An Abundance of Pomegranates

Last Updated on Sunday, 25 September 2011 10:01 Written by Flax Thursday, 22 September 2011 10:54

Pomegranates and Rosh Hashanah are a bit like turkey and Thanksgiving-there are always left-overs.  If there are only a few remaining seeds then just toss them into a pitcher of water with a slice of lemon.  It looks absolutely magnificent!  I actually buy extra pomegranates as I like to use them throughout the holiday in many different dishes, especially in salads.

In keeping with the whole holiday mood, I bought some pomegranate shaped cookie cutters, I am hoping that they will help me in one of my more anal obsessions.  Honey drips and sticky fingers drive me absolutely bananas!  I am constantly looking for ways to avoid them.  One method that has worked nicely in the past is individual miniature honey pots.  This years new idea is one which I think will nicely occupy my children on erev chag as well.  Use some pre-sliced bread or challah and punch out some pomegranate shapes. If the bread is too soft to work with, then put it in the freezer first for about an hour to harden it.  Spread the cut out shape with honey and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.  Repeat the process, but instead of pomegranate seeds use a few slivers of apple (pour some lemon juice over the apples first to prevent them turning brown).  Arrange the cut-outs on a platter or on individual plates along with the other simanim.  The double advantage here is that it looks beautiful and I it will hopefully will prevent sticky fingers, sticky cutlery, and a sticky tablecloth.  Cut up the remaining bread into small squares and surprise everyone with home-made croutons.

To really emphasize the pomegranate theme try using pomegranate concentrate.  Pomegranate concentrate is a great way to sweeten foods without using any sugar.    I use pomegranate concentrate as a sweetener in cooked dishes, but I especially like it in salad dressing.  On Rosh Hashanah I always make at least one salad that will have pomegranate seeds as an ingredient,  as well as pomegranate concentrate in the dressing.

I offer below two salad recommendations. Notice that both salads contain onions, this is because the flavor of the onion and the pomegranate harmonize beautifully.  The green salad works with any type of lettuce or even with spinach.  If you decide to make both of the salads then double the vinaigrette recipe.

Salad #1

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Salad #2

  • 3 medium-sized beets, cooked, peeled, and diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate concentrate
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
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Rosh Hashanah Carrots

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 September 2011 11:07 Written by Flax Wednesday, 14 September 2011 10:57

I find food anthropology fascinating, this is especially true on holidays where the differences in traditions are the most significant.  While the Sephardic Jews have for the most part retained the traditional Talmudic customs of the Rosh Hashanah Seder, the Ashkenzi Jews have retained only the basic idea.  Rather than a lack of faith on the part of the European Jew, I see this as a lack of availability of these foods in Medieval Europe.  Despite their limitations, we see a basic desire on their part to retain the Talmudic concept of eating foods which contain special meanings.  Hence, the introduction of the carrot and the apple.

The apple and the carrot are both sweet foods, reflecting upon our desire for a sweet year.  The apple is dipped in honey to add sweetness while the carrot is cooked with a combination of sweet flavors such as honey, sugar, and fruit. This dish, called zimmes, is a staple at the Ashkenazi Rosh Hashanah meal.  An interesting trend however developed around the carrots.  Carrots translated into Yiddish means mirrin,  mirrin also  means ‘more’ in Yiddish and thus the carrot was attributed a blessing similar to that of  the pomegranate.  Rabbi Avraham Danzig (Vilna, d. 1820) wrote in Hayye Adam (Klal 139:6) that we eat merrin on Rosh Hashanah and we say: “May God increase our merits”.  The carrot here is a brilliant example of how Jews were able to adapt to their enviornment, using the easily available carrot to replace the elucid pomegranate, while still maintaining the spirit of the ancient traditions.

Modern Israel has a large population of both Sephardi and Ashkenzi Jews, and for the first time since the Diaspora we see a merging of the two cultures.  Perhaps this is why we see a new development, something that I might refer to as the “Neuvou-Israeli Rosh Hashanah Seder”.  Israeli children, sometimes with the encouragement of their teachers, have turned the Seder into a game, seeing who can come up with the most symbolic food reference.  Of  late I have heard such “pearls” as a blessing over chicken and chickpeas, “she’yafu hachamas”  (the Hamas should disappear) and a blessing whichp lays on the french word for banana, banané, which sounds like “bonne année”,  French for a good year.  (Never say that Jews are not adaptable.)

An underlying theme in my Elul recipes has been Jewish fusion, or foods which reflect upon  kibbutz galuyot.  The recipe below maintains this theme as I offer a North African alternative to zimmis.  Polish zimmis is basically sweet, even overly sweet.  The carrots, sweet to begin with, are then cooked with sweet, and only sweet.   I chose instead a sweet carrot recipe with a greater variety of flavors.  The recipe below is a  traditional Algerian carrot salad.  This dish is intended as a first course, where it is served accompanied by other salads.  It has the same carrots and the sugar as zimmis but the wider variety of flavors and spices adds greater depth to the dish and turns the carrots into a delicacy. 

A word of caution:  I have never had any leftovers from this dish.  Whatever I put on the table is devoured!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of carrots (1 kilo–2 lb.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp hot pepper (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • corn oil or olive oil

Peel the carrots, remove the tips, and boil them in lightly salted water until they are slightly soft (about 30 minutes).  Be careful not to over-cook the carrots as they will crumble when stirred.

Slice the cooked carrots into 1/2 inch roundels. Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive/corn oil, add the garlic, sugar, and spices and mix on a low flame for 30 seconds. Add the carrots and saute while gently stirring for about ten minutes or until the carrots are completely cooked and coated in the spices. Remove from the flame and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Serve cold as a first course,  accompanied by bread and other salads.

Sima Herzfeld Navon has a clinic for holistic medicine.  She also teaches healthy cooking and nutritional healing.

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Stuffed Trout with Pomegranate Seeds for Rosh Hashanah

Last Updated on Wednesday, 7 September 2011 01:09 Written by Flax Monday, 5 September 2011 11:20

I love the holidays.  Yes, they are a tremendous amount of work, but they are also a wonderful time to refresh, to count our blessings, and to connect to G-d, ourselves, and to our families.  The special traditions and foods associated with the holidays always serve to remind me of my childhood and connect me to my roots.  Yet, I am no longer a child and I no longer live in the same way that I did as a child.  I live in a different country, far from where I grew up, my husband’s traditions are different from those of my father, and my children are sabras–along with everything that entails.  Like all families do, we have blended and merged and now we have new traditions that sit alongside the familiar old ones.  This is a dish which has become a tradition in our family and a way of combining both the old and the new.  Here I retain the idea of serving a stuffed fish (gefilte fish), but I no longer stuff  carp with carp but rather trout with pomegranates.  The flavor of this dish is Oriental. The spice that I use in this recipe is cardamom, the same spice commonly used in Turkish coffee and one which I naturally associate with Israel.  Thus this recipe symbolizes to me the fusion of the old and the new, where I came from as well as where I am now.  I am using the same symbols as my parents (ad meah ve’esrim) use,  but in a completely different fashion.

This dish uses two of the Rosh Hashanah symbols, the pomegranate and the fish.  The fish is a symbol of luck as well as of fertility. We serve a fish head  on Rosh Hashanah and ask to be larosh veloh lazanav (to be the head and not the tail).  Pomegranates are  eaten with the blessing sheneheye melaim mitzvot karimon (that our good deeds should be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate).  Another ingredient in this recipe is pine nuts.  Some Ashkenazic Jews don’t eat any nuts on Rosh Hashanah because the hebrew numeric value for nut (egoz) is the same as the numeric value of  misdeed (chet).  Others hold that the prohibition against nuts applies only to walnuts.  If your tradition excludes all nuts then pumpkin seeds are a good alternative.

As a nutritional counselor as well as cooking instructor I always look at the health benefits of a dish as well as at the flavor. The nature of a holiday is one of excess.  Holidays are a time when we strive to reach beyond the ordinary, to set ourselves new goals, and to appreciate all that is special and holy in our lives.  While I am a big believer in reducing the amount of animal products that we eat, I think that holidays are the time to eat it.   The richness of the animal products corresponds to the general holiday atmosphere and emphasizes our celebration.  When asked to choose between animal products, fish is of course the healthiest.  Fish is the animal product that is lowest in saturated fat and cholesterol and also a source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Pomegranates are a great health choice as well. They are high in the Vitamins A, C, and E and contain folic acid, niacin and potassium.  They are rich in anti-oxidants, beneficial in healing breast and prostate cancer, help prevent hardening of the arteries and help to lower blood pressure.  They are used in remedies for bladder disturbances and are also used to strengthen gums as well as soothe ulcers of the mouth and throat.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pomegranate
  • 2 fresh trout
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of cardamom
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
  2. Scoop out the seeds of the pomegranate and set aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the onions with the salt, pepper, and cardamom.
  4. Clean the fish and set on a lightly oiled ovenproof dish.
  5. Mix the fried onions with the remaining ingredients and use it to stuff the fish.  If necessary, use a toothpick to keep the trout closed.
  6. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
  7. Serve on bed of lettuce and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Note:  To make for easier eating, ask your fish-seller if he will fillet the fish for you without removing the head.

Sima Herzfeld Navon has a clinic for holistic medicine.  She is also a cooking instructor and a nutritional counselor.

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