Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rediscovering Pomegranate Molasses

Recipe updated January 19, 2011 for clarity

The condiment sections in my refrigerator have quite a few specialty items that I purchased for one or two recipes and then forgot about. Like Thai lesser ginger (kachai). Or pomegranate molasses.

The name "molasses" is a bit odd, because unlike the molasses that comes from sugar refineries as a by-product, pomegranate molasses is an intentionally made product with just a few ingredients: pomegranate juice, sugar and perhaps some lemon juice. The purpose -- as illustrated by the fact that my bottle of molasses is five years old and still safe to eat -- is to preserve the bounty of the fruit harvest. Pomegranate molasses is available in Middle Eastern markets. If you have a good source of pomegranates and want to try making it at home, Elise has a recipe at Simply Recipes.

I bought my bottle of the thick, ruby syrup a few years ago soon after I obtained Paula Wolfert's "The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean," a book that presents recipes from Turkey, Syria, the Republic of Georgia, and Greece. Pomegranate molasses appears in a few places in the book, but what caught my attention initially was a bulgur salad with red peppers and walnuts, a salad that combines textures and flavors like few salads do: chewy, crunchy, sweet, sour, sharp, herbaceous, and spicy.

I haven't used the Wolfert book for quite a while, so the pomegranate molasses had migrated to a back corner of my refrigerator. (if pomegranate molasses catches on, we bloggers definitely need a nickname for it---repeatedly typing pomegranate molasses is not easy.) Recently, though, thanks to the May 26 KCRW Good Food radio program (more on that below), pomegranate molasses has escaped from its back-corner exile.


A Refresher
Pomegranate molasses is a wonderful addition to lemonade. Simply add a few teaspoons of the syrup to a glass of lemonade and stir. It brings a different kind of sourness to the drink and the floral aroma perks up the senses.

Alternatively, you could use grenadine, a pomegranate syrup typically found behind the bar for cocktails like the Tequila Sunrise. Grenadine was originally made only on the island of Grenada in the Caribbean, hence the name.

I have also heard that it can be an excellent flavoring for cocktails, but haven't experimented yet.

A Savory
On the May 26, 2007 Good Food radio program, one of the guests was Eric Gower, a.k.a. the Breakaway Cook. Gower talked about his "global flavor blast" concept, in which dishes made with seasonal or everyday ingredients are jazzed up with intense flavorings from around the world like miso, shiso leaves, umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum), Vietnamese fish sauce, and pomegranate molasses. One of his examples was a baked tofu dish, in which one of the "flavor blasts" is combined with soft tofu and an egg and then baked. A layer of crushed red lentils on top forms an attractive--and unusually flavored--crust. Here are the ingredients before mixing (minus the salt):


I have made this tofu dish twice with good results. The flavor is subtle and the uncooked red lentils somewhat unusual. It could use a little work, perhaps some more intense flavors like garlic to go with the mild pomegranate molasses.




Pomegranate Molasses Tofu Bake
Adapted from an interview with Eric Gower on KCRW's Good Food, May 26, 2007

1 package of medium tofu, soft tofu or silken tofu (12-14 oz.)
1 egg
1-2 T. pomegranate molasses
Finely minced shallot or green onion
Salt
2 T. dry red lentils

  1. Lightly oil a small baking dish.
  2. Place the red lentils in a spice grinder and process for just a few seconds until the pieces are about the size of kosher salt grains, or slightly smaller than sesame seeds. Set aside. (alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to crush the lentils)
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  4. Put the tofu in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher or other suitable tool.
  5. Add the egg, pomegranate molasses, salt (to taste), and minced shallot or green onion. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Put the ingredients into the baking dish.
  7. Spread the red lentils on top, and spray or drizzle with a neutral oil.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.





Random link from the archive: Bee Swarm

Technorati tags: Baking : vegetarian : Food

8 comments:

Nosher of the North said...

I picked up a jar of pomegranate molasses in Turkey last year. It's in my cupboard , not my fridge. You think it's still good?

A Few Reservations said...

Wow, I'd never even heard of the stuff. I'll have to check it out.

Lola said...

One of the most wholly satisfying dips I've tried is M'hummara, made from toasted walnuts, roasted red peppers, hot chili peppers, and pomegranate molasses. Each time I make it, the taste is so warm, full, and distinct that it makes my day feel a little more worthwhile. It's the same fulfilling sensation as picking a large basket of strawberries, but spicier...
M'hummara recipes abound on this vast internet, but make sure it calls for hot chili peppers or pepper paste. You'll be glad!

Catherine said...

I really enjoyed reading this. And I love the ingredients shot - very relaxing. I'll be curious to try this one. Thanks.

Daniel said...

in an answer to nosher north,

i have it from some reliable sources that your molasses will still be fine, it lasts indefinatly.
i have just rediscovered mine after 2years in the back of a cupboard and its still great.

the said...

A bottle of pomegranate molasses should never drift forgotten to the back of the fridge. Even if you're not cooking any recipes that call for it, there is no better topping for cheesecake... which is why I'm about to run out again. The sweetness and richness of the cheesecake set off the sharp tartness of the pomegranate molasses perfectly, and I haven't had another fruit topping that went better with the cheesecake -- despite experimenting with all sorts of unusual jams and fruit sauces.

Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said...

The tofu bake looks delicious, but when do you add the pom molasses? Drizzle it on at the very end?

Marc said...

Jessica - the pomegranate molasses is added to the mashed tofu in step 5 along with the egg, salt and finely minced shallot or green onion. I'll edit the recipe to make this clearer (and to avoid the possible interpretation that the red lentils should be added at this time).