In the traditions of many Jewish holidays, there’s a poetic relationship between the festival’s culinary laws and that season’s foods.
While the relationship linking Rosh Hashanah with apples and honey never grows old, the elegant and elusive pomegranate is less acknowledged, though profoundly tied to biblical literature and ancient agriculture.
Pomegranate seeds offer the kind of culinary beauty that cause us to slow down, take note and absorb the scared spirit of newness. That being said, they can be a pain to wrangle.
Mollie Katzen is here to help. Katzen has sold more than 6 million books and is listed by The New York Times as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all-time. She has been named by Health Magazine as one of “The Five Women Who Changed the Way We Eat.” Her new book, The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, is being published in September 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Here are Katzen’s strategies to help you conquer the pomegranate. The easy (and un-messy) method for mining a pomegranate:
Have ready a big bowl of water. Cut the fruit into quarters, and submerge them. Peel them under water, and keep them in there as you comb through with your fingers to loosen the seeds.
The skins and inedible pith will float to the surface (skim this away thoroughly, and discard), and the seeds will sink to the bottom. Strain, and you’ve got the goods.
Roasted Acorn Squash Rings with Pomegranate-Lime Glaze
Simple and sweet, these golden circles topped with the contrasting tart glaze will round out your dinner plate. Be careful slicing the squash. Use a very sharp paring knife, inserting the point first and using a gently sawing motion. The easiest way to remove the seeds is to cut loose the strand around them with scissors, and then scrape them away with a spoon.
You can make the glaze well ahead of time. It keeps indefinitely.
olive oil for the baking tray
2 medium-size acorn squash (about 3 lbs.) skin on, and cut into 1⁄2-inch rings
Pomegranate-Lime Glaze (recipe to follow)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375˚.
Line a baking tray with foil, and coat it lightly with olive oil. (You can use one of the squash rings to spread it around.)
Arrange the squash slices on the prepared tray, and place the tray in the oven.
After about 15 to 20 minutes (or when the squash is fork-tender and lightly browned on top and around the edges) remove the tray from the oven, and spoon or brush the still-hot squash with a light coating of the glaze.
Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, decorated with pomegranate seeds. Pass a little dish of extra glaze at the table.
Serves 6 (about 3 pieces per serving).
1⁄4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Combine the pomegranate molasses and lime juice in a small bowl and mix until smooth. Taste to adjust lime juice.
Serve at room temperature, spooned over hot or room temperature food.
Makes 1⁄3 cup (about 1 tablespoon per serving).
Curried Eggplant Slap-Down With Yogurt, Onion Relish and Pomegranate
Adapted from The Heart of the Plate. Small eggplants, artfully prepared, can be an elegant appetizer or a light lunch, in addition to a welcome side dish.
2 Tbsps. grapeseed oil or peanut oil
1 tsp. unsalted butter (optional)
1 tsp. curry powder
4 eggplants (4 oz. each), trimmed and halved lengthwise
1⁄2 tsp. salt (plus a big extra pinch)
1⁄4 cup Greek yogurt
scant Tbsp. oil (hot, so the seeds will sizzle on contact)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1⁄4 tsp. turmeric
1 cup minced onion
pomegranate seeds and/or pomegranate concentrate or molasses
Place a medium (9-inch) skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute, then add 1⁄2 tablespoon of the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Melt some butter into the oil, if desired, and sprinkle in the curry powder, which will sizzle upon contact.
Add the eggplant halves with their cut sides facing down into the oil, swishing them around (as though you’re wiping the pan with them) to both distribute and acquire the curry. Turn the heat to medium low, cover the pan, and cook undisturbed for about 8 minutes — until each eggplant half becomes tender. (Peek underneath a few times to be sure the cut surfaces are not becoming too dark. If they are, lower the heat, and/or turn the eggplants over onto their backs sooner than I am about to advise. The eggplant is cooked when the stem end can easily be pierced with a fork.)
Flip the eggplants onto their backs, sprinkle with a 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, and transfer to a plate. Spoon a little yogurt onto each open surface, spreading it to cover; set aside while you prepare the onion.
Keeping the same pan over medium high heat, add another 1⁄2 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat the pan. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds and turmeric (should both sizzle on contact), and mix them a little to pick up some of the flavor that may have adhered.
Add the onion and a big pinch of salt, tossing to coat. Cook quickly over medium heat (about five minutes, or until tender-crisp), then remove the pan from the heat. Divide the onions evenly among the four halves, spooning them over the yogurt (and scraping and maximally including any remaining tasty bits from the pan).
Top with pomegranate seeds and/or a drizzle of pomegranate concentrate or molasses. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.
Adapted from The Heart of the Plate. Cook the wild rice ahead of time. You’ll need only 1⁄2 a cup — okay to use leftovers. If you can find both colors, it’s nice to use a combination of green and red Belgian endive in this salad.
4 Belgian endives (about 1 lb.), chopped crosswise
1⁄2 medium jicama (about 3⁄4 lb., peeled and cut into matchsticks or any shape bite-sized pieces)
1 medium-sized red apple, sliced
seeds from a medium-sized pomegranate
1⁄2 cup cooked wild rice
Bleu Cheese-Yogurt Dressing (recipe follows), as needed
black pepper to taste
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Toss the vegetables, fruit, and rice together in a medium-large bowl.
Keep tossing as you add the dressing (stirred from the bottom, to reincorporate, and also to include all the tasty bleu cheese bits) — until everything is coated as you like it. You might or might not end up using all the dressing.
Grind in some black pepper toward the end of the tossing, and serve topped with pecans.
Serves 4 to 5.
Bleu Cheese-Yogurt Dressing
1⁄4 cup plain yogurt (low-fat, non-fat or whole milk)
1 heaping Tbsp. finely minced shallot
1⁄4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsps. apple juice
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. pure maple syrup
3 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsps. crumbled blue cheese (possibly more, to taste)
Combine the yogurt, shallot, salt, apple juice, vinegar and maple syrup in a small jar with a tight fitting lid — or a medium-small bowl. Whisk until thoroughly blended.
Keep whisking as you drizzle in the olive oil.
Stir in the bleu cheese, then taste the dressing. Add more cheese, if you like.
Cover tightly and refrigerate until use. Shake or stir from the bottom before using.
Makes 3⁄4 cup.