Thursday, November 15, 2007

Weathering Persephone's Folly

Behind the scenes alongside several mealy apples: One baggy rust colored zip up topped with a lemon lime t-shirt which unabashedly broadcasts the bunched outlines of underlying fabric. Black high performance fleece socks ensconced within fuzzy cotton candy pink anklets. There might be a black shearling vest with faux leopard print involved. And yes, also pants (black denim) hardly worth mentioning. I am not sure which the worst crime is, wearing this jumbled up assembled ensemble, or not caring. After a month of dressing like I’ve been camping out in cold weather carelessly smashing together several days’ worth of outfits at once, I am beginning to feel like a local.

More notable than this makeshift attempt to mind the clothing gap between fall and winter, or the reassuring glint of duct tape in the glove compartment of my vehicle is my growing preoccupation with weather. Once a time ago I noticed this small town banter which everyone seemed to participate in and assumed it to be polite folk’s filler employed when no other topic was close at hand. It seemed cathartic and unifying, collective worried fret over what it was going to do to someone’s tomato plant, late hour football practice, or throbbing arthritic back. Slowly I began to sense the formidable presence of this mercurial character through the whips-o-wind, squeeze of barometric pressure and the dips and glides in humidity, presiding as honorary person at the start of a conversation before silently retreating to the background. Between straight talk of moose sightings, bear break-ins and wild turkeys hurling through living room windows, there is plenty of gazing into the vast sky
slack jawed and silent, waiting for the next big hit.

Well the forecast of now is gloomy. The trees have dropped their leaves in panicked mass exodus and I am being watched by the growing odd assortment of winter squash in my kitchen. While I am sure that in few month’s time I will relax into the mellow embrace of Butternut, Kuri, and Hubbard and root for rutabagas diced and roasted, for now the mere thought of squat vegetables pried free from the ground or behemoth gourds anchoring a straggling vine leaves me flat. With months of steamy Dutch oven meals lined up on the frozen horizon, I crave a reprieve in the form of zip, juice and fire. For this brief moment in time feed me sweet and plucky pomegranates.

Put aside the fact that in recent years these juicy jeweled orbs have been touted non stop as the latest super food capable of slowing the ravages of age on plump tender cells. Pomegranates have been sought after a long while, even suspected for being that infamous apple in the Garden of Eden. They have been found dusty and entombed headed straight for the afterlife within a mummy’s coffin. Even Persephone, kidnapped fair maiden took pause to partake of a few kernels capturing the heart of Hades, thus committing her a season out of the year down under.

Punica granatum originally hailed from the arid sunny region of the great Persian Empire before sprawling wide laterally. Perhaps they have captured the taste and fancy of people across time because the fruit joins the inaccessible sacred with the secular and even profane. Their red leathery hides provide ample protection from the elements and surprising contrast to the delicate jam packed delicacies inside. Cradled and partitioned within filmy membranes are some six hundred and thirteen ruby colored seeds which are thought by some to correspond to the number of
mitzvot in the Torah. To break the seal of this seeded apple is to witness another small miracle, the sign of thirst quenching abundance in the desert. And who can look at the parting of this open juicy harvest without blushing just a little? Under taut puritanical cover there is bursting vitality and carnal pleasure waiting to be known. On the one hand pomegranates are seen as symbols of fertility and marriage decorating religious scrolls and ceremonial bed linens, on the other its associative imagery (shrapnel looking blood soaked seeds) has caused its name to be linked to destruction begetting grenades of the hand.

Finally getting to the point, the fruit’s nectar is cranberry like but brighter with a pronounced tannic bite. Popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, the time is ripe for adopting some sun and sensuality into my own New England kitchen. Standing one timid toe on the cusp of winter with temperatures plunging, this royal globe adorned with its own diminutive crown encourages me to take heart. There is juice to be found within the hardest substrate and thankfully, there will always be spring to follow on the mean heels of winter.

Muhamarra (Turkish Walnut Garlic Dip): Adapted from Fiber for Life Cookbook.
I really can’t say enough about this nosh. It is sweet and fruity with a swift burn. No long hours in the oven reducing to oblivion. Plus it is hard not to pronounce it (practice rolling those “r’s”) without feeling a little racy. Warning however to those that take offense in too much garlic.

2 roasted red peppers seeded, skinned, and stemmed
2/3 C toasted walnuts
2 crushed garlic cloves
¼ C olive oil
1/3 C toasted breadcrumbs
1 tsp toasted ground cumin
½ tsp red pepper flakes (more or less)
3 tsp Pomegranate molasses, can use a little lemon juice too
½ tsp salt

Pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley for garnish

Directions: Blitz all ingredients except garnish in a food processor until it forms a uniform consistency. Allow the flavors of the dip to develop a few hours before eating. Garnish and serve with crackers/ pita. Actually it works on just about anything.


Honeycake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Honeycake said...

Gorgeous drawing, Calli, tastes like persimmon. And the recipe sounds downright necessary. I've never heard of p. molasses, but leave it to you to find yet another sexy sexy ingredient to play with. My persimmon is awaiting opening, planning to sprinkle its seeds over some feijoas and persimmon slices. We're on the same page!


Lydia said...

I love muhamarra -- I've actually had it made with pine nuts, too, and it's delicious that way. Nibbling on muhamarra and cracker bread or pita is the perfect start to a middle eastern meal.

sher said...

I love the drawing too. But, I've never reached the point of complaining that there is too much garlic! :) Wonderful recipe!

I remember how weather was a much more dramatic presence in a person's life, when I lived in Illinois. Here in California, it can be almost boring in it's predictability

Callipygia said...

honey- I'll bet you can find the molasses in market hall because you are right, this recipe is necessary. Feijoas! Miss you!

lydia- Pine nuts, that probably would be more traditional? I used to make a spanish(I believe) dip similar to this minus the pomegranate. It is amazing what a difference the stuff makes.

sher- Oh gosh me neither. Too much garlic or onion? Pile it on! As for winter approaching- I suppose every place has its charm. My first year in CA hiking at Christmas was a little unsettling.

Lucy said...

What a ray of sunshine those little beads are. I think it's a sign of slowing down and taking stock, the obsession with the weather; of 'maturity' for want of a better word (and I do want a better one).

Fabulous recipe - and a gorgoeus drawing. 613 seeds. Who'd have thought?

Anh said...

The drawing is excellent. And after seeing so many wonderful use of pomegranates in Middle Eastern Cuisine, I wonder why they are not at all popular in Vietnam? I remembered seeing them growing wild in the countryside. But well, I now can enjoy this beautiful fruit in many different ways. :)

Callipygia said...

lucy, I think you are right about this obsession with weather being linked to the "mature", the young un's are just having fun. Can you imagine the person counting out the seeds & from several fruit to boot?

anh, maybe it is because the fruit is tannic/sour? Perhaps it is just my folks but they both used to have such an aversion to puckery flavors...

blatta said...

What a gravid, sexy drawing. So intense and's almost multi-sensual: sight, touch, and taste. Nicely done.

We have a modest pomegranate tree on our porch, kept trimmed and sorrowful by the rogue deer who come slipping in to raid late at night. Even with the stealth cervid attrition, the tree manages to give up a couple of forlorn 'apples' at this time of year. We wait for them to split open, and enjoy. Never enough, though, to do more than slurp, crunch and spit.

Anh said...

Calli, I just tagged you for an award! Please check out the details on my blog!

Callipygia said...

blatta- your comment reminded me of how much I like the word anatine...and the thought of an anatid (?) invasion with pomegranates in bill.

anh- Oh my goodness, what a nice surprise and just as I was wearily thinking of my next post! Thank you, thank you thank you.

african vanielje said...

Beautiful post Calli. I too am fascinated (and inspired) by the beautiful pomegranate. We used to have a tree that delivered only a few of the beautiful gourds each season. It spent most of the year barren, gnarled and ugly within a lush, subtropical African garden. Yet it's presence was revered and almost sacred. Somehow it felt like a link back in time and the tri-annual breaking open of the fruit, like a sacrament. Shop bought fruits never taste quite the same.

Callipygia said...

african vanielje- thank you for that image you painted of your garden in Africa! There is something about the contrast of its luscious interior and gnarled exterior.

blatta said...

Anatine? Wow, I just made an Anatine (I had to look this word up) Prosciutto - my first foray into charcuterie. Cured, the meat was somewhat reminiscent of pomegranate. It worked so well I'm setting my sights on a full Parma-style ham for this time next year. I suppose I need to go and find a pig...

Callipygia said...

Are you kidding me that is cool!how about a psittacine prosciutto, mmm never mind.