My grandmother used to tell me that bitter foods like the flowers and leaves of the papaya tree were good for me — and she may have been onto something.
Bitter vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that can help lower the risk of certain diseases. Papaya leaves are normally boiled to reduce their bitterness before being stir-fried in a dish. But to my mind, bitterness is not always a bad thing.
Bitter is one of our basic taste sensations along with sweet, salty and sour.
Though we may not notice it, bitterness appears in many of our favorite foods and drinks, like dark chocolate, citrus zest, coffee, olives and more.
Salad leaves also come in a range of bitter varieties, like Japanese spinach, amaranth, kale, watercress, radicchio and my favorite, rucola, also known as rocket.
It is easy to find imported or locally grown rocket at most supermarkets. This leafy green has a rich, peppery taste and an exceptionally strong bitter flavor. It is generally used in salads, mixed with other greens and is sometimes used as a garnish on pizza.
For this week’s recipe I have prepared a salad dish with rocket as the main ingredient. The combination with other greens balance the bitterness with sweet, sour and salty flavors. Enjoy!
Rocket, roasted pumpkin and pomegranate salad
The colors of these salad ingredients look great together, and the combination tastes good, too.
The bitter taste of rocket is balanced with the saltiness of the feta cheese, while the pomegranate gives a sour taste, mixed with the sweet flavor of roasted pumpkin, and the honey and olive oil dressing.
To save time, you can roast the pumpkin one day before you want to use it.
140 grams baby rocket leaves, washed and dried with a towel, then placed in a big bowl, covered with cling film and put in the refrigerator to chill;
850 grams raw pumpkin;
a small bunch of fresh thyme, chopped roughly;
2 tablespoons olive oil; 50 grams pine nuts;
100 grams reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled into small pieces.
For the dressing:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil;
2 tablespoons lime juice;
2 tablespoons honey;
salt and black pepper to taste.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Peel the pumpkin, discard the seeds and chop into small cubes, around 1 centimeter long on all sides.
3. Place pumpkin on a baking tray, season with salt, black pepper and chopped thyme, then drizzle with olive oil and mix well. Place in the oven and cook for around 20 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
4. In the meantime, heat a frying pan without oil over medium heat and add the pine nuts. Dry fry until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
5. Cut the pomegranate in half. Squeeze the fruit gently to get the seeds out whole. Set aside.
6. For the dressing, simply place all the ingredients into a jar, close the lid and shake for 10 seconds.
7. To serve, place the rocket leaves into a large bowl, add half of the dressing and toss the leaves well. Next, place the green leaves on a large serving dish and add the roasted pumpkin, pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with the rest of the dressing. Serve immediately.