POMEGRANATE IN THE HOUSE IS VERY NICE
Of the Seven Holy Species of plant pomegranate is the crown, the fertile one, the mystery, it is also one of the fruits of the Garden of Eden. The Seven Species indicates the plants given to ancient Israel. They are named in the Old Testament. They are: 1) Wheat, 2) Barley, 3) Grapes, 4) Figs, 5) Pomegranates, 6) Olives, 7) Date Honey or Dates. It is easy to see why these fruits and seeds are sacred species in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as they are staples in the world of flora that provide us with life and health. The pomegranate is symbolic of the 613 points in the Torah section of the Old Testament since it was believed the fruit bore 613 seeds. Solomon designed his crown based upon the bottom crown of the pomegranate. It is a shrub and can have as many as 40 or more fruit at at time during the growing season.
We see these Seven appearing throughout literature as being full of symbolic meaning in all of the ancient religions and iconography. We are exploring the pomegranate as our sole seed for Winter. It was the four pomegranate seeds Persephone consumed at the end of her stay with Hades in the underworld that brought about the Winter season while her mother, Demeter (Greek goddess of agriculture/wheat), mourned her absence.
The pomegranate is native to Persia and the Near East. It was planted along the Silk Road and has flourished in dry, hot growing regions all over the world including California and Arizona. The name of the pomegranate has significance also in war. The suffx ‘granate’ became the name of the Moor city in Spain, Granada. The grenade derived it’s name because the shape was like that of a pomegranate. For all things beautiful there is an opposite, and so for the pomegranate. We have sour syrup and sweet syrup, molasses and dried seeds (in curry), we have fun sweet eating seeds in November and sour ones for sauces in September and early October.
For we of the Southeast the pomegranate is best in November, December and January. It was a treat for us when we were children. My Mother called them “Plum Grannies” because it was just too much trouble to get pomegranate out of the mouths of Georgia native youngin’s and too easy to get the sweet seeds in. All it took was a bowl of cold water to separate the seeds from the pulp and a handful of napkins to separate the red from our hands. We were happy, still are when this fruit is at it’s sweetest.
The cocktail syrup, grenadine, is based upon the sweet pomegranate juice. We will be using a combination of pomegranate juice, grenadine, molasses, date palm sugar and red wine to make a kind of pomegranate molasses for pork and fish. The seeds are remarkable when sautéed with turkey breast steaks or chicken breasts. A sweet and salty spinach salad becomes a emblematic starter to any December holiday meal when the dressing contains pomegranate and bacon. I have had Turkish pomegranate syrup that was as thick as honey and deeply flavorful with tannins and sweet molasses as the same time; and then with that particular pomegranate thing that is between cranberries and scuppernongs.
They will sweeten in storage in the dry lower part of your refrigerator; keep the temperature between 32 and 42 degrees. If kept in your pantry at regular household temperatures between 65 and 72 degrees then they will keep for two months. Slightly score the outer skin of the fruit with a knife. Break it open over a bowl of cold water. Gently push the seeds off of the pulp. The pulp will rise and the seeds sink. They varieties (over 60) of pomegranate go from pale white sour seeds to super juicy sweet red seeds. We are most familiar with Wonderful and Grenada. Pomegranate juice is a known factor in reducing LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). The juicy outer layer of the seed is called arils. And here is a new one to me; the shrub is so tannic that it has long been used in tanning leather, the bark and the leaves that is, not the fruit. Do not eat the pulp or skin.
HOT BACON AND POMEGRANATE SPINACH SALAD
Let’s explore the flavors of this healthy little shrub with a hot bacon spinach salad. The take is to use reduced pomegranate juice instead of balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar in the dressing. Pop! Sweet then the fiber crunch again when we bite into the center of the aril.
I am of the belief that all holiday salads are good f0r the very reason that someone put some love and care into their salad, their opening gift to the meal. Even carrot and raisin salad is a treasure in the right home with the right people. For us, the red and green color in the salad is perfect as an even-handed salute to the holly and rose of Sharon.
4 slices hickory bacon, sliced and cooked
2 tablespoons minced white onion
1 teaspoon brown mustard
1/3 cup pomegranate syrup
1/3 cup Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons date palm sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon the bacon fat
1/5 teaspoon granulated salt
Cook the bacon to crisp with the onion. Drain the fat and set aside. Put the bacon, onion, mustard and palm sugar into a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk the syrup into the bowl to thicken. Again, slowly whisk in the olive oil, and then the rice vinegar. Over heat whisk this until it reaches 110 degrees, at this point continue beating the vinaigrette and add the bacon fat and 1/5 teaspoon salt. Keep warm
5 ounces spinach leaves
40 pomegranate seeds
8 rings red onion
4 strawberries, sliced
Arrange the items onto the plate into sections of spinach, pomegranate, then the red onion and strawberries. Line the edges of the plate with the almonds. Pour the hot vinaigrette onto the plate just before serving so that it streaks the plate with sweet and sour goodness.
ROAST PORK WITH POMEGRANATE AND AGED CHEDDAR
Here we are roasting or grilling in a kettle/ceramic grill. The cheddar has to be an aged white cheddar, no yellow. You can use Irish Porter Cheddar for a more dramatic effect as this cheese basically “rocks!”. In the even you cannot find the Irish then we are using aged white cheddar. Fruit and cheese are good anywhere. Pomegranate, pork and cheese are even better because Wonderful pomegranate is just that good.
Malta is a great little Island beverage that is brewed malt, cane and corn sugars and purified water. It is earthy, think the smell of turned black dirt, that good. Like spring plowing or the turning of a small garden space.
I have found Malta to be great in barbecue sauces and marinades for things as all American as a pork rib to tongue and liver. Malta is very versatile, and when combined with pomegranate juice it deepens the flavors even more to where the pomegranate really does resemble a rich rum infused molasses. Next time you see it in the store do not pass it by, stop, get a six pack and taste what more you an do to make the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Recipe serves four.
2 pounds pork loin, boneless
2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice powder
1 lime zested
3 tablespoons walnut oil
1 tablespoon Sichuan pepper, ground
1 teaspoon allspice, ground
¼ cup as real soy soy sauce as you can find (no wheat)
1 cup washed and chopped leeks, white to pale green
½ cup chopped celery, leaves, ribs and all
7 ounces malta
5 ounces pomegranate juice
4 ounces aged white cheddar cheese
40 pomegranate arils
Rub the pork loin with the soya sauce and then with the walnut oil. Chill for 15 minutes. Combine the lime zest, 5 Spice, allspice, salt and pepper and rub into the pork so that it is evenly coated. Cover with the leeks and celery. Turn the oven onto 325 degrees. Roast for 45 minutes, the internal temperature will be 150 degrees when it is ready. Baste with the malta and pomegranate juice while it cooks.
Remove from oven and strain the juices into a saucepan. Turn the heat the medium high. Add 2 tablespoons molasses and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Continue cooking until it has reduced by half and has thickened. I seriously prefer date palm sugar and black strap molasses in this dish, the brown sugar will make it more syrupy though, and it needs to stick to the pork like a glaze. If you need to enrich the flavor of this then add grenadine or if you have access to a Mid East/Turkish grocer then buy a half liter of pomegranate molasses. The Turkish style is very thick and earthy as they use a different kind of pomegranate for this syrup. I find that a very small amount goes a long way.
Please, dice two sweet potatoes, one onion, and place them on aluminum foil. Slice 4 ounces of butter and place over the potatoes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of cardamom and 1 teaspoon of salt over the potato. Roll the aluminum foil into a tight cylinder. Bake in the same oven as the pork loin.
Chop 2 cups of leaf lettuce and sauté with a teaspoon of corn oil and then steam with 2 tablespoons of chicken stock. It is very simple.
Slice the pork loin into 16 slices. Divide pork, potatoes and lettuce between the plates. Glaze the pork with the reduction. Shave the cheese over the pork and then garnish with pomegranate.
CHICKEN TENDERS WITH POMEGRANATE AND BASMATI RICE
We are on the stovetop for this one. I like to cook it in a wok but a regular iron skillet or stainless steel pan is good as well. Chicken or turkey tenders are equally delicious for this dish. If you want fish then I highly recommend Alaskan black cod steaks. Sablefish/ black cod is one of the finest fish in the Alaskan waters, firm, white meat, a bit buttery and sweet.
Basmati rice smells like nuts when it is cooking. You do not need much seasoning at all for this rice. Just water, butter and salt. I love the smell of basmati rice cooking but if rice that smells like almonds and hazelnuts roasting turns you off then use the more floral Jasmine rice, and it that disturbs your sense of taste then the next option is Cal Rose rice, a very straight forward fat medium sized grain that is a standard to Chinese the world over; and they are right because Cal Rose is the best everyday rice I have ever had.
Brussels sprouts cooked with bacon and red bell peppers makes this little dish something to remember. Brussels sprouts cooked this way are better than you may remember little cabbages to taste. Don’t let this superb vegetable get away from you during the winter months. It is one of the great green veggies. When cooking Brussels sprouts you will boil them and then sauté them with the bacon and peppers. The boiling softens and lets the salt and bay leaf flavor into the body of the vegetable.Serves four.
24 ounces chicken tenders
½ cup sweet potato starch
½ cup all purpose white flour
½ teaspoon coriander, ground
½ teaspoon cumin, ground
1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon pink sea salt
2 ounces butter
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons Tiger Sauce (off the shelf, it is great)
¼ cup pomegranate juice
40 pomegranate arils
20 pomegranate arils crushed
20 leaves cilantro
Mix the sweet potato starch and flour together. Mix the spices together. Roll the chicken tenders in the spices and press them into the meat. Heat a large pan on medium high heat. Roll the tenders in the flour/starch. Dust off. Melt the butter in the pan and add the oil when it foams. Turn heat to medium. Then add the chicken piece by piece. Turn as the meat begins to turn light brown on each side. Remove from heat and pat the oils off. Set on plates and add cilantro leaves.
Heat the Tiger sauce, pomegranate seeds and crushed pomegranate on medium high heat in the same pan you cooked the tenders in. Scraped the bottom of the pan to get the good flavor remains from the chicken. Deglaze with soda water. Stir. Add a 1/3 teaspoon roasted chili paste and stir some more. When it has combined and has a uniform flavor and texture pour it over the chicken tenders.
Serve with Brussels sprouts and basmati rice and enjoy the very lively flavors of this mysterious dish. The mystery is in the way that all the strong flavors become a dignified point of delicious! Thank you very much and I do wish you the most beautiful of holidays in these Winter Georgia days and nights.
Chill cold wet windy and chaotic
And the next day a song of finches
And thrushes sunning in the warm
I remember skateboard Christmases
Rolling down Brown Road
On home made skate boards that broke
More often than they made the grade.
A jump over the bushes and the world
Changed to wilderness in the easement
Between Ball Park, North Park and Oak Avenue.
Chasing squirrels with Bear bows
And pump action pellet guns,
Wading the thing called a creek into Tucker Lake,
And walking out on the thing ice,
Spider web cracks and the echo of coming trouble,
Lay down and spread eagle slide to safety,
Fake fly to safety going home.
Home seems to be where I am always going.
To a warm hearth and steaming bowls of rice,
To hot Sleepy Time tea with sourwood honey,
To my family that I am always dreaming of,
To a place where I want to share all
Of the passions, the expressions,
The smiles and laughter of a life lived leading to today.
Leading to home to the heart that is yours,
Your heart beating a song that will embrace,
Your dark eyes that reflect and absorb,
That give so much more than any could deserve,
But there you are, Home, love, my love,
Beloved voice that has always been with me,
In childhood and as a man,
Beckoning me to seek the passion,
To seek this place that is you and me.