Note: I often do the above steps the day before my party, and then save the last step (below) for about an hour before the party starts. Great make ahead recipe!
Now for dish two from my POM Wonderful dinner party: Acini di Pepe Vegetarian Pomegranate Salad. I’ve made a similar salad many, many times, and knew instantly it could be easily adapted for the pomegranate challenge. Pomegranates kind of have a tart cranberry-esque taste to them, like a cross between a tiny grape and a cranberry, so to me they were a natural substitute!
I found the original recipe a couple years ago from chef Giada De Laurentiis (love her simple, flavorful recipes), and made it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. My sister and her boyfriend are vegetarians, and this was something different, hearty but not heavy, to bring to our family gatherings that they could enjoy eating.
Acini di Pepe Vegetarian
Adapted from Mediterranean Salad, by Giada De Laurentiis
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 (1-pound) box acini di pepe pasta (Israeli couscous works great too!)
3 cups good vegetable broth
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds (toasted, optional)
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate arils (can substitute dried cranberries)
Preheat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the pasta and cook until lightly brown, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Carefully pour in the vegetable broth and the juice of one lemon (it’s going to sizzle!), give a quick stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Drain the pasta (there may not be very much liquid left, and that’s okay).
In a large bowl, toss the pasta with the remaining olive oil, remaining lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper, and let cool.
Once at room temperature, add the herbs, pomegranate arils, and almonds. Toss to combine, and serve!