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Where EAST meets the Northwest

 

SWEET AND TART. Pictured is roasted chickpeas in a thick pomegranate molasses topping a salad of peppery greens and goat cheese in Concord, New Hampshire. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

From The Asian Reporter, V22, #13 (July 2, 2012), page 8.

Revisiting the pomegranate trend: Pomegranate molasses

By J.M. Hirsch

AP Food Editor

Are you about over the pomegranate trend yet?

If so, you might want to revisit it just once more. But this time we arenít talking about chugging the juice or turning it into fancy cocktails.

This time itís pomegranate molasses, a thick, syrupy concentrate that is sweet and tart and as delicious as it sounds.

To explain pomegranate molasses, we ought to start with the fruit itself. Pomegranates originated in western Asia and the Mediterranean, with the best supposedly coming from Iran. The trees produce large, usually red, orb-like fruits filled with edible seeds, each of which is covered by a juice-filled membrane.

The seeds (or rather the juicy membrane around them) have a sweet, tart, and fairly astringent taste. They can be eaten as is, or crushed to extract the juice.

Likewise, that juice can be consumed as is or mixed with sugar syrup. The latter is called grenadine, a popular flavoring for cocktails (though many modern grenadines are synthetic and no longer made from pomegranate juice).

If you take the unsweetened juice and boil it down until it is thick and syrupy, you have pomegranate mo- lasses, a popular flavoring in Middle Eastern cooking. Pomegranate molasses once was unheard of outside of ethnic markets, but today can be found in the international aisle of most larger grocers.

And if you canít find it, itís easy enough to make. Buy a bottle of pomegranate juice (or juice concentrate), then boil it until it has reduced and become thick.

The thick, deeply red syrup has an intensely sweet-tart flavor that pairs surprisingly well with savory dishes, especially grilled meats. For example, pomegranate molasses and walnuts are a classic flavoring for poultry.

Opened bottles can be refrigerated for long periods, but itís not likely to sit around for long. You donít need to love Middle Eastern food to love what pomegranate molasses can do for the foods you already love.

* * *

Roasted Pomegranate Chickpea Salad

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Ground black pepper

4 cups arugula

2 cups baby spinach

Kosher salt

4-ounce log soft goat cheese

* * *

Heat the oven to 450 ļ Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Add the drained chickpeas and toss to coat evenly. Arrange the chickpeas in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, or until the chickpeas are dried and starting to get crunchy.

Remove the chickpeas from the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Season with pepper, then add the arugula and spinach. Toss to coat.

Divide the greens between four serving plates, then sprinkle each with kosher salt. Divide the chickpeas between the salads, then top with crumbled goat cheese.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 370 calories (140 calories from fat, 38 percent of total calories); 15 g fat (5 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 16 g protein; 8 g fiber; 930 mg sodium.

J.M. Hirsch is the national food editor for The Associated Press.

* * *