In Praise of the Pomegranate

Pom  Pom Salad

Snooping on someone’s desk can get you into big trouble. But I know of one case where it lead to great things.

There was no way you could miss it. The bright photo on the cover of this book was like a neon sign that screamed “calling all foodies.”

Tell me that you wouldn’t have spotted this book under a pile of papers in the office and had a quick little look? Well? Am I wrong?

So, if you did lunge across your colleagues desk to thumb through Modern Flavors of Arabia, you too would have been rewarded with page after page of beautifully photographed dishes. And you likely would have run right out to the bookstore to buy it, just like I did.

I was immediately sold by the drool-inducing photos and the fact that many of my favourite local celebrity chefs (Anna and Michael Olson, Susur Lee and Lynn Crawford) have provided testimonials for the book. Of course I had to buy it.

You’d also note that pomegrante molasses and pomegrante seeds are featured prominently in the book, along with other ingredients such as cinnamon, pistachios, sumac, za’atar, orange blossom water and rosewater.

Thanks to my blogging friend Sawsan over at Chef in Disguise, I am becoming more familiar with many of these ingredients and the wonderful role that they play in Middle Eastern and Arabic cuisine.

Two recipes really jumped out at me right away, so I started with them: Arugula Salad with Roasted Eggplant and Sweet Pomegranate Dressing and Spicy Chicken Wings . . . although I adjusted the wing recipe and renamed it Sweet and Sticky Pomegranate Chicken Wings. I was extremely pleased with the results of both recipes and look forward to making my way through the rest of this book.

If you’re not up for buying this book, I hope I can convince you to at least buy a bottle of pomegrante molasses. Widely available at specialty and Middle Eastern stores, it can also be used to make refreshing drinks, dips and glazes for meat. If you do take the plunge, this terrific article from Food52 will provide you with a range of ways to use up your bottle.

If you have trouble finding pomegranate molasses, you can always make your own with this easy recipe from Simply Recipes.

So, a big thank you goes out to my colleague Maria, who casually left this book on her desk, under a few papers, when I was visiting her in Ottawa. It was kind of like laying out a piece of cheese and then waiting for the mouse to arrive . . .

Sticky Wings

Arugula Salad with Roasted Eggplant and Sweet Pomegranate Dressing

Recipe from Modern Flavors of Arabia

  • 2 medium egglplants
  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 2 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large handfuls arugula, washed
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 fresh pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.

Peel and cut the eggplants into thick rounds of about 1 inch thick, brush both sides with oil, sprinkle with sea salt and place on a shallow baking sheet. Place in the oven to roast until golden and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove, cool completely and slice each round in half. Set aside.

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the fennel seeds and garlic to make a paste. Add the balsamic vinegar, honey, lemon juice, dijon mustard, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Whisk together to emulsify the dressing. Set aside.

Place the arugula on a shallow serving platter. Sprinkle the onion, tomatoes, salt and pepper on top. Toss to combine. Scatter the egglpant slices on the salad.

Drizzle some dressing all over. Garnish with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.

NOTE: I found that the recipe made about twice the amount of dressing that I needed. Next time I’ll cut the dressing recipe in half.

Sweet and Sticky Pomegranate Chicken Wings

Recipe adapted from Modern Flavors of Arabia‘s Spicy Chicken Wings

  • 2 lbs chicken wings
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • juice of one lemon
  • 3 tbsp pomegrante molasses
  • salt and pepper

Make a marinade by mixing all of the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Add chicken wings and toss well. Cover and leave in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350˚ F.

Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place wings spread apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Increase temperature to 375 ˚ F and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until the wings are well cooked and the glaze is sticky and carmelized.

NOTE: The original recipe called for 1 tsp of cayenne pepper and 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro (chopped). It is also served with a hot tomato salsa. I modified the recipe to make it work for my two young girls. It also recommended cooking the wings for 35 minutes at 350˚, but I found they needed quite a bit more time to cook well and carmelize.


A Little Taste of Paris

A visit to our local patisserie is the closest I’m going to come to a visit to Paris for quite some time I’m afraid. Although, I think I gain weight just looking at the rows and rows of sugary, buttery  masterpieces.

As luck would have it, we have to pass by the patisserie every weekend after my daughter’s Saturday morning ballet class on our way to swimming. Of course the only way to make it through our hectic schedule is to pick up a snack somewhere convenient . . .

There’s always a long line up at the patisserie and by the time we get to the counter they’ve usually sold out of our favourite snack: mini madeleines. (In case you are not familiar with them, madeleines are small sponge cake-type cookies distinguished by the shell pattern that comes from using a special pan.) My daughter just LOVES them and so I spend the next hour convincing her that the goldfish crackers I’ve packed in my purse are even better than madeleines.

To avoid the constant disappointment and the $7 for a small bag, I finally decided that I needed to try my hand at making them myself. All I can say is that they’re going to miss us at the patisserie. I think that mini madeleines may become my new signature cookie. The $9 for the special madeleine pan was definitely money well spent — and it is a lot cheaper than a trip to Paris.

Madeleines

Mini Lemon Madeleines

Makes about 80 cookies.

Recipe ever so slightly adapted from David Lebovitz

3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup (175g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional) (I added this)
zest of one small lemon
9 tablespoons (120g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for preparing the molds

1/4 cup of icing sugar (for dusting)

Directions

1. Brush the indentations of a mini madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer.

2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened.

3. Spoon the flour and baking powder, if using, into a sifter or mesh strainer and use a spatula to fold in the flour as you sift it over the batter. (Rest the bowl on a damp towel to help steady it for you.)

4. Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter, then dribble the butter into the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated.

5. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Batter can be chilled for up to 12 hours.)

6. To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

8. Plop enough batter in the center of each indentation with enough batter which you think will fill it by 3/4′s Do not spread it.

10. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the cakes just feel set.

11. Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a cooling rack.

12. Sift icing sugar over madeleines (shell side up).

Storage: Madeleines are best eaten the day they’re made. They can be kept in a container for up to three days after baking, if necessary.

NOTES:

  • I didn’t put the madeleine pan in the fridge before baking, but I did refrigerate the batter for an hour or so before baking.
  • I adjusted the baking time in David’s original from 8 or 9 minutes to 5 or 6 minutes for the madeleines. All of my cookies cooked in 5 minutes.
  • I did not use the lemon glaze on any of my cookies. I wanted the delicate and buttery flavour of the cookies to stand on its own.
  • I recently bought my mini madeleine pan at Tap Phong in Chinatown. It makes 20 cookies per batch.(Remember the shopping excersion I was supposed to go on with Eva? Hopefully we can reschedule now that she’s managed to shake her cold.)