Seeds Of A New Dessert Tradition
Tue, 09/04/2012
Special to the Jewish Week
Pomegranate-studded Chocolate Muffins. photo: Amy Spiro
Pomegranate-studded Chocolate Muffins. photo: Amy Spiro

I imagine thousands of tables this Rosh HaShanah will be adorned with apple pies and honey cakes. After all, the traditional holiday treats are not only deeply tied to the High Holy Days but they are also sweet additions to any meals. The pomegranate, on the other hand, though it is also a major symbol of Rosh HaShanah, usually appears only at the beginning of the meal, and then along with the other new fruits. But I like to incorporate pomegranates into main dishes and desserts as well.

Sprinkling the seeds (also known as arils) into green salads is a welcome addition, as is adding them to grain salads with quinoa, barley or wheat berries. The juice of pomegranates (which you can buy ready-made or make at home) is great in vinaigrette dressings and in marinades for meat and chicken.

But I like to use pomegranates — arils and juice — in the best course: dessert. One of my favorite flavor pairings for the sweet seeds is chocolate; the richness of cocoa is a good home for the juice-filled bite of a pomegranate aril. One recipe pairs the fresh seeds with a rich chocolate muffin, another jazzes up a chocolate cake with the fruit’s flavor and tops it with pomegranate frosting, and a third fills pastry tart shells with a fresh pomegranate cream.

Though they are a trendy superfood in the United States these days, pomegranates have long been associated with Judaism and specifically with Rosh HaShanah. They are one of the Seven Species that are listed in the Torah as special products of the Land of Israel. They were also embroidered on the hem of the robe of the Cohen Gadol in the Temple, and even incorporated into the Temple’s design itself.

Pomegranates have solidified their place in the New Year’s tradition because their many seeds are said to symbolize fruitfulness. As legend has it, the seeds of the pomegranate number 613, which corresponds to the number of mitzvot. Many people who eat pomegranates at their holiday meals recite the blessing: “May our merits be numerous as the seeds of a pomegranate.” 

Recipes:

Pomegranate-studded Chocolate Muffins

Pomegranate Tartlets