I bought a pomegranate to send in the mail to Rhiannon, but, sadly, it didn’t fit in the box. We have a thing about eating pomegranates this time of year, back in the canyon. So, this lovely fruit sat on my dresser for about a week, reminding me of home.

A few days ago my housemate Élan invited me to my very first Ashland potluck, right up the street. Perfect opportunity to make a really interesting experiment! As inspiration, I turned to the pages of my memory, and found an old favorite. A salad in Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, with green olives, walnuts, and pomegranate. So here’s my mash-up of that Mediterranean salad with some of what I had in the fridge.  Élan ended up being my very entertaining sous chef for this dish, and took the photo for me, too. The warm salad was a huge hit at the potluck. At least six people told me how wonderful it was! It complemented the veggie enchiladas, roasted eggplant, basil and mozzarella, guacamole, asparagus, Italian sausages, spinach salad, red wine, and three different soups perfectly! And still I managed to polish off a decadent chocolate brownie. And, just to make the night even more memorable, a very talented teenager singing and playing Imagine Dragons’ “Demons”, and several other beautiful people playing odes to Leonard Cohen and much more.  Gotta love those Ashland potlucks.

2 cups long or short grain brown rice

3 cups water

1 large pomegranate

1 large or 2 medium onions, diced

About ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 large beets, diced small (about ¼”)

1 large or 2 medium apples, diced about ½”

1 lemon, sliced, seeded, and diced small (about 1/8”)

About 1 cup olives (either oil cured, Kalamata, or cracked green olives), pitted and cut into quarters

About 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

About ¼ cup fresh rosemary, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

About ½ cup fresh basil, chopped or torn, or substitute ¾ cup flat leaf parsley

About 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided

freshly ground black pepper

In a 2 or 3 quart pot, bring the rice and water to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. Set aside. Cut open the pomegranate, remove all the seeds, and put them into a large bowl. Heat a large skillet to medium high, pour a heaping tablespoon of the olive oil into the pan. Sauté the onion with about ½ teaspoon salt until it’s slightly browned but still a bit crunchy. Put the cooked onion into the bowl with the pomegranate. Then, sauté the beets with another ½ teaspoon salt in about 2 tablespoons of oil until about halfway cooked, and add to the bowl. Do the same with the apple/s, but no salt this time. Stir in the chopped lemon, half the cumin, the balsamic vinegar, and half the fresh rosemary. Heat the large skillet again, add two tablespoons oil, and all of the rice. Add the rest of the cumin and rosemary, the smoked paprika, some black pepper, and about 1 teaspoon sea salt. Once the rice is done, give it a taste- even just with those things, isn’t it great? Then, dump it all into the large bowl, mix everything together, add the basil, and taste to see if you want more salt or pepper, or olive oil, or if it’s perfect!

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