My Indian mother-in-law introduced me to the ins and outs of pomegranate peeling many years ago. She changes into old clothes and lays out a generous layer of newspaper (making sure everyone has finished reading it first) across the kitchen table, then sits down to work with a sharp knife, a bowl, and a rosy pomegranate. To her, the process is something to enjoy (spraying juice and all) and not to rush through. Like kneading dough or shelling fava beans, this is labor that leads to good things. Company is always welcome too, so grab an apron and wash your hands.
Earthy, nutty farro gives substance to this dish, which we enjoy as a vegetarian main course, but it's brilliant on the side as well. The sweet potatoes, onions, and nuts are roasted to add deep flavor, and the pomegranate seeds offer a gorgeous pop of color and a sweet-tart surprise in each bite.
Substitute spelt, wheat berries, brown rice -- even quinoa -- if you can't get your hands on farro. And if Meyer lemons are hard to come by as well, use ordinary lemon juice. —Ann S
Test Kitchen Notes
After reading this recipe, you might expect it to be quite earthy. You'd be right, but there is so much more going on here. The first taste delivers the earthiness, but then you get sweetness and creaminess from the roasted onions and sweet potatoes, a tender, leafy texture and savory hit from the kale and garlic, a blast of toasted nuttiness from the walnuts, and a zippy tang from the pomegranate seeds! The lemon juice brightens everything up, and the farro brings all of these mighty flavors together into one amazing dish. This will be making an appearance on my holiday table.
3 - 4 as a main course, or 6 as a side dish
semi-pearled or regular farro
Extra virgin olive oil
Medium onion, halved and halves cut into 1/4 inch wedges
large sweet potato, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes (about 2 1/4 cups)
shelled, raw walnuts
packed, roughly chopped kale (stems removed before chopping)
Combine farro with 4 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until grains are nearly tender (about 20 minutes). Add one teaspoon salt, stir and simmer until grains are tender (another 10 minutes or so). Drain excess water, then place grains into a large bowl and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss onion with enough oil to lightly coat, but not soak. Spread across a baking sheet and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Toss sweet potato with oil in a similar fashion and spread on a separate sheet pan. Sprinkle with cumin, coriander and a pinch of salt. Place both baking sheets in the oven and roast until vegetables are tender and onions have begun to brown. The onions will be done before the sweet potatoes. Stir and turn vegetables at least once during cooking.
When vegetables are nearly done roasting, spread walnuts on a third sheet (or in an oven-safe dish, if you've run out of baking sheets) and toast until they have darkened in color and are fragrant (place your nose close, but not too close, to the pan to take a whiff), about 5 to 8 minutes. Keep a watchful eye on the nuts as they will quickly burn in a hot oven. If you prefer, wait until vegetables have finished cooking and been removed from the oven. Turn the temperature down and toast the nuts. When nuts are done, cool completely, then roughly chop into small pieces.
While vegetables and nuts cook, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add kale and garlic and lightly sauté until kale has wilted but is still bright green in color. Stir to cook evenly. Scrape cooked greens mixture into the bowl with farro. Add sweet potato and onion. Fold the ingredients together, then drizzle with a bit of fruity extra virgin olive oil to moisten (a tablespoon or so) plus lemon juice to taste (about one tablespoon, or less if you are using ordinary lemon juice). Taste and add more salt as needed, plus a few grinds of fresh pepper. Gently stir in walnuts and pomegranate seeds.