Showing posts with label Pomegranate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pomegranate. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fried Curried Eggplant with Pomegranate Molasses

Summer is slipping into fall around here, and I couldn't let it slip quite away before I shared with you a simple-as-summer recipe.  I keep finding myself standing in front of my stove, frying up cubes of eggplant, because as often as I make it,  I never seem to get enough of it.

My blog has been quiet, as it usually is over the summer months, because my home has been full of toddlers and children (some of whom belonging to me) running in and out the front door, trips to the pools (with requisite snacks), and a generous handful of trips to visit family, see new places, try new food.

Of special note, was a trip to Pittsburgh's Conflict Kitchen, were my husband and I enjoyed a delicious Iranian lunch.  The Conflict Kitchen is a take-out restaurant with a walk up counter, that serves a rotating menu from countries with which the United States is in conflict.  This month, they serve a beautiful selection of Iranian dishes.  About a year ago, in a controversial move, they rotated their menu to cover dishes from Palestine.  If you are ever in Pittsburgh, do try to find it.

Back in my hot and humid Virginia, my kitchen is overflowing with luscious summer vegetables - zucchini, tomatoes, corn, eggplant.  The summer months, though, bring more ambitious cooking projects to a halt.  I crave simple, light meals, salads and simple cuts of protein, meals that keep me out of the kitchen and at the pool.  On this particular day, I had several eggplants that needed some love, but I was far too hot to fire up the grill for eggplant dip, and far to lazy to contemplate a batch of eggplant bake, or menezali, so I found myself creating this simple eggplant dish.

One spoonful, and I was hooked.  I've always loved eggplant, especially fried eggplant cubes, with its lovely velvety and luxuriant richness.  This time, I added a drizzle of pomegranate molasses to cut through the richness and brightens and sweetens the dish. Add a sprinkle of toasted nuts, and suddenly this plate of vegetables, for me, becomes utterly crave-able.

I've served this over a bed of basmati rice, for a simple, meatless main dish, or as a warm side dish, with grilled chicken.  Either way, you are in for a treat.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sticky Pomegranate Drumsticks + Tahini-Lemon Brussels Sprouts

Yesterday's flavors, today's food.

That has been on my mind the last few months, as I've been pondering what to do next on this blog. Since I don't always have the time to cook traditional recipes, but my kitchen is always stocked with the basics of a Middle Eastern pantry, when it's time to cook dinner, I often find myself staring at cuts of meat, and a whole lot of blank slate.

That's when I throw open my pantry and reach for The Secret Weapon of Arabic Meat Dishes:  pomegranate molasses. And when I need to add more flavor to a roasted vegetable, I reach for one of the basic Arabic sauces - tahini and lemon.

It's really funny, if you think about it, because Arabs are dead against mixing sweet and savory, and yet, they use pomegranate molasses, a syrup made of cooked down pomegranate juice (recipe here). My mother tells of her tongue's culture shock when she first came to American and was served chicken cooked with pineapple, pork cooked with apples, lamb served with mint jelly.  Sweet, fruity with meat?  It just didn't make sense to her palate.

And yet:  pomegranate molasses. This remarkable tart-sweet syrup is a miracle worker in the meat department. Arabic cooks drizzle in a little into their meat stuffing, or over roasts or chickens.   Pomegranate has that tart acidity that the Arabic palate enjoys, and only a very slight sweetness, so I imagine that is what they enjoy.  In this recipe, though, I play up the pomegranate's slight sweetness, and bath the chicken in pomegranate molasses, to create a barbecue-like flavor that my more Western tongue enjoys.

(This marinade also makes a divine glaze for a pork roast.)

I paired this dish with a side of roast Brussels sprouts, a vegetable that my children enjoy immensely, and that I love, even though I never had it when I was growing up in the Middle East.  To make it feel a little more at home next to the tray of chicken, I added the tahini-lemon sauce, and a sprinkle of pine nuts on the sprouts.  And just like that, I think we have a new family favorite way to eat our Brussels sprouts.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Salad in Winter: Citrus Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Arils

The season of tomatoes is over.

I feel quite lost.

I miss our simple tomato-cucumber salads of the summer.  I grew up eating salads almost every night (my father was the salad and dressing maker), but they almost always had a little chopped tomato in them: cabbage salad with tomato, lettuce salad with tomato, cucumber, carrots, or a basic chopped tomato and cucumber salad.

When I first came to this country, I would still buy tomatoes year round because I just couldn't imagine my kitchen without fresh tomatoes.  Those piles of tomatoes in the grocery store in December, January, February - I didn't realize how far they had traveled and how little they tasted like real fruit.  I just bought them because I had never, ever, ever in my life lived in a house where there were no tomatoes.

A few years ago, I finally broke down and admitted:  I am not in Palestine anymore.

I am in Northern Virginia.  And here, the winter tomatoes are the worst.

Once I admitted that, I found I could stop buying them.  I walked right past the display case of mealy tomatoes.

Is there still salad after tomato season?  I was wandering in new territory here.  I tried apples and pears, cucumber and feta, cabbage and spinach, bacon crumbles, walnuts, sourdough croutons.   They were good, but they didn't taste quite like home.

A few weeks ago, I was pushing my cart through the grocery store, and my baby squealed with delight and said, "BALL."  He was pointing at a pomegranate.   That's not a ball, honey, I said.  It's a pomegranate.  He didn't believe me, and clutched it in the cart for the rest of the ride.

We brought the pomegranate home, and looked at it for a while, on the counter.  It was so pretty, in a bowl with the baby oranges and the pears and apples, that it seemed a shame to break it open.  I found a video tutorial by Martha Stewart on how to de-seed a pomegranate, and the older children and I followed her instructions and were soon rewarded with a beautiful mound of pomegranate seeds.  (It's not a very elegant video - but it was fun to follow!).

For breakfast, I sliced up oranges and sprinkled them with pomegranate arils.  The children picked up the pretty gems-like seeds, the baby ate them by the fistful, and my daughter studded the center of her orange rounds with the ruby red seeds.

And I suddenly saw my new winter salad: a bed of baby spinach leaves, sliced rounds of baby oranges, and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds.

Oranges and spinach are a classic combination, but the tart little pomegranate seeds add crunch and a tart burst of juice into each bite.  I drizzled a homemade citrus dressing, with a little Dijon mustard and pomegranate molasses stirred in, to complement the salad.

Unforeseen result:  My salad is in the holiday spirit!  Wouldn't this be lovely to bring to a Christmas party?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Middle Eastern Spiced Meat Pies, or Sfiha

These Middle Eastern savory meat pies, topped with toasted pine nuts, are a traditional Arabic dish, popular throughout the Levant  (and also in parts of South America, where there is a significant expat Arabic community).  They are small, hand-held "pizzas," made with ground lamb or beef, seasoned with lemony sumac and allspice.  Tahini, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice add a complex flavor and a creamy texture to the meat, and for the more adventurous, a little zing of hot peppers finishes the effect.  Dip the warm pies into plain, sour yogurt, if you want to eat them like an Arab. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Palestinian Meatloaf: Lamb Kefta, Two Ways


Kefta is meatloaf, really.  Ground meats, mixed with seasonings by hand, pressed into a dish, smothered in sauce.  There are differences, of course.  Instead of beef, pork and veal, we use lamb and beef.  Instead of bread crumbs, we use minced parsley.  The lamb is spiced with cinnamon and allspice.  On top, we skip the ketchup and pour a creamy tahini and lemon sauce, and sprinkle with pine nuts. Or, if you are in the mood for tomatoes, we pour a little tomato sauce and arrange sliced fresh tomatoes.

I remember the first time my mother explained kefta to an American family:  your loaves of bread are high, and so that is how you make meatloaf.  Our loaves of bread are flat, and so that is how we make meatloaf. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

How to Make Pomegranate Molasses

Want to know a little secret?

Pomegranate molasses.  It's amazing. 

My mother introduced me to this ingredient, by hand-carrying a bottle from home.  I have kept a bottle in my cupboard ever since.  It's a thick, viscous syrup made out of boiled-down pomegranate juice.  The flavor is complex, puckering tart - almost lemony, fruity, and slightly sweet. 

What do I do with this? 

Use it on meats, my mother said.  Rub it into a beef roast, or a pork roast.   Spread it over a roast chicken.  It is magic, I tell you. 

It really is. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stuffed Chicken, or Djaj Mahshi

Do you have something to celebrate? A new bride in the family? A new mother? The fact that it is Saturday? 

Stuffed chicken is a Palestinian celebratory meal, served particularly to new mothers. Traditionally, a new mother would spend a month at home and in bed, caring for her newborn, while her mother-in-law would take over all household chores, including cooking and preparing delicacies for the new mother. Pregnancy, labor, delivery, the early days of breastfeeding - new mothers' bodies have given so much that they should in turn be given the most nourishing foods possible. This tender roasted chicken is stuffed with buttery pine nuts, spiced rice and ground meat. Served with a bowl of tart plain yogurt, a chopped salad and some Arabic bread, this makes for a meal designed to heal and build up a mother's body.

The quality of the chicken matters. When my mother comes to America, she laughs at the plump chickens in the grocery store. Is this a chicken or a turkey? What did they do to these breasts? I have never seen a chicken like this. She mockingly staggers as she picks one up.

I have come to see her point. The chickens I grew up eating were smaller, and also tasted well, more like chicken. More flavorful than the chicken-flavored-cardboard that I had been cooking since I had moved to the States.

I back away from the boob-job chickens.

I pick up an organic, free-range chicken. When on sale, I really enjoy kosher organic chickens. They are so tender that they melt in your mouth and my children adore them. The higher price tag gives me pause until I realize that if I make enough bone broth from the chicken bones, I will actually recoup the cost of the chicken entirely. And because they are pastured birds, they absorb the macro nutrients of the foods they eat, and pass those on to me. These birds fit into our moral framework, too, which I was grateful for tonight when my daughter asked me what the difference was between the chicken that we eat and the chickens that she has seen at farms. When I gently explained that they are one and the same, I was glad to be able to explain that this bird had had a long happy life and just one bad day.


Djaj Mahshi

1 whole chicken, pastured preferred

Rice and Meat Stuffing:
(Enough for extra to cook on the stove top or to stuff two chickens)

1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup rice, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon butter
1 3/4 cups chicken stock or water
1/2 lb ground lamb or beef
Salt and pepper
All spice
1/2 cup pine nuts

Chicken Rub:
1 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons yogurt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses*
1 tsp Middle Eastern chicken seasoning, or all spice
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

1. Saute the diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Add rice and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add chicken broth or water, 1 1/2 tsp salt and pepper, 1 tsp all spice, and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Bring to a boil and then simmer until becoming tender, but not mushy, about 15 minutes.

2. Brown the meat, breaking up into small pieces with your spatula. Season with salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp all spice, and little cinnamon.

3. Saute the pine nuts in a tablespoon of butter, over low heat, stirring carefully and watching. They burn very easily.

4. In a bowl, combine the rice, meat, pine nuts and onions. Check seasonings.

5. Wash the chicken and pat dry inside and out and set it into a shallow roasting pan.

6. Divide the rice into two separate bowls, to prevent contamination. Reserve one bowl to serve with the chicken. Spoon stuffing from the other bowl into the cavity of the chicken, fitting as much as you can. Using toothpicks, secure the opening to the cavity as best as you can. If you prefer, you can sew the cavity closed.

7. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, yogurt and pomegranate molasses. Rub into the chicken breast. Salt and pepper the chicken liberally. Place some pats of butter under the breast skin, and rub a little more onto the chicken skin.

8. For a tender bird, slow roast the chicken using this method. Preheat oven to 300 F and roast the chicken. Roast until the chicken reaches 160 F, then turn the oven up to 375 F, baste the chicken with its juices and roast until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 180 F. This should take a total of two and a half to three hours, depending on the size of the chicken.

9. Cover with foil and let the chicken rest for five to ten minutes, for its juices to redistribute.

10. To make the most flavorful rice, pour some of the chicken drippings from the roast pan into the reserved rice stuffing and stir it in. Then try not to eat it all on the spot.

*You can purchase pomegranate molasses at Middle Eastern grocers, large grocery stores, or you can make it yourself.   See recipe.