Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pomegrantes, Chickpeas, and Fairy Dust

The first time I ate a pomegranate seed I was on a school bus, on the rural back roads of North-Central Nebraska, and Lindsay Wagner was showing off. She was a harmless elementary school social climber because as a fifth grader, she was a year younger than me, she was in the remedial reading class, and she was ridiculous. Her best friend, Sundae, also rode our bus, and they were always bringing toys on the bus and playing elaborate games. One week they brought Barbies even though they were much too old for them, and even more confusingly, the next week, they showed up with a box of Troll dolls, which they used to act out scenarios in different voices. As a sixth grader, I was obviously too mature for that. They annoyed me, and who wouldn’t be annoyed by such desperate arm-flailing, look-at-me stunts? I liked the peace and quiet of the bus ride, but my daydreaming was routinely shattered by shrieking, giggling, and the occasional air-borne Troll doll, with its neon polyester shock of hair.

But one day, Lindsay’s shenanigans did get my attention. She was eating something I had never seen before. On the outside, it looked like a dark red grapefruit, but inside, there were the small tear-drop shaped seeds. The seeds glowed garnet, the juice from them interiors translucent and ready to burst.

“This is a pomegranate,” Lindsay announced. Other bus riders had gathered around her seat. Some turned around to see better.

“You eat it like this.” She plucked a seed from the rind and sucked the juicy pulp, then she spit out the woody, white center of the seed in a paper towel.

“You can try it if you want," Lindsay said as she slowly picked out one pomegranate seed at a time with the edges of her nails, which were polished in baby blue sparkles. As if she were bestowing communion wafers, we waited with palms outstretched.

“You don’t want to eat the seed,” she said. In unison we sucked off the jeweled flesh, and spit out the woody centers, and placed them in Lindsay’s paper towel.

It wasn't until years later I realized Lindsay had it all wrong. Eating the whole pomegranate seed is a delightful study in contrasts. Sure there's the burst of tart juice, but I like it better when it's tempered by the delightful crunch of the white hull. I also think that pomegrante seeds work best with savory dishes, as a garnish on top of a wheel of brie served with ligonberry jam, for instance, or my new favorite lunch dish.

Fairy Dust aka Homemade Chili Pepper Flakes

Pomegranate and Chickpea Salad with Fairy Dust
serves 2 - 3

Fairy dust is simply homemade chili powder. A gracious, gardening friend gave me an entire grocery bag heaping with jalapenos. I put them in food dehydrator, and then when they were dry ground them to a chunky powder. The green, herbaceous notes of the jalapeno carried through the drying, and I'm using this "Fairy Dust" on anything and everything that needs a little heat. You can substitute ground cayenne pepper for the Fairy Dust in this recipe.

1 - 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 seeds of one large pomegranate
1 small clove of garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1/8 teaspoon fairy dust, or to taste (a little goes a long way)
1/4 cup finely grated Asiago cheese

Combine chickpeas and pomegranate seeds in a small mixing bowl. Mash clove of garlic with a pinch of salt, using either a mortar and pestle or the flat side of chef knife. Whisk garlic paste with olive oil and lemon juice. Pour over chickpeas and pomegranate seeds. Add remaining ingredients and toss gentle to combine.


Amanda McGuire Rzicznek said...

I adore the narrative in this post. You captured the school bus scene perfectly. And I think if FD and I ever have kids, I will name one of them Sundae. Definitely going to try this lunch soon; I'm addicted to fairy dust.

Cindy Salo said...

I'm with Amanda; this is delightful. And delicious. Chickpeas & pomegranates sounds like something I'll love.

And you did a story on pomegranates without mentioning Persephone--congrats.