Pomegranate and Vanilla-Honey Parfait
Food is never simply food on a Jewish table. Rather, it’s symbolic and carries meaning that goes beyond the sum of its parts. With Rosh Hashanah beginning in just a few days, we’ll be sitting down to tables full of meaning. This is especially the case with the New Year given that this holiday has the highest number of symbolic foods to grace its tables.
Among the many symbolic foods that are feasted on during Rosh Hashanah, apples and honey have to be two of the most recognizable food symbols of the holiday, with their sweetness serving as a hope for a sweet year to come. The custom of associating apples with Rosh Hashanah was thought to have developed in France around the 12th century and subsequently spread to other countries in Europe, while the custom of dipping apples into honey was first recorded in the 14th century.
A piece of apple dipped in honey is a simple pleasure whose endurance over the centuries is a statement to its significance. There will no doubt be apples at my own Rosh Hashanah celebrations (how could I not include a dessert full of apples and spices?!), but I wanted to make a dish that incorporated pomegranates, another fruit that holds a lot of meaning within Jewish tradition.
The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food describes the various links that pomegranates have to the bible. For example, the pomegranate was one of the fruits brought back by the spies Moses sent to Canaan and embellishments shaped like pomegranates were embroidered on the hem of the high priest’s robe. Traditionally, it is also believed that each pomegranate contains 613 seeds, the same number of commandments contained in the Torah. Stemming from this they have become symbols of fruitfulness and righteousness.
I usually eat raw pomegranate seeds by the spoonful, sprinkled over yogurt or in salads, but I still hadn’t used them to make dessert. After a little research I came across the idea of pomegranate compote layered with vanilla pudding.
I loved the idea of making compote with pomegranate seeds, something I often do with fruits like rhubarb or strawberries, but I had never thought of making with the seeds of this fruit. Cooking the pomegranate seeds with some juice and sugar yields a faintly sweet and perfectly tart compote that turns a deep shade of ruby red. Rather than making a pudding using cream and milk to go along with the compote, I chose to make it dairy free by using almond milk. I also added honey to the pudding to make the whole dessert even more Rosh Hashanah appropriate! The combination of the tart pomegranate compote plays against the creamy pudding (yes, this pudding is creamy even without the dairy) and creates an elegant dessert for your holiday table.
Do have any pomegranate dessert recipes you make for Rosh Hashanah or at any other time of the year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
(Adapted slightly from Delish)
2 tablespoon(s) sugar
2 teaspoon(s) cornstarch
1 cup pomegranate seeds
2/3 cup pomegranate juice
½ tablespoon(s) lemon juice
(Adapted from Dairy Free Cooking)
2 ½ cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (you could also use soy milk)
¼ cup cornstarch
1/3 cup honey
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To prepare compote place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it has reached a boil, lower the heat to medium and cook the compote, while stirring, until it becomes syrupy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate.
2. In a small dish combine the cornstarch and 4 tablespoons of the almond milk. Stir until the cornstarch has completely dissolved.
3. In a small saucepan whisk together the almond milk, the honey, salt, egg yolks and the cornstarch mixture.
4. Cook the pudding over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and bubbles begin to form on the surface. Turn down the heat to low and cook for about 1 more minute. Remove the pudding from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
5. Pour the pudding through a fine mesh sieve into a heatproof dish. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and chill at least 2 hours before serving.
6. Once the pomegranate compote and the pudding are chilled, layer the two in a serving dish. Do this by placing the pudding in the bottom of the dish and spooning the pomegranate compote over it. If you’re having a dairy meal, you could also serve the pomegranate compote layered with some Greek yogurt and honey, which would be equally delicious!