There is something beautiful yet something strange about this photograph.
These lucid, rosé wine, colored seeds were decoratively placed at the center of our moutabel or baba ghannouj, an eggplant inspired dip. But what where pomegranate seeds doing here.
I had never seen this before.
And as we continued on, through our exploration of Lebanon it grew into something familiar.
Something rare became ordinary to me. However, just because it grew to be common didn’t mean it would be forgotten.
In fact, it left me wondering.
What was the purpose of this ingredient?
It turns out that pommegrante molasses, are used in Lebanon to acidify stews, meats, and can be a substitute for lemon and vinegar dressings.
Had you noticed the acidic importance in Lebanese food? I had! And let me just say that I love that lemony taste in a dish!
This might have seemed like a simple decoration, an extra touch on top, for the enjoyment of this mezze, but pomegranate had a past.
Pomegranate, was the fruit from the Punica Granatum tree with 2,000 more, years of life than us.
Pomegranate was religiously and culturally recognized. A fruit that was significant in prehistoric Troy, in Greek Mythology as one of the symbols of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and I was lucky enough to have stood in the ruins of Ba’albak, Lebanon where carvings of pomegranate were found.
The ruins of Ba'albak, Lebanon
- Traveling continues to open up my palette.
It led me, to know the origins of pomegranates.
Coming from the Mediterranean and western Asia,varieties differing from sweeter to bitter flavors including Ahmar, aswad, and halwa from Iraq, Mangualti from Saudia Arabia and malissi and ras el bagh most enjoyed in Syria and Lebanon.
I thought it would be a tease to show you these pictures and not include a recipe for baba ghannouj.
This is a recipe from my grandmother, handwritten by my father in Spanish and translated by me with a twist!
For one bowl, you will need:
1 Large Eggplant
Let’s keep this simple.
All you need are the correct ingredients and patience.
The first time you make something can be challenging. But if you take it for what it is, a learning experience, something will turn out right and help you improve your recipe for the next time.
When making my first moutabel mezze I have to admit that I didn’t really follow any exact measurements.
With the help of a friend, we grilled the eggplant for awhile, about 20 minutes, till it felt soft and deflated into what looked like a bean bag chair .
Quickly, as the eggplant began to explode its juices and liquids, we removed the skin and stem.
For a smoky taste, we added paprika to the warm eggplant and used a spoon and a fork to separate the strands of eggplant from each other.
Separately we mixed the freshly made lemon juice with Tahina clumps, stirring until they dissolved into one.
Then all in one bowl we used a hand blender to combine the lemon and Tahini mixture with our eggplant adding salt and paprika. We had only added three spoonfuls of Tahini, which wasn’t enough to arrive at the consistency that we needed. We were looking for a clumpier versus a more runny texture.
So we just kept tasting and adding Tahini until we were more than satisfied.
A tip for those who have not worked with Tahini before, be careful not to add too much because the flavor can be quite overpowering.
Finish it off with a drizzle of olive oil and paprika galore.
The only thing missing are those pomegranate seeds that grow in Joun, Lebanon.
‘Akkar to ‘Amel: Lebanon’s Slow Food Trail by Rami Zurayk and Sami Abdul Rahman
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee
Oxford English Dictionary