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.