Thursday, December 10, 2009

Work pomegranate into your Indian holiday fantasy

Photo spreads of silver dishes, elephant trinkets, golden fried and curried foods, wines and candlelit tables, I think the image of the well-stocked pantry, with rows of neatly-labeled bins and jars, is my favorite in “Entertaining from an Ethnic Indian Kitchen.” Some call Komali Nunna the Indian Martha Stewart for her attention to detail and a clear love of putting on a show. Readers will want to stage, or be invited to, every scenario in this thick picture book. Recipes include far-from standard takes on classics. Inspired by these exotic flavors, I am to soon fry banana in coconut oil and explore a range of curries. Here is one extremely easy project for your holiday table:
Pomegranate Glaze
1 cup pomegranate syrup
1 tablespoon ginger juice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Stir everything together in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium-low heat until heated thoroughly.
There are no further directions, but in context from the book, I’d try this on rice, meat, fruit or in a drink.

Icing on the anything
I have great tips that I never even plan to use. I know you can snip the corner from a sandwich bag of icing and improvise a piping tool, but it still sounds tedious. Betty Crocker presents cans of flavorful cupcake icing with drawing, ribbon, leaf and star tips built into the lid. You can instantly personalize cookies, cakes, etc., (even if they came from the supermarket). Picture this innovation amid children creating holiday cookie masterpieces. I know we’re not supposed to mind the mess, but hey, this product will unleash your genius and help you clean up. Go Betty.

Power to the chocolate
A decade ago I thought my friend was downright snooty with her dark chocolate ways. She liked this European style and I was fine with my American milk chocolate. Oh, how times have changed. I’m all about the dark stuff, and it’s a challenge to get that cocoa content up, up, up. Sometimes it tastes like bitter motor oil, but I love it. The dark is supposed to be better for you, in moderation, so it’s no surprise Navitas Naturals sells a brick of raw chocolate paste, packaged by the pound in a beautiful gold wrapper that looks like a gift to be placed at the manger. Suggested uses are to include it in truffles, for magnesium; desserts for dietary fiber; and energy bars for iron. I’ve been stabbing it with a knife to splinter off dark dust to eat by the spoonful. I imagine it would be good as a garnish over something with whipped cream. I have a lot of brick left. The company has sweet cacao nibs that are crunchy, dark and sexy. I want to use them as “croutons” on a spinach salad with mandarin oranges and olive oil vinaigrette.
Shaman update: Your love of chocolate can help the Huichol Indians in Western Mexico and the Sierra Madre Mountains. Shaman Chocolates supports educational and other efforts for these people who have made chocolate a part of their culture. Blend their world with your love of dark chocolate with green tea and ginger, acai, raspberries, coconut or pink sea salt. I’m just getting started with their list. Golden boxes of chocolate bits of heaven, shaped like flowers, are stocking stuffers with a cause.

Crystallized ginger is the new sugarplum fairy
It can be a candy alone or a sweet addition to cookie, breads and cake. Crystallized ginger can make your rice and fish dish go Asian or fill a baked pear or apple. Frieda’s packages a soft version of sugar-coated ginger that can take the taste back to a Victorian Christmas setting. It’s crazy good out of the bag. This flavor is as old as the emperors or as fusion forward as a drink garnish. The company has other amazing ideas. I’d love to see chocolate-dipped ginger on a New Year’s party spread or snip some into cranberry sauce. Remember holiday travelers, sailors used ginger to settle the stomach.

A good cheese
A chunk of cheese can be your meal. You’re supposed to eat dairy every day, why not make it a treat? I just tried some that tasted like candy to me. Knowledge is power. I read that cows grazing on grasses of the famous Dutch Beemster Polder in North Holland, which is 20 feet below sea level, make milk “sweeter and softer.” Pay attention Nederland cheese lovers. The blue sea clay helps cows give Beemster Premium Gourmet Dutch Cheese a butterscotch, whiskey and pecan flavor. I knew I was right. It’s cheese candy. I tried classic and X.O. alone, but I’m willing to try suggestions of pairing it with rich, red wine; pasta; salads; and sandwiches.

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