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I had a delicious time at the Dempsey Center in South Portland the other night. Their resident registered dietitian Judy Donnelly taught a class on Mediterranean cooking for the holidays and we all got generous samples of fish soup (Boullabaise), citrus spinach salad, and chocolate cherry walnut truffles. We also got the recipes.

Spinach leaves and clementine sections

My husband and I had company this weekend and my contribution was the spinach salad. It was so, so easy to make. Originally, I was going to sprinkle in some toasted pecans, but when I got to Hannaford, I remembered that Judy had suggested substituting pomegranate seeds for the holiday. I thought it was a great idea even though I had never had a pomegranate before and knew absolutely nothing about them or their seeds.

I asked a gentleman working in the produce section where I could find pomegranate seeds and he showed me, but then said I should consider buying a whole pomegranate and that they were actually on sale. He was astounded that I’d never had one before. They’re everywhere in his country. I asked him where that was and he said Iraq. Then he took me over to a box filled with pomegranates and said he’d choose a really good one for me. He also picked up one that was too soft and offered to cut it up and show me how to extract the seeds. He went out back and returned with four quarters. Just scoop out the seeds, he told me, don’t eat the white membrane. They were sweet and crunchy. Such a delightful surprise, both the seeds and his kindness. I enjoyed demonstrating what I had learned to my husband and our guests.

Pomegranate sections with seeds

Citrus Spinach Salad


  • 4 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 4 TBS red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 TBS toasted pecans or pomegranate seeds (not toasted)
  • 1 large navel orange, peeled and sectioned (I used three clementines)


  • 3 TBS orange juice
  • 3 TBS white wine vinegar
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 generous TBS chopped cilantro
  • 1 TBS Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place greens in serving bowl or on four individual plates
  2. Sprinkle onion, fruit, and pecans or pomegranate seeds on the greens
  3. Whisk together dressing ingredients
  4. Pour dressing over salad, tossing gently

To toast pecans, heat skillet to medium, toss in the pecans and stir occasionally for about five minutes. Be careful not to burn them! You’ll know when they’re done when the scent of pecans comes wafting up into your nose. Chop when cooled.

About a Mediterranean diet

If you’re going to eat a Mediterranean-style diet, it means you’ll want to incorporate lots of plant-based, unprocessed foods, including:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Herbs and spices
  • Fish a few times a week
  • Meat only as a complement
  • Red wine, if you enjoy a glass

Benefits include:

  • Better mood
  • More energy
  • Reduced stress

It all sounds good to me! And the spinach citrus salad I made hit the spot. Please don’t ask me about the garlic mashed potatoes I managed to ruin. I added too much soy milk. They looked like wallpaper paste. Good thing our guests are good friends. The scallops my husband made (browned in a little bit of olive oil in a very hot skillet) were beyond delicious. Almost forgot his apple crisp. Yum. Thankfully, he’s the chief cook in our house.

Spinach salad with dressing

Check out the Dempsey Center website for more wonderful classes and groups. Judy will be offering a series called Food is Medicine after the first of the year. Registration is now open in Portland and Lewiston.

Send me an email if you’d like the soup and/or truffles recipe.