Tag Archives: pomegranate

Time for a Yummy Vegan Picnic!

It's summer and vegan picnic timeAttention all other seasons: summer kicks your booties!

With the weather warm, the flowers blooming, the sun sparkling and such an abundance of ripe fruits and tasty veggies available, it’s such a great time for a picnic. But when I add the word “vegan” to “picnic,” it creates terror in some of my carnivore friends. It’s pretty funny to watch. “But, but, but, what do you serve at a vegan picnic? Carrot sticks and raw broccoli?”  They look so horrified, so I usually respond with something like: “Of course not! We prefer cow patties sandwiched between pieces of tree bark. Duh!” Seriously, why are some people so flipped out about vegan food? It can be unbelievably delicious and a breeze to make, and bonus – it’s good for you, great for the environment, and even better for all the animals you’re saving.

To make things easier (and yummier) for your next picnic, here are my top 5 original creations of perfectly picnickable (that’s a word, right?) vegan dishes, and one spectacular summer beverage that will make your next outing out-of-this-world.

Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole

Mango-Pomegranate Guacamole and Chips

Hot damn, this guacamole will make your mouth so happy…even if you hate avocados (as my converting-carnivore husband and I do). Mmm, the lightly sweet mango and the unexpected tiny bright bits of pomegranate really make this guac amazing. Just pop it in a tupperware container and toss it in your picnic basket.

Thai Sweet Chili and Lime Edamame 

This has to be one of the easiest and yummiest thing you can whip up in 5 minutes. Can’t you just taste the lime, garlic and slightly piquant Thai sweet chili sauce? It’s lick-your-fingers good! This edamame dish is great at room-temp, so it’s perfect for summer outings.

Thai Spiced Peanuts and Smoky Spanish Cashews Smoky Spanish Spiced Cashews

No description needed, right? The title alone says it all – awesomeness awaits your taste buds! Throw these in a baggie and try your best not to eat them on the way to your picnic. (Note: do not try to eat just one. It is impossible).

Peanut-Sauce Glazed Noodles and Veggies

Let’s keep with the Thai theme, shall we? These Thai-style noodles with a truly delicious peanut sauce and sautéed veggies is an awesome cold dish, and it takes no time at all to make.

Grilled veggie sandwich with romesco sauce

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Romesco Sauce

If you haven’t had romesco sauce before, please, do yourself a favor and drop whatever you’re doing and make it right this very second! Your taste buds will thank you! It’s a super easy-to-make thick sauce that’s unreal as a sandwich spread, especially with roasted veggies. You won’t believe that it’s made from blanched almonds, roasted red peppers, sourdough bread, balsamic vinegar and couple spices – they blend together to make a sauce that’s even better than the sum of its parts. It is truly spectacular and will probably make you moan with joy a little bit.

And lastly, Summer Sangria

This is my most favorite and dangerous drink! Throw your favorite ripe, juicy summer fruits in there – peaches, strawberries, blueberries, melons – and savor the refreshing flavors of the season in this happy little sangria. But watch out – the light, fruity flavors are so good that you probably won’t taste the alcohol at all, so if you’re like me, you’ll likely drink one (or four) more glasses than you can actually handle. So you may be stumbling home from your picnic, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Happy picnicking!

Seriously spectacular sangria

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Delicious Syrian Treat: Nuts and Wheat Berries Bejeweled with Pomegranate

Syrian Treat - YUM!

Looking for an incredibly tasty, unique breakfast (or dessert) treat with exotic flavors? This delicious, healthy dish will do the trick! Toasty notes of roasted nuts, coconut and wheat berries are beautifully balanced with warm cinnamon and bright little bursts of tangy pomegranate. Toasted fennel seeds add a dash of mystery on the palate with its faint hint fragrant licorice. Mmmm, this dish is so yummy and unlike anything you’ve ever tried! A bowl full of this high-protein, fiber-packed goodness will satisfy your taste buds, your belly and your whole body.

I’m not exactly sure what to call this dish (hence the lame name I’ve given it). A Syrian friend once made it for me many years ago and I’ve long forgotten the name. She told me it’s a dish that her family made for special occasions, but she always had some in her fridge to eat for breakfast; she also liked to spoon over yogurt and ice cream. I became an instant addict and have been making it (and modifying it) ever since.

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In addition to the trio of toasted nuts, its other main ingredient is the all mighty wheat berry. This little super grain is an unprocessed wheat kernel, which is packed with minerals, fiber and vitamins. In addition to lowering your risk of various cancers and heart disease, wheat berries have a lovely earthy flavor and a slight crunch – they’re really great in this dish.

Best of all, this tasty treat is bejeweled with the fruit of my people: the luscious pomegranate, which is as delectable as it is good for you. Honestly, is there any better taste of fall than ripe pomegranates? Well, I suppose there’s one: pomegranates that someone else has seeded for you – somehow, those always taste better!

So get ready to make your taste buds happy with this delicious Syrian Treat! (And please message me if you come up with a better name for it!)

Cimeron’s Syrian Treat

From pantry to table: about 45 minutes
Serves: 8

1 cup toasted, unsalted pistachios*
1 cup toasted, unsalted walnut pieces*
1 cup toasted, unsalted pine nuts*
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut
1 cup wheat berries (available at Whole Foods and other natural food stores)
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tbsp brown brown sugar

* if you can’t find pre-toasted nuts, just buy raw nuts and roast them in the oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes.

First step is to soak and cook the wheat berries. These are tough grains, so soak them overnight, then add them to a large pot with about 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the grains are tender, about 45 minutes. Then drain the wheat berries and put them in a large bowl.

(I like to save time and use my pressure cooker. If you have one too, here’s how you cook the wheat berries. There’s no need to soak them overnight. Just 3 cups of water, 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 cup of wheat berries in your cooker and cook under high pressure for 40 minutes. Drain and add to a bowl.)

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350. Spread fennel seeds in single layer on a cookie sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Spread coconut onto a separate cookie sheet and toast until golden, about 6-8 minutes. Add both to the bowl with the wheat berries.

Add the pomegranate seeds, toasted nuts, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt. Stir well to blend, then serve and enjoy!

You can store this in the fridge for 5-7 days. (Who am I kidding? Once you taste it, it will be gone very quickly!)

Giving Thanks for Hearty Autumn Wild Rice Pilaf

Every Thanksgiving, it’s the same story. I have to look into the smirky face of a friend and respond: “No, I will not be carving a Tofurkey for the holidays.” Now why would I want to gnaw on a fake bird when there are so many awesome harvest dishes with which to stuff my face?

If you’re like me, or the approximately 95,456 other frantic people who were shopping at Whole Foods alongside me today, you’d probably appreciate an easy, delicious, healthy and full-flavored side dish recipe that can feed an army while pleasing both veggies and carnivores alike.  Yes? Never fear my friends, because the Hearty Autumn Wild Rice Pilaf is here! I created this recipe a couple Thanksgivings ago and it’s become one of my favorite fall dishes since it’s got a beautiful blend of flavors: the nutty taste of wild rice, festive bits of fresh apple and dried cranberry, a hint of pomegranate balsamic vinegar to add a feisty little kick, and walnuts (or toasted pecans) to add a bit of protein. And best yet, you can make this dish the day before your big gathering to help easy your stress. (I can practically hear you now: “Cut the foodie chitchat Cimeron and gimme that recipe right now before I throw giblets at you!”)  (By the way, what the hell are giblets?)  (Never mind, I don’t think I want to know!)

Have a great Thanksgiving, my friends! 🙂

Hearty Autumn Wild Rice Pilaf

Serves: 10 as a side dish
From fridge to table: 5 minutes (plus refrigeration time if serving cold)

3 cups cooked wild rice (about 1 cup dry rice makes approximately 3 cups cooked)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup granny smith apple, finely diced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts or toasted pecans, chopped
A splash of pomegranate balsamic vinegar (I like 11 Olives’ balsamic since it’s thick, rich and has a gorgeous flavor)
A splash of rosemary olive oil (I use 11 Olives’ olive oil because it’s divine)

In a large mixing bowl, toss together all the ingredients. Add just enough rosemary olive oil to coat the rice, and add pomegranate balsamic to taste. Season with salt and pepper. You can serve it hot, chilled or at room temp – it’s fantastic no matter the temperature at which you serve it. Enjoy stuffing your face with this lovely dish!

 

Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole Pleases Everyone, Even Avocado-Hating Carnivores

Throughout my childhood, my sister used to pin me down and squish guacamole through her lips and let it drool down to my nose before sucking it back up. Ughahhhkkk! That memory still makes my whole body quiver with disgust. So now you understand the basis for my lifelong hatred of avocados. But they’re so dang good for you! They’re packed with fiber, b-vitamins and 20 essential nutrients. I really, really want to like the Mighty Avocado, and since it’s such a filling and healthy food, I also want my carnivore husband to love it too. Unfortunately John doesn’t like the texture and thinks it’s just too cliche: “Is there some kind of requirement that every Californian has to love that snot?!” (Judging by the avocado consumption habits of our friends, it must be a California state law or something).  I knew this would be one of my biggest culinary mountains to climb.

After many tries with numerous recipes (and a couple of times that John rinsed his tongue under the kitchen sink) I hit on one that has *finally* turned us into avocado fans – Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole. Every time I serve it, there’s a tortilla chip traffic-jam at the guacamole bowl. It’s got such lovely and unique layers of flavor! The gorgeous ruby-colored pomegranate seeds add a beautiful brightness on your palate with a sharp little pop of unexpected flavor, while the tropical mango provides a velvety hint of sweetness. This dish is so good that it’s conquered the lifelong emotional scars left by my sister’s avocado-torture technique, and has even inspired my avocado-hating carnivore to enjoy it. So just think how much you’ll love this dish if you already like regular old guacamole! Trust me – this recipe will knock your socks off. And now is the perfect time to make it since pomegranates are in season, and grocery stores are also full of ripe mangoes.

Just whatever you do, please do not pin down your loved ones and squish guacamole through your lips to torture them…unless they really deserve it. (For the record, I never deserved it because I’ve always been a perfect angel.) 🙂

Pomegranae-Mango Guacamole

Serves: 6-8
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

4 ripe Haas avocados, pitted
1/4-1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup onion, finely chopped (I prefer white onion in this recipe, but it can work with yellow if that’s all you have in the pantry)
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 tsp smoked sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
The seeds from one pomegranate (which will yield about 3/4 cup). Be sure to save a few seeds for a pretty garnish
3/4 cup finely chopped mango
Tortilla chips

In a large bowl, mash the avocados and immediately mix in 1/4 cup lime juice to prevent the avocados from browning (because brown guacamole is just gross). Add the chopped onion, jalepeno, smoked sea salt (to taste) and mix well. Taste and add additional lime juice and salt as desired. Gently stir in the mango, pomegranate seeds and cilantro. Garnish with a few pomegranate seeds, serve with tortilla chips, then watch it your guacamole disappear!

Pomegranate-Lime Granita: a Refreshing, Easy Dessert

Ah, pomegranates: the fruit of my people! Whenever I see them, I think of my sweet Persian mother and how we used to sit together and seed pomegranates for hours while laughing about the fact that we always put more pomegranate seeds in our mouths than in the bowl. The tiny ruby fruit-gems burst with juicy flavor and are simply luscious and divine! And it’s incredibly good for you, too – several scientific studies have found a surprising array of the health benefits of pomegranate juice, including its ability to: lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, fight breast cancer, prevent cartilage deterioration (aka osteoarthritis), prevent lung cancer, slow prostate cancer, and even prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. No wonder it’s consider a super-food!

I can’t wait for the fall harvest of my favorite fruit, so I decided to create a super easy and truly delicious dessert that pays homage to my Persian mum…and also to my taste buds: Pomegranate-Lime Granita. The lime perfectly pairs with the pomegranate to give it a slightly citrus hint to tantalize your palate. This recipe also has a secret mission: to get my husband to consume more pomegranate juice. John loves this granita so much that he eats tons of it, which makes me happy since he’s getting plenty of pomegranate power in his dessert.

If you’ve never had a granita, it’s a light and refreshing frozen dessert. The texture is kind of between Italian ice and sorbet. I make mine fluffy since I like the crunch of fruity, icy crystals, but it’s just as easy – okay, it’s actually easier – to make it smoother. And bonus: this dessert is crazy-easy to make. Active time is less than 3 minutes. Who knew that creating a tasty and super healthy dessert could be so simple and quick? Try it let me know what you think!

Pomegranate-Lime Granita

Serves: 8
Active time: 2 minutes
Freezing time: depends on the temp of your freezer. For me, I like to give it at least 7 hours, but I prefer to let it set overnight

3 cups pomegranate juice
1/3 cup sugar
The juice of one lime (I like to use Persian limes, aka Bears limes, since they’re super juicy. And well, they’re also the fruit of my people!)

In a Tupperware bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until the sugar dissolves. Cover and freeze. If you want your granita fluffy and more crystallized (like I have in the photo), mix it with a fork every hour or so while it’s setting, breaking up the frozen chunks. If you want it more firm or you’re just lazy (warning, you’d better have a sharp fork and a strong arm – it’s going to be quite hard), just let it set in the freezer and when it’s done, scrape it with a fork. On hot summer nights, I like to freeze my serving bowls so it keeps the granita nice and cold while we’re eating it.

As my mum used to say, nush-y-jan (which I think is either Persian for ‘bon appetite’ or possibly ‘gimme more pomegranates.’) 🙂

Divine Persian Pomegranate/Walnut Dish: Fesenjun

Ah, pomegranates, the fruit of my people! This is my favorite dish on earth. The slightly sharp spike of pomegranates adds a surprising hint of tartness and plush, dark fruit flavor to perfectly offset the richness of the walnuts and onion in this divine sauce, which is ladled over basmati rice (of course cooked the Persian style so that every single grain is a universe unto itself!) When cooled, you can also use it as a dipping sauce for pita bread, which makes a delicious appetizer. You don’t have to have fresh pomegranates to make this dish – all you need is pomegranate juice. In most Persian households, this dish is typically served with chicken or lamb, which according to my meat-loving husband is perfectly complimented by the deep pomegranate flavor and savory walnuts scented with saffron, but now that he’s making an effort to eat vegan meals, he actually loves it with fake chicken! (Personally, I like it without anything in it, but hey, if Captain Carnivore will eat it with fake chicken, I’m all for adding it).

Okay, so confession time: a few weeks ago I made Fesenjun for John with faux chicken and didn’t tell him it was fake meat. He didn’t notice. When I told him later, he didn’t flip out at all (bonus!) Instead, he said: “Makes sense that I didn’t realize it. The sauce is the star of this dish and it can really hide the fake meat well, so no wonder I didn’t miss the real meat with this.” That’s HUGE news for my Operation Carnivore Conversion efforts! If faux chicken in Fesenjun works for the Master of Meats, my bet is that it will work for you (or your meat-loving friends/significant others) as well.

While this dish doesn’t require fresh pomegranates, it’s a really nice touch to add a few fresh seeds as garnish. In many locations, they’re available well into February, but they usually disappear by March, so if you can, get a pomegranate and try this recipe soon!

I want to take a moment to remember and thank my sweet little Persian mother for introducing me to Fesenjun. She didn’t know how to cook when she came to America, which made for some funny and memorable meals when I was young. But after I had my first taste of Fesenjun in a restaurant and literally jumped up and down beside the table, she was determined to try to make it for me at home. And boy was that comical, but I loved helping her in the kitchen! Watching her try (unsuccessfully) to wing it and giggle while removing onion skins from the sauce, I started writing down various attempts including the ingredients and proportions, and then finding and trying various recipes with her. I credit my mother and Fesenjun for sparking the passion for cooking in me, and this recipe is the very first recipe I ever created. Whenever I make this dish, I feel like my mother is in the kitchen with me again and I can hear her bubbly laughter like she were still here, cooking right beside me and feeding me pomegranate seeds while I stir the sauce. As my mother would say, noosh-ee jan!

Fesenjun – Persian Pomegranate Walnut Sauce Over Rice

Prep and cooking time: about 1 hour and 45 minutes (but trust me, it’s worth it! And the vast majority of that time is just simmering time, and all you have to do is stir it every 20 minutes or so. So don’t be scared off by the time – it’s super simple to make.)

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
4 cups of pomegranate juice (get freshly squeezed juice if possible)
2 cups shelled walnuts (Trader Joe’s always seems to have the best price)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water (again, Trader Joe’s has the most affordable saffron that I’ve been able to find)
sugar (or raw agave sweetener), to taste
a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds
Fake chicken – optional
Freshly cooked basmati rice

In a food processor, finely grind the walnuts. (If you don’t have a processor, just put the nuts in a blender and add 2 cups of the pomegranate juice and use the “puree” setting to grind up the nuts – the juice will help prevent the nuts from creating walnut paste at the blades.) Add all the pomegranate juice, cinnamon and saffron, and mix until it’s the consistency of a thin, watery smoothy. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions until they’re translucent and just starting to brown. Add the salt and stir well. Add the pomegranate/walnut mixture and stir well. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to simmer (on my gas range, that’s around #2 on the dial) – it should have a bit of a gentle boil going on. Cover the pot and cook for 1.5 hours. Be sure to stir it every now and then to prevent scorching (which can happen since the nuts settle to the bottom). The sauce will thicken considerably as it cooks.

After 1.5 hours, taste-test the sauce. Personally, I love the tartness of the pomegranate, but if it’s too sharp for you, add 1 tablespoon of sugar (or a few drops of the agave sweetener) and stir well. Keep adding sugar/sweetener to taste (but be careful not to overdo it). You’ll be surprised how much the sugar rounds out the flavors! Now take a stick blender and blend it until it’s smooth but still a tiny bit chunky. (If you don’t have a stick blender, you can do this in a regular blender or with a food processor). If using fake chicken, add it now and continue cooking the sauce until the faux chicken is heated through, which should take 1-2 minutes. Serve atop hot rice and sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds, which will make your dish beautiful!  Noosh-ee-jan!

p.s. When you refrigerate the leftovers, Fesenjun makes a delicious dip with pita bread the next day! So you can serve it as dinner one night, and an appetizer the next. Nummy!