In this classic Central Asian salad, onions are salted briefly, then rinsed to wash away their sharpness. It’s like an instant pickling, making them sweeter and more tender. They’re dressed with salt, sugar, and vinegar, then sprinkled with coriander leaves and pomegranate seeds.
Pomegranates come into season around October and are usually available until late January or early February. There are both sweet and tart pomegranates. The sweet ones are much more widely available in North America, and that’s what you want to buy.
Yield: Serves 4 as a salad or side dish
2 medium red or white onions (about 1 pound), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed rock sugar or regular sugar
½ teaspoon chile pepper flakes (optional)
½ cup chopped coriander
½ cup pomegranate seeds (see Note)
Place the onions in a colander set over a bowl or in the sink, sprinkle on the 1 tablespoon salt, and toss to mix well. Let drain for 15 minutes or so, then rinse well with cold water and gently squeeze out excess liquid. Separate the slices as you place the onions in a shallow bowl.
In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, sugar, and chile flakes, whisking well to blend them, then pour over the onions. Toss to distribute the dressing. Taste, and add a little salt if needed. Add the coriander and toss, then sprinkle on the pomegranate seeds.
NOTE ON POMEGRANATE TECHNIQUE: To get at the seeds, use the tip of a sharp knife to make a 2-inch square cut in the skin, cutting just through the skin. Lift the cut piece from the rest of the fruit; some seeds will still be attached. Repeat with another section of skin. Now you have easy access to the seeds in the center of the fruit. Separate them from the astringent-tasting pith and heap in a bowl. They’re beautiful, a great garnish for salads and pulaos, and a nice little snack on their own.