At Rosh Hashanah my dad would take us to the Middle Eastern grocer downtown to buy a pomegranate. There in the parking lot he’d open the fruit with his pocket knife and we’d eat, red juice dripping from our chins and sticky on our fingers. My dad would buy one every year because Jewish tradition dictates that pomegranates are a sacred fruit, said to have 613 seeds like the 613 mitzvot in the torah.
So when the folks at POM Wonderful sent me supplies, I couldn’t wait to have a dinner party. A themed dinner party of pomegranate-infused reinvented Jewish dishes from around the world.
A party is not a party without a pink drink, right? I already told you all about our beautiful pomegranate vodka (you can check it out here). With Eastern European inspired hors d’oeuvres what better than vodka? The sweet, cold sharpness cut through the richness of the chopped liver and brought out the tartness of the pomegranate molasses.
Crisp dark Russian bread topped with liver, caramelized onions, and pomegranate molasses is exotic and homey all in one bite. Everyone says that my great-grandfather made the most fantastic chopped liver. Sadly, I never got to taste it. And worse, the recipe died with him. Which is why I don’t feel the least bit guilty about buying it instead of making my own! I did saute the onion, that counts, right? Anyway, pomegranate molasses is a fantastic ingredient, available in Middle Eastern shops. But if you can’t find it, you can easily substitute reduced pomegranate juice, just boil until syrupy. We also munched on potato latkes along with pomegranate ketchup. Remember that pomegranate ketchup I made last week (check it out here)? Oh yeah, amazing on latkes!
Fortified with vodka and latkes, Jeff mixed up another beautifully pink drink. Pomegranate vodka, champagne and pomegranate juice… so glad I married a bartender! And after a couple of drinks, I was finally feeling up to making my film debut. OK, I’m being dramatic, but I am not a fan of seeing myself on video! I am, however, a big fan of pomegranates. And if you are intimidated by the processes of opening them, or the potential for your kitchen to look like a scene from Texas Chain Saw Massacre, then this video is for you! Seriously, it is easy and mess-free. So watch the video, and don’t laugh at the apron – it was a gift from POM Wonderful.
Of course, I put all of those pomegranates to good use as we moved on to Morocco, Persia and Syria for dinner. Moroccan lamb meatballs flavored with pomegranate juice and cooked in a gravy of red wine, pomegranate juice and spicy mustard were the hit of the evening, and were even better leftover for lunch the next day!
Along with the meatballs, the Persian jeweled rice studded with pomegranate arils soaked up the sweet, tart gravy. And a big bowl of carrots and parsnips tossed with olive oil and Aleppo pepper and roasted until caramelized and brown at the edges added spiciness to the mix.
Can you believe we actually made it to dessert? Of course we did. Dessert is the best part. Traditional honey cake is dense and dark. This version is just a bit fluffier, and lightened with sliced apples. Pomegranate cranberry compote is great with cake, but would also be awesome on your Thanksgiving turkey. Check out the recipe here.
The cake was good. But the chocolate covered arils? Those were amazing. Those were the treat I couldn’t stop eating. And they were so, so easy. Melt some dark chocolate, and dip pomegranate arils that have been patted dry, and then spread them out on wax paper to harden. That’s it! The snap of the chocolate followed by the burst of juice makes for a truly unique taste and texture experience.
Moroccan Pomegranate Meatballs
2 lbs ground lamb
3/4 cup chick pea flour
1 cup pomegranate juice, divided
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dry red wine
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the lamb, chick pea flour, eggs, 1/4 cup juice, zest, oregano, cinnamon, and salt.Form into 2 inch balls and bake in a large greased roasting pan for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the remaining juice to a boil and simmer about 5 minutes. Stir in the red wine and mustard and simmer 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and then pour over the meatballs and return to the oven until cooked through, about 10 minutes more.
2 cups basmati rice
2 tbsp butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons cardamom pods
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pomegranate arils
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
In a large pot of boiling water, cook the rice for 10 minutes and then drain. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large heavy pot. Add the spices and stir. Add half the drained rice, the fruit, and then remaining rice. With the handle of a wooden spoon make three holes all the way to the bottom of the pot. Cover and cook on low 35-40 minutes. Spoon the rice onto a platter, remove the cardamom pods, top with the almonds, and serve.