Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wednesday Strikes Again

I swear, I don't mean to keep stealing Luisa's ideas, but I guess great minds think alike. And hers is just a few steps ahead of mine.

Apparently pomegranates around here are like zucchini back in North Carolina, mention you like them, and suddenly you have a lifetime supply. Thanks to my generous C.S.A. and coworker donations left in my locker, I found myself with almost a dozen pomegranates arranged decoratively on my kitchen table. Fortunately, just when I was beginning to feel overwhelmed, I was invited to spend Thanksgiving with a distant cousin (we share great-great grandparents, if I remember correctly) who advertised himself as an "experimental" cook. Fancy food, a trip to San Francisco, eclectic dinner guests? Sign me up, and of course I'd be happy to bring the soup.

I did some hunting to find this lovely Amy Scattergood carrot pomegranate soup. Except, then the internet showed me Luisa already tried this recipe (but to great success!) Oh well. I did take it a step further and prepare my own pomegranate molasses. If you don't have a dozen pomegranates on hand, or aren't tempted by the idea of making your own molasses, this should be available at gourmet or Middle Eastern food shops, or even online. First things first, how to make pomegranate molasses.

Pomegranate Molasses

6-8 large pomegranates
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Remove the seeds from the pomegranates by slicing fruit in half, then removing seeds in a bowl of water. The seeds will sink, the white membranes will float.
Drain the seeds (set aside a few for the garnish, if you're making the soup!), then run through food processor for a few seconds, until very liquidy.
Place colander lined with cheese cloth, or a fine-meshed strainer in a large bowl, and pour seeds + juice mix through. Press pulp with a spatula to get rid of most of the juice through. If necessary, squeeze cheesecloth to get as much juice as possible out.

Pour juice into a measuring cup, hopefully it should be about 4 cups. If not, adjust the sugar and lemon juice accordingly.

Combine all ingredients in the bottom of a 2 quart saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then continue to simmer uncovered for 70 min until the liquid has reduced to 1 cup and is very thick.

Pour into a glass jar, allow to cool, then store covered in a refrigerator for 6 months, if you can make it last that long.

This stuff is AMAZING: I found myself licking the pot clean. Now I dip the tip of a spoon in it, then scoop up some plain yogurt. Apparently if you're into meat, it's excellent in Middle Eastern rubs. Then there's the soup, where it adds a punch of tart sweetness, if that makes sense.

Carrot Pomegranate Soup

4 tbsp olive oil
4 cups peeled & chopped
2 cups onion, chopped
1 tsp cumin (I prefer whole)
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
4 cups broth
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
additional pomegranate molasses (optional)

Heat oil in the bottom of a large pot. Add carrots, onion, cumin & molasses. Sautee for 15 min, uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Add 3 cups of the broth and simmer, covered, until carrots are very tender, about an hour.

When it's finished, it will look very brothy, and not particularly attractive. Allow to cool, then puree, in batches if necessary (if you're lucky enough to have an immersion blender, no need to cool.) Return to the pot, add the last cup of broth, season to taste, if necessary, and warm back up.

Serve garnished with pomegranate seeds and more molasses.

Serves 6 to 8.

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