gear and head into the mountains, I will probably have to wait a few more months. I can however, get in a few day hikes, and this will have to keep me satisfied until then.

There is really no better way - that I can think of, to get excited and prepared for being outdoors, than a trip to REI. After last year's 3-day Mt St. Helens trek, I finally decided to invest in some serious hiking boots, because loosing 3 toe nails, which have finally grown back, just isn't that attractive, and really, how long can a girl go without a pedicure. Next time I venture out into the mountains, my toes will be cushioned, and I will be looking as stylish as ever, because these boots are a dream. After picking out my boots, I quickly made a run for the door, because with all of those sexy backpacks and rain coats calling my name, the outcome seemed predictable. That is the problem with REI. You walk in with something in mind, and leave with your hands full. Things you didn't even know you wanted.

Similar to this dish. I walked into the grocery store with some arugula and quinoa in mind, and left with a basket of plums, a pomegranate, and a bag of pistachios. I was inspired the night before, by a plum cobbler made by a friend. The sweet roasted plums couple with sugar and cinnamon, topped with sweet crust. I became immediately excited about summer fruit, pies, crisps, and all things sweet and baked. It has been a week of feelings and excitement, ready for a new season. Enough with the cold and the snow. With winter squash, and stews. This is my tribute to spring.

This recipe is a combination of my favorite flavors. Goat cheese, which I honestly put on everything, and since Trader Joes started selling individual 1 oz goat cheese servings, my goat cheese intake has doubled. I love the tangy creamy flavor/texture it adds to most meals, and there are not a whole lot of things that I make, where you can't add a little in or on the side. Arugula, which is a staple in my home. I have already proclaimed my love in a few posts, and it is by far my favorite leafy green. Pistachios, well what can I say, everybody loves pistachios. And quinoa, delicious delicious quinoa, with its cute little swirly seeds, delicious flavor, and healthy properties. And lets not forget the plums. Something extremely magical happens when you fry them in a little butter with sugar and cinnamon. 

makes 2 entrees 
notes: if pomegranates are not in season, you can purchase pomegranate juice instead. 

1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
1 tsp oil
dash of salt
2 plums, cut into wedges
1 tsp sugar, brown or white
dash of cinnamon
2 tsp butter, salted or unsalted
2 cups arugula
1/4 cup pistachios
1 oz goat cheese, crumbled

3 tbsp pomegranate juice, roughly one small pomegranate
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 tsp sweet balsamic vinegar
dash of salt

Rinse the quinoa a few times in a large bowl under cold water, gently dragging your fingers through in a circular motion. At first the water will become cloudy and frothy. Continue rinsing until the water becomes clear. Strain with a colander with a very fine mesh, or just use your hands.

In a small saucepan on low-med heat, add the quinoa and 1 tsp olive oil. Fry for a couple of seconds until the quinoa starts to pop. Add 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the water has evaporated and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Set to the side to cool.

In a bowl, toss the plums with 1 tsp sugar and a dash of cinnamon.

In a frying pan on low-med heat, add the butter. Once the butter starts to bubble, add the plums, flesh side facing down. Fry for a minute or so on each side, until they begin to caramelize. Remove from the heat.

Remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Set aside a few seeds for garnish. Add the rest to a food processor and pulse into a pulp. Strain the juice with some cheese cloth or your hands. Set to the side.

In a mason jar, or any jar with a tight fitting lid, add the pomegranate juice and the rest of the dressing ingredients and shake.

In a large bowl, add the arugula and quinoa and toss with the dressing. Start with a quarter of the dressing and then adjust to personal taste. Plate the salad, and then add a few plums wedges, pistachios, and goat cheese. Sprinkle a few pomegranate seeds for garnish.


  1. This is a stunning salad! What a great idea to caramelize the plums!

  2. I know what you mean about REI. They suck you in every time. This salad is the perfect representation of spring.

  3. This salad sounds SO perfect, Heather. Exactly what I've been craving lately. Little nods to the season ahead and a few sprinkles of the current cool weather vibe kind of ingredients. And my, if those aren't the most glam hiking boots I've ever seen. I have the same compulsive buying problem at Mountain Equipment Co-op, contemplating that I could probably use a 6th pair of thermal tights. So silly.

    1. Thanks Laura. MEC is also a special place to me.

  4. This salad sounds delicious. I often get stuck for ideas with things like quinoa so every new recipe is appreciated. And if it's got goat cheese in it, well, that's just the cherry on top ;)It goes so well with sweet things (honey!) and fruit!

  5. A true tribute to Spring which hopefully is just around the corner. I believe this year we've had a spoonful too much of winter.

  6. Lovely salad Heather!! Beautiful arranged and I'm sure it was delicious!!

  7. I am in love with all the photos but my fav is the one with the fresh plums! This is a fantastic salad and I love mixing fresh frits with quinoa. Helps adding texture.

  8. What a beautiful and delicious-looking salad. I will be adding this to my springtime menu lists!

    Also, don't you love the process of going to the store with a base ingredient in mind and then seeing what results?

  9. We're coming to the end of plum season in Australia so I'll have to try this before they all go.

  10. This salad looks gorgeous - and I'm sure tastes even better! I'm looking forward to trying the idea of a carmelized plum when they are in season here. Thank you!

  11. How beautiful! I am in awe of your food photography... just gorgeous. And I have clipped a zillion of your recipes - can't wait to try them. Thank you for all the work you put in to this lovely blog!

  12. Don't mind me as I pin every single one of your gorgeous recipes- what does pomegranate juice taste like? I'd hate to buy a whole jug of it for 3 tbsp's and not be able to finish it off.

    1. Pomegranate juice is quite tart, and subtly sweet. I like to dilute it with water. But it is delicious. You wont be disappointed.

  13. My favourite salad ever.When I don't have any plums at hand I use nectarines and it tastes delicious!