When my business and kids were young, I spent a year teaching preschool.

My favorite unit was food.

I’d put together a mystery bag filled with fruits and vegetables and — to the beat of tiny fists mimicking a drum roll — dramatically pull out one item at a time.

“Does anyone know what this is?” I asked a silent room after hauling out a cucumber.

“A pickle?” someone guessed.

“How about this?” I asked holding up a pomegranate.

“An apple?”

I was a little bit surprised at the cucumber/pickle confusion. The pomegranate made more sense. We’d cut the red orb open, ooh and aah at the glistening seeds, then pick those seeds out with tiny fingers and taste the “rubies.”

The kids went home extolling the virtues of pomegranates to their parents. I stayed in the classroom explaining to cleaning services why it looked like a murder scene.

“Did someone die in here?” our building services manager asked one afternoon. “Aaaayyy, Miss Susan!”

Yes, pomegranates are messy. Pound those seeds out, pick those seeds out, try to delicately spoon them out, and you still spatter your counters and tables with brilliant red juice.

But the mess is worth it. Nutritional experts hail pomegranates as one of the food world’s “super fruits,” rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber.

I like to fold pomegranate seeds into salads and pilafs, where those juice-encased seeds burst with a tartness that freshens whatever they’re paired with. The ruby-red morsels glisten when placed atop a wheel of brie or a log of chevre. Pomegranate molasses, a concoction you can find in the international sections of most grocery stores, adds a bracing edge to salad dressings and vinaigrettes.

Thanks to the wonders of modern packaging, you can buy pomegranate seeds any time of the year. But the fruit is in peak season now. Buy a few orbs and let your family go wild.

You can always clean up your crime scene.

Red Quinoa Salad With Pomegranate Dressing

I posted this recipe, adapted from “Gourmet,” awhile back, but it deserves revisiting now that pomegranates are at their peak. The ruby red seeds are a natural complement to the red quinoa, and the pomegranate dressing gives everything a slightly spicy, slightly tart, slightly sweet cloak.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • Half a fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • quinoa veggeis1/2 cup cauliflower, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup radishes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup radicchio leaves, cut into thin ribbons
  • 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

quinoa dryRinse the quinoa in 3 changes of cold water. (Be sure to use a fine-mesh sieve for this. Otherwise, the quinoa will fall through your colander’s holes.)

Bring 3-4 quarts of water to a boil in a saucepan. Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon salt, then add the quinoa and boil for 10 minutes.

Drain the quinoa in a sieve, and rinse it in cold water.

Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in the same saucepan. Set the sieve with the quinoa over the saucepan. Cover with a kitchen towel and a lid, folding the edges of the towel over the lid so they won’t burn.

Steam the quinoa for 15 minutes, until it’s fluffy and dry.

Place the quinoa in a large bowl. Add the chopped vegetables and herbs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, the garlic and the water, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Add a couple of grinds of black pepper, then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if necessary.

Pour the vinaigrette over the quinoa and vegetables and toss gently. Serve immediately, or let set at room temperature for the flavors to develop more fully.

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