Black Cardamom & Pomegranates - Savoury Seduction
Nothing signifies the beginning of fall season more than that of cooked & baked spices filling the kitchen. After all the easy summer cooking (steamed vegetables, mostly), it's time again for making robust curries, soups and baking delicious aromatic cakes.
Black cardamom is a relatively new discovery of mine in the world of spices (you should see my spice rack! Its only rival is my perfumer's organ and my shoe collection). And I've been using it creatively to transform familiar recipes into something exotic and mysterious. Because this is what black cardamom smells like: smoky, spicy, pungent, warm and aromatic. It is similar to green cardamom with its eucalyptus-like camphoreous vapours that rise when pounding it in the mortar and pestle. But it has a personality all of its own - smoky, dark and earthy, not nearly as sweet as green cardamom. Therefore, it is perfect for savoury dishes that need a departure from the mundane.
And that's what I did to my babaghanoush recipe, along with some pomegranate molasses (!), both combined transported it from a familiar dip commonly eaten with flatbread or in sandwiches, into a delicious treat that I think won't shame a great chef in a fancy restaurant. Savour it!
Eggplants are a versatile vegetable that might seem intimidating to most North Americans, but in reality is quite easy to cook with, if you only know how to prepare it so its flavours really shine. The key with eggplants is not let its high water content overwhelm the recipe and take away from its flavour. This is why eggplants are best when roasted to the point of caramelization; or pre-salted to drain excess water before being sauteed, fried or baked. Eggplants are even used in Moroccan confections (I kid you not!). But now I want to share with you a recipe that is a spin on a most familiar and popular dip called babaghanush. Usually, eggplants are roasted on open fire If you have a gas stove, roast the eggplant directly on the gas flame; if not, simply prick with a fork 2 large eggplants and bake or grill in 450-500, rotating periodically, until it is blackened from all sides. Scoop the cooked flesh out with a spoon, and mash with a fork or a potato masher. Add the following:
1-2 Tbs tahini (raw white sesame paste)
Lemon juice from one whole lemon
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated
2 Tbs pomegranate molasses (dark, almost black syrup from pomegranates - be sure it's one with no sugar additives - you can find these in most Persian or Middle Eastern grocery stores)
1/4 tsp cumin, ground
2 black cardamom pods, peeled and pounded with mortar and pestle
Salt to taste (might not be necessary - depending on the type of tahini you use; many of them already have sufficient amount of salt in them already)
Garnish with olive oil, pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, or with black olives.
Serve as a dip for vegetables, flatbread, or inside sandwiches. Personally, I just eat it with a spoon as is...
My next challenge is creating a dessert for this weekend featuring both pomegranate and black cardamom. I've used black cardamom in my Black Beauty Truffles with much success, and am curious to see how the tangy touch of pomegranate (not to mention their ruby red colours) will enhance a chocolate dessert. Wait and watch...