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October 10, 2004

Pomegranate molasses

pomegranates2.jpg Ilana asked about the difference between pomegranate molasses and pomegranate syrup. The molasses, which you can make yourself, is basically the juice boiled down until it is thick and dark. Pomegranates can vary considerably in flavor, sweetness, and tartness, depending on where they are grown, so it might be necessary to add sugar and possibly lemon. Brands of pomegranate molasses vary. Some are too sweet for my taste or a little thin. The best selection in New York is at Kalustyan's, which has syrups and pastes made not only from pomegranates, but also from grapes, mulberries, and other fruits. Pomegranate molasses ("called nasrahab in Georgian and dibs rumman in Arabic") is used in Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey--basically wherever pomegranates have a long history. My favorites are the Lebanese ones and especially Cortas. I find the Iranian ones too sweet.

Pomegranate syrup is a thinner version of the molasses. So is grenadine. Added water and red food coloring make grenadine clear and bright red. Think Shirley Temples. These days you are lucky if there is any pomegranate in grenadine, which is just "flavored" syrup and mainly chemical.

Here is a glorious recipe for Persian greens, with pomegranate molasses, another two for a walnut pomegranate spread, and a fourth for Syrian lentils. For source, click on the name of the recipe.

Sweet and Sour Greens with Quince and Pomegranate

1 pound assorted bitter greens, including collards, mustard greens, kale, etc.
1 tbs fruity olive oil
2 tsp finely chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
1 large ripe quince, peeled, cored, quartered

The cooking syrup for the quince:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
water to cover the quince in the saucepan
1 large cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
6 whole cloves

The sauce for the greens:
1/4 cup pomegranate concentrate (also known as pomegranate molasses)
3 Tbs white wine vinegar

The garnish:
Olive oil
1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into thin julienne

1. Wash the greens well. Remove woody stems, where necessary. Pile the leaves of each kind separately. Roll them into compact cylinders and slice crosswise into thin shreds. Set aside.

2. Make the cooking syrup for the quince by combining the sugar, water, and spices in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the quince, reduce to a simmer, and cook over low heat, for about 12-15 minutes, or until the quince is tender but not mushy. (Quince is actually quite forgiving of overcooking.) When done, remove the quince, cut into � inch cubes, and mound in the center of a heated serving platter. Keep warm, covered, in a 200 degree oven. Sieve the syrup, discarding the solids, and set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet until hot. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and shallots. Cook stirring constantly for about 2 minutes or until they are tender, but not browned. Add the greens, and cook stirring until they are just wilted but bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove the platter from the oven and arrange the greens over the quince.

4. Add the pomegranate concentrate and the vinegar to the quince syrup and boil until the liquid lightly coats a spoon. In a small saute pan coated with a film of oil, stir-fry the pepper just until slightly wilted. Pour the sauce over the greens and garnish with the red pepper shreds.

Middle Eastern Walnut and Pomegranate Spread or Muhammara, from Grand Central Baking Company.
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup walnut pieces
1 red bell pepper, roasted., peeled and seeded (may used canned prepared peppers)
1/4 cup chopped Italian leaf parsley
1 clove of garlic
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp Pomegranate Molasses
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tps freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Put the walnuts in the food processor. Cut the flesh into chunks and put in processor with the nuts. Add remaining ingredients and process until a spreadable consistency. (It will not be completely smooth)
Refrigerate and serve chilled or at room temperature as a spread for crostini, flat bread or slices of fresh baguette.

Paula Wolfert's Mouhamara
Makes about 3 cups

2 1/2 lb red bell peppers
1 small hot chili, such as Fresno or hot Hungarian, or substitute Turkish red pepper paste to taste
1 1/2 cups (about 6 oz.) walnuts, coarsely ground
1/2 cup wheat crackers, crumbled
1 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb pomegranate molasses or more to taste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tb olive oil

Garnish: 2 tsp toasted pine nuts, drizzle of olive oil, good pinch of ground cumin. For best results, make the recipe at least one day in advance. Roast the red bell peppers and the chili either over coals or a gas burner or under an electric broiler, turning frequently until blackened and blistered all over, about 12 minutes. Place in a covered bowl to steam 10 minutes (this loosens the skin). Rub off the skins, membranes, and seeds. Spread the bell peppers, smooth side up, on a paper towel and let drain 10 minutes.

In a food processor, grind the walnuts, crackers, lemon juice, molasses, cumin, salt, and sugar until smooth. Add the bell peppers; process until pureed and creamy. With the machine on, add the oil in a thin stream. Add the chili to taste. (If the paste is too thick, thin with 1-2 Tb water.) Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to mellow. When ready to serve transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle the pine nuts and cumin on top and drizzle with oil.

Adas bi' l-Hamid (Syria): Lentils with Lemon
From: Mediterranean Feast: The Story of the Birth of the Celebrated Cuisines of the Mediterranean, from the Merchants of Venice to the Barbary Corsairs, with More Than 500 Recipes, by Clifford A. Wright (William Morrow & Co., 1999).

The appearance of pomegranate molasses in the cooked vegetable dishes of Syria usually indicates that the dish is influenced by an Aleppine cook. Syria has long been famous for its pomegranates and Aleppo for its cuisine. The great Umayyad dynasty in Syria in the eighth century was noted for its agricultural achievements as much as its military ones. A branch of the Umayyad dynasty was found in Spain, too. The Spanish Umayyad caliph Abd-ar-Rabman I (756-788), perhaps the greatest Arab general who ever lived, defeating in turn his Abbasid enemies in Iraq as well as Charlemagne, sent one of his agents to Syria to bring back an exquisite new pomegranate called the safari, which he planted in the garden park surrounding his palace of al-Rusafa outside of Cordoba.

The combination of pomegranate, garlic, and fresh coriander is a Syrian favorite in this recipe given to me by Nadia Koudmani, a Palestinian living in Damascus. It is one of my favorite lentil recipes, yet no one in Syria could tell me why it is called "with lemon" rather than "with chard," with "garlic and coriander," or "with pomegranate," the other important flavors in the dish.
The garlic should be mashed in a mortar with a pestle � the food processor will not work. Some people find this to be a very garlicky recipe, but it is an authentic recipe and I happen to like it this way, though you can feel free to cut the garlic in half if you must.

1-1/2 cups dried green or brown lentils,
picked over and rinsed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil,
plus extra for drizzling
5 large Swiss chard leaves, washed well,
stems removed, and sliced into thin strips crosswise
2 tablespoons mashed garlic
(about 8 large garlic cloves)
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
(cilantro, leaves from 1 to 2 bunches)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the lentils until tender, 20 to 45 minutes, check often because the cooking time varies depending on the age of the lentils. Drain and set aside.

2. In a medium-size nonreactive skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the Swiss chard until it wilts, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and drain off any liquid. Set aside.

3. In the same skillet, beat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and coriander and cook until sizzling, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium, add the Swiss chard, drained lentils, and water, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the lemon juice and pomegranate molasses and continue cooking until the lentils look mushy, about another 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle a small amount of olive oil over it before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Posted by BKG at October 10, 2004 09:30 PM

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