This is a frustrating post. It is about an idea that I had for a recipe that after some attempts and tweaks, turned out to be delicious and unique, but I couldn’t use for the purpose I created it for.
Let me start from the beginning. Rosh HaShanah, the beginning of the Jewish year, is coming up in two days. One of the customary foods for Rosh Hashanah is pomegranate, as its abundant seeds symbolize our hopes that we will come before God with abundant merits. The pomegranate is eaten as is, no cooking involved.
I thought it would be cool if I came up with a recipe for pomegranate soup as a first course for our festive meal, that I could also share with the world right before the holiday. The only pomegranate soup I’ve heard of was a Persian recipe that I found somewhere, but I did not want the soup to have rich Persian flavors. I wanted it to be delicate, mild, and creamy. And there was the first challenge. If I make the soup dairy, and the rest of the meal is based on meat, it doesn’t comply with the Jewish rules of Kashrut (in this case, not consuming meat and dairy at the same meal). I’m not a religious Jew, and we do mix meat and dairy at home. But I am pretty traditional when it comes to my religion and culture, and this is a Jewish Holiday. It just doesn’t feel right to serve meat and dairy at the holiday table.
So my first attempt was to make the soup with coconut milk and coconut cream. I used some POM’s pomegranate juice and some spices, but the soup came up very sweet, which was enhanced by the sweetness of the coconut milk. I added some pomegranate molasses for tartness, and some cilantro, and…it was almost not edible – too sweet with flavors that are nothing but strong and concentrated. No matter how much water I added to try and dilute the flavor, it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. So this batch ended up in the trash, unfortunately (I hate throwing away food!).
The second attempt was to make the soup using heavy cream (yes, dairy), and maybe eating the soup on a different occasion. The base was chicken flavored soup (from powder). I added some cardamom, garlic and onion, the pomegranate molasses (this time I went easy on it), POM juice and heavy cream. The soup tasted nice, but was missing something.
After trying some dumplings, and some other different spices, I slowly came to the conclusion that the soup needed some meat (yes, yes, now you understand my frustration). I made some tiny turkey meatballs and added them to the soup. And it did the work. Not only was the flavor of the soup improved, but the tiny meatballs added some texture and depth that was missing from the soup earlier.
We enjoyed the soup, and I still think it’s a very festive, unique, delicious soup, but I won’t be making it for Rosh Hashanah.
This is the recipe for the final version:
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion diced very thinly
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups water
1 heaping tablespoon chicken soup powder
½ cup POM pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (found in Middle Eastern stores)
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
1tsp sugar (optional)
1/2 lb ground turkey
2 tbs cornstarch
½ cup heavy cream
Heat the oil in a large pot, add the onion and garlic and sautee until golden.
Add the pomegranate juice, water, chicken soup powder, and pomegranate molasses. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low heat and add the spices and the sugar.
While Soup is simmering, mix in a bowl the turkey meat, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Create tiny meat balls, slightly bigger than cherry tomatoes, and drop them into the soup. If the meat is too sticky, wet your hands. Raise the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream and cook for 10 more minutes.
When serving, sprinkle each bowl of soup with some pomegranate seeds on top.
And to all of you who celebrate the Jewish Holidays, L’ Shanah Tovah – have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!