Let us go early to the vineyards
to see if the vine has budded
if the blossoms have opened
and the pomegranate is in flower
There I will give you my love.
The air is filled with the scent of mandrakes
and at our doors
rare fruit of every kind, my love,
I have stored away for you.
(Song of Solomon, 7:12)
Pomegranates are just overflowing with antioxidants --and symbolism, throughout history and throughout the world. There are two reasons we eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah. First, the fruit is believed to have 613 seeds, the same as the number of miztvot (commandments...or "acts of kindness") we are supposed to enact--and therefore they are considered a sacred fruit. Actually according to the California Pomegranate Council, they contain closer to 850 seeds, so I guess we got off easy with only 613 deeds. For this reason, pomegranates show up in texts, design and decoration.
The second reason pomegranates are eaten is that they are often used as a "new fruit"--something we have not yet tasted this season. Eating this new fruit is a reminder to be grateful we've made into this year and to be present in the turning of the seasons. I was going to put up a quince post as my "new fruit" since I almost never eat quince and pomegranates, like penguins, are so hip these days, it's hard to not ingest them in some product or another....so I might do two new fruits...
I always like watching the fall come by seeing apples and pears appear at the store, since we don't really have "seasons" here. But everyday for the past few weeks, a thought floats through my head about a certain young person who, unlike me, isn't getting to watch the days get shorter, feel the mornings get crisper, or crunch into the first fall apple this year. So this year especially, I'm trying to pause and enjoy the sensory bounty of my surroundings enough for two.
Pomegranate Glazed Chicken is super-easy. I got a recipe for pomegranate chicken(by Rebecca Ets-Hokin) a few years ago from a clipping my mom gave me. I love Fesenjan, a Persian stew with pomegranate, chicken and walnuts--except that it is brownish and lumpy, making it not particularly elegant to serve. I've been tweaking this other chicken recipe to be a riff on fesenjan--I added spices and serve it sprinkled with toasted walnuts, mint, and sometimes sauteed onions. It ends up crowd-pleasing, like a slightly exotic barbecue-sauce chicken.
Pomegranate Glazed Chicken
- 3-4 lbs chicken pieces
- salt &pepper
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1/2 C pomegranate molasses
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1/4 C brown sugar
- 2 T tomato paste
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of cardamom or cayenne (optional)
- 1/2 C toasted walnuts, chopped
- 2 T chopped fresh mint leaves (cilantro or flat-leaf parsley work if you don't like mint)
- pomegranate seeds for sprinkling (optional)
Mix the ingredients for the glaze together in a small bowl. Salt and pepper the chicken and place in a baking dish. Brush with the glaze and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 30-40 minutes, turning about every 10 minutes. Sprinkle with walnuts and mint and serve.