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.
Here are some strategies to help you conquer the pomegranate this Rosh Hashanah: 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-sized acorn squash (about 3 pounds) — skin on, and cut into 1/2-inch rings
Pomegranate-Lime Glaze (recipe follows)
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice (possibly more to taste)
Acorn squash directions:
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven 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.
Yield: 6 servings (about 3 pieces per serving)
Pomegranate-Lime Glaze directions:
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.
Yield: 1/3 cup (about 1 Tbs. per serving). Good on all vegetables, grains, tofu, chicken, meat etc.
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 Tbs. grapeseed oil or peanut oil
Up to 1 tsp. unsalted butter (optional)
1 tsp. curry powder
Four 4-ounce eggplants, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/2 tsp. salt (plus a big extra pinch)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
Another scant Tbs. oil (hot, so the seeds will sizzle on contact)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. (big pinch) 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 Tbs. 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, cut sides face down, into the oil, and swish them around (as if 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 in step 3.) 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 tsp. 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 Tbs. 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 at room temperature.
Yield: 4 servings
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 a pound), chopped crosswise
1/2 medium jicama (about 3/4 pound, 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
Blue cheese-yogurt dressing (recipe follows)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Blue cheese-yogurt dressing ingredients:
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 heaping Tbs. finely minced shallot
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. apple juice
1 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. pure maple syrup
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. 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 blue 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.
Yield: 3/4 cup