Tastefood

Put a bottle of pomegranate molasses in your cupboard

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Skewered morsels of meat make for delicious finger food, especially when they are cooked on the grill. Small pieces of chicken, beef or lamb, threaded on skewers, present a bounty of edges and corners that crisp and caramelize over the fire for finger-licking goodness. Flavorful marinades enhance grilling success. Not only do they tenderize and infuse the bites of meat with sweet and tangy flavor, but the sugars in the marinade encourage crisping and caramelization.

In general, a good marinade will have a balance of sour, sweet, salt and heat. This is achieved with tart acidic ingredients, such as citrus and vinegar; a touch of sweetness from sugar, honey, maple syrup or fruit juice; and an aromatic infusion of spice, which can run the gamut in flavor and inspiration depending on your taste and desired heat level. This recipe is a nod to North African and Levantine cuisines, in which pomegranate molasses is a staple and a key ingredient in the marinade.

Pomegranates have a distinct sweet-and-sour flavor that might be compared to cranberries. Pomegranate molasses is a condiment made from the reduction of pomegranate juice. It’s rich, syrupy, fruity and puckery. Sugar and lemon are often added to the molasses to balance and brighten the tangy pomegranate. The molasses adds a glossy sheen to glazes and a satisfying astringency to sauces, stews and marinades.

You can make your own pomegranate molasses if you have access to many pomegranates or pomegranate juice. Alternatively, you can simply purchase pomegranate molasses in well-stocked supermarkets and Middle Eastern specialty shops. It’s a bottle worth having on hand for other uses. A spoonful or two will enhance salad dressings, sauces and dips. It’s a traditional ingredient in mouhamara, a traditional Syrian red pepper and walnut dip. Add a spoonful to meaty stews for a desired “oomph” in flavor, such as fesenjoon, an Iranian chicken and prune stew, or a simple and classic beef stew. Brush the molasses on roasted vegetables for a kick of flavor, or simply add a spoonful to cocktails or sparkling water.

Pomegranate Glazed Chicken Skewers With Yogurt Tahini Sauce

Active time: 25 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes, plus marinating time

Special equipment: Presoaked bamboo skewers

Yield: Serves 6

Marinade:

1/3 cup pomegranate molasses

2 Tbsp. honey

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press

1 tsp. Sriracha

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

2 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:

1/2 cup whole-milk European-style yogurt

2 Tbsp. tahini

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Chopped pistachios, for garnish

Chopped fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Whisk the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Set aside 1/4 cup for basting.

Cut the chicken thighs into bite-size pieces. Place in a bowl, pour in the remaining marinade and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Whisk the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until use.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Thread the chicken on presoaked bamboo skewers. Lightly season with salt and black pepper.

Grill the skewers until the chicken is cooked through and charred in spots, 6 to 8 minutes, rotating the skewers as needed. In the last minute or two of cooking, baste with some of the reserved marinade.

Serve on a platter with the yogurt tahini sauce. Garnish with pistachios and mint.

 

Lynda Balslev is the co-author of “Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture” (Gibbs Smith, 2014). Contact her at TasteFood, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106; or send email to tastefood@tastefoodblog.com; or visit the TasteFood blog at tastefoodblog.com.

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