Growing up in Karachi it seemed to me that all of my friends ate more or less the same food my family did. Except for one. My friend A has a Syrian grandmother and thanks to that influence the food at her house was always so different and so darned good. I shamelessly invited myself not only to her house, but to her grandmothers on more than one occasion because I simply could not get enough of the clean bright flavors. Everything was no muss no fuss delicious. I suspect the novelty of it made it seem even more delicious because once I was telling her something was really good and she said “it’s just aalu gosht with no masala for Godssake!”
Clearly she didn’t appreciate it as much as I did.
This warm spinach salad is one of her family recipes. The lemony garlicky spinach provides the perfect base for some lovely healthy winter flavors. The bright pomegranate seeds and the toasted walnuts provide flavor and crunch that is perfectly complemented by pieces of pan seared halloom (my addition). For those of you unfamiliar with it Halloom is a salty firm Arab cheese that lends itself well to grilling or searing as the insides melt, but the outside will turn a lovely crispy brown while still holding shape. It is now commonly available in most grocery stores in Toronto much to the delight of Zara, my 4 year old Halloom fiend.
This salad comes together quickly and is infinitely adaptable. Just use the spinach as a base and add whatsoever your heart desires. I imagine it would be equally good with some feta or goat cheese and I happen to know it is yummy without any cheese at all. We usually have prefried onions in the pantry (readily available and they keep well), but if you don’t then you are welcome to make your own or omit them entirely.
Warm Spinach & Pomegranate Salad
Serves 2 as a side
1lb spinach, washed, cleaned, picked over
4-6 cloves garlic roughly chopped
Generous handful of fried crispy onions
1-2 tbsp toasted walnuts (for quick toasting use a clean dry frying pan)
1/3 cup (approx) pomegranate seeds
half a lemon for squeezing over
two 1 cm thick slices of halloom
1 tbsp of olive oil
Wash your spinach, break off any tough stalks, roughly chop and set aside to dry. Roughly chop the garlic as well.
Heat a large clean dry frying pan (or saucepan) on medium high heat and add your walnuts, keep moving them around till evenly toasted. Remove from the pan, wipe the pan and put back on the burner. Dice your halloom into 1 cm pieces and place in the pan, gently turn over after it sears to a crispy golden brown (1-2 minutes). Remove from the pan when both sides are done. Now wipe the pan off and add your olive oil and garlic. Just as the garlic starts to soften add your spinach and move it around gently until it wilts. Squeeze over the lemon juice and add a little salt if you wish. Add in half the onions, half the pomegranate and mix. Now the fun begins.
Plate your spinach, top with the remaining onions and pomegranate seeds. Sprinkle over the walnuts and finally the crispy salty chewy halloom. Dig in.