Rice is one of the most versatile of foods. It takes on whatever flavors you are in the mood to add to it, and becomes a warm, steaming bowl of nourishment that really hits the spot on a cold evening. In this post, I am sharing two autumn rice recipes, both similar in that they include diced butternut squash and walnuts, and different from each other in that one is a savory and one is subtly sweet. Both versions are full of flavor and comfort, and are great side dishes for an autumn meal.
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale, milk or cream, and often leeks or green onions. There are endless variations of this cozy, rustic, and comforting side dish, and it is a great accompaniment to ham, bacon or sausage. In the recipe below, creamy mashed potatoes are mixed with shredded cooked cabbage, sliced green onions, salt and pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. A square of butter goes in the center of the bowl to melt, infusing the potatoes with even more comfort and flavor.
This nutrient-rich dish is full of flavor and color. The mild taste of quinoa is dressed up with the beautiful, sweet-tartness of pomegranate seeds, the savory crunch of pistachios, the bright flavor of fresh parsley, and a homemade dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.
At a time when many of us might reach for comfort in the form of snacking on processed foods, this recipe comes to the rescue and helps balance that out. Quinoa, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and parsley are whole foods full of vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, and naturally delicious flavors! Our bodies need this kind of nutrition to function optimally, and functioning optimally, though not always possible, is definitely a worthy and meaningful goal.
Pomegranates are on sale at my regular grocery store these days, and we have been enjoying them very much. There is something so festive about the beautiful seeds. They are like little sparkling gemstones, or little glowing holiday lights. Each little seed bursts with flavor. Spooning them out can take a bit of time, but it can be fun. We had a friend of my son’s over a couple of weeks ago, and my son, his friend, and my daughter were completely entertained for a good while, standing at the counter scooping the seeds out of the pomegranate halves….I’m telling you, in this age of electronics, bitter politics, and rushed schedules, it is satisfying to see kids get excited about a fruit, getting their hands and faces all juicy, and laughing together in the kitchen.
I get a bit emotional about that kind of stuff, and perhaps it is because I’m a bit raw as I write this post. I purposely stay away from politics on this blog most of the time. It is primarily a food blog, along with bits and pieces about my own life thrown in, and how the beauty of food, nature and the seasons can influence our lives. But a couple of days ago, the people in my country elected someone to be our next president, someone who has no political experience, and who has said some very disrespectful things. The people in my country are deeply, and sometimes bitterly, divided. I am not a very political person, and I will not say much about this here, but I will say that I hope love, dignity, respect, and peace can prevail in ways we cannot always understand or yet fathom.
The harsh words of this election cycle have left me cherishing the simple moments of joy, like watching kids standing together around a pomegranate, laughing and popping the seeds into their mouths. My yoga instructor said something earlier in the week that has stuck with me. She said that the earth meets us rightwhere we are. On one hand, that sounds so obvious that it is almost humorous. On the other hand, it is exactly what I needed to hear. Wherever we are in our imperfect journey, the earth is there to meet us and support us. Eating food that comes from the earth is nourishing us right where we are as well, helping us to go out and live our truths and open our hearts. We need to come together around a table and nourish and support each other.
This dish is really easy to put together, and makes a delicious, beautiful, and healthy side dish. If you are looking for a simple and festive salad to take to Thanksgiving dinner or any other dinner, give this a try! I am going to share this over at Angie’s Fiesta Friday and see what the others there have brought to the table.
1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds (also known as arils)
1/3 cup of pistachios, shelled
1/3 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
For the simple dressing:
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon of honey
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the quinoa according to package instructions. (Or, rinse the quinoa in a fine-meshed colander under running water. Add 2 cups of water and the cup of rinsed quinoa to a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower heat and to a simmer, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is tender and the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let the quinoa cool.
While the quinoa is cooking, scoop the seeds from the pomegranate and shell the pistachios. Wash and chop the parsley. Mix up the dressing and whisk it together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the seasonings and ingredients to your liking.
Transfer the quinoa into a serving bowl and fluff it with a fork. Add the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and parsley. Pour the dressing onto the ingredients. Stir till everything is well combined. Serve at room temperature or put it in the refrigerator until you’re ready for it and serve it cold. Enjoy!