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A Winter Relish With Red Pomegranates & Green Olives

Debra Redalia

 

In this post, I’m giving you more details about my process of making the dish and you’ll see more of the creativity at work instead of following a recipe.

Last week I was in a beautiful store and found a cookbook. I opened to a page at random and it was a recipe for a vegetable—I think it was eggplant—that had an amazing “salsa” over the top. Immediately I was intrigued because it contained pomegranates and green olives and walnuts and garlic—four of my favorite foods that also happen to be winter foods. And I had all four of these foods in my kitchen.

What I do when I see a recipe like this is I don’t try to remember the whole recipe or write it down or take a picture of the page, what I do is remember the key ingredients and the impression I have when I see it, and then I come home and create something of my own.

The reason I do this is because what I make at home will never be the same as the recipe he created in England, I think it was. I will never have those same green olives or the same ripeness of pomegranate.

It’s important to remember that industrial foods are made to be exactly alike in size and flavor. Buy an apple in a supermarket and they will all look and taste pretty much the same. There is a standard “apple.” But go to the farmer’s market and you will not only find a variety of varieties, but they will be all different shapes and sizes and some will be sweeter because they were on one side of the tree and others will be more tart from the other side of the tree.

So what I started with was the idea of pomegranate—green olives—walnuts—and I went from there.

Now the original recipe had some balance of these ingredients, but you might prefer one over the other. I decided to start with pomegranates. One whole pomegranate to be precise. I cut it in four pieces and liberated the arils (seeds). That is the sweet component.

Then the green olives are tangy and salty. So this is like adding vinegar and salt to the relish. They need to be added judiciously. I happened to have green olives stuffed with red pimentos so that’s what I used (I didn’t go shopping to find the exact green olives in the recipe). I started chopping a few at a time into a size close to the size of the pomegranate arils and added the olives to the pomegranates and stirred and tasted until it felt right.

Same with the walnuts. Walnuts don’t have a strong flavor, but they add texture and mellow the strong flavors of the pomegranate and olives. So again, starting with shelled walnutsI chopped and added and tasted and chopped and added and tasted until it felt right.

Raw garlic is the strongest ingredient, so we only need a little bit. But every garlic clove is different, so again, add and stir and taste. I grated my garlic on a microplane grater, just right into the bowl.

At the end I decided it was a “relish” in my mind, not a “salsa” so that’s what I’m calling it.

There are no measurements here because we’re starting with the whole pomegranate. The amount you end up with depends on the size of the pomegranate and then the amount of the other ingredients are appropriate for that pomegranate.

Cooking in this way, it’s all about creating something from the ingredients.

If I were following a recipe it would say “1 cup pomegranate” “1/2 cup olives” etcetera and we would have pomegranate leftover or there wouldn’t be enough because no pomegranate is exactly 1 cup.

With this method, we start with the pomegranate and everything else is in relationship to the central food.

As it turned out, my pomegranate was about 2 cups, about 1 cup green olives, about 1 cup walnuts and 1 large garlic clove. When I had put together all those ingredients, I decided I thought it needed some celery, so I added two large stalks of celery, chopped to lighten it up and add a little crunch, and it was perfect!

Now all that said, you could also take these same ingredients and make a green-olive-dominant relish with a few pomegranate seeds to sweeten it up. It all depends on your preference and mood and available ingredients.

This relish is absolutely delicious and festive. Larry just tasted it and said, “That’s really nice,” and put three big spoonfuls on his organic brown rice. After he ate it he said, “Nicely done! That’s a good one!” I concurred after I put it on my rice too.

I hope you willl try this creative approach and gain confidence doing it.

 

This relish went right to my lunchtime brown rice on my desk. I can’t wait to eat it again.