30 November 2009
Pomegranate Goat Cheese Gems
What is it about miniatures that people find so fascinating?
It seems that most people are inclined to believe that good things do come in small packages. I’m no exception. I have always loved little tea sets, miniature perfume bottles, and my daughter’s Polly Pockets. Miniatures fuel our imagination, make us feel strong and powerful, and draw out our most tender inclinations as we appreciate and admire these tiny treasures.
With food it is the same. I remember my delight when I first discovered baby corn in a Chinese stir fry. I enjoy the convenience of tiny grape tomatoes and, more recently, kiwi berries that are just like tiny kiwis but without the fuzz.
Another natural food miniature is the pomegranate. A beautiful shade of garnet on the outside, a single whole pomegranate is a treasure box filled with dozens of richly succulent jewels of fruit. Each brightly translucent flesh-covered seed, or aril, is a diminutive indulgence. Pomegranate seeds are so decorative and delicious that I have spent a lot of time experimenting with them this autumn, trying to discover their secrets as I pair these flecks of jewel toned tartness with any number of flavors both sweet and savory. Finally I settled on a combination that best represents my discoveries of the season.
In keeping with my fascination for miniatures I baked savory mini tarts of goat cheese and Greek yogurt. Then I topped them with a light dusting of nutmeg and crowned them with a spoonful of pomegranate arils drenched in Spiced Pomegranate Molasses. Delicate, sweet and savory, with a complex note of spices, these little finger foods deliver a luscious abundance of flavor in one pretty little bite-sized gem.
Spiced Pomegranate Molasses
1 cup pomegranate juice (I used POM Wonderful)
3 - 4 Tablespoons honey (according to taste)
½ vanilla bean
½ inch slice of fresh ginger root
5 cardamon pods
10 pink (or white) peppercorns
1 small Serrano (or jalapeno) pepper, whole
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Combine juice, honey, vanilla bean, ginger, cardamon, peppercorns, and Serrano pepper in a small saucepan. Simmer slowly until reduced liquid to between ¼ and ½ cup of molasses, approximately 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Strain the molasses. Discard the ginger root, cardamon pods, peppercorns and Serrano pepper. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds back into the mixture, stirring until well blended. Discard the remaining vanilla bean pod.
Store the Spiced Pomegranate Molasses in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Pomegranate Goat Cheese Gems
Nonstick cooking spray
fine dry bread crumbs
8 ounces goat cheese – chèvre
5 ounces plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons shallots, finely minced
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons Spiced Pomegranate Molasses (recipe above)
3/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
snipped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a nonstick 24-count mini muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray until well coated. Sprinkle each mini muffin cup with fine dry bread crumbs tilting and tapping until the crumbs thoroughly cover the bottoms and sides of the pan. Set aside.
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add shallots and sauté until soft and beginning to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, beat the goat cheese, yogurt, and egg until smooth and well combined. Add the sautéed shallots and stir to incorporate.
Spoon the cheese mixture evenly into the prepared mini muffin cups. Tap the pan on the counter top to distribute the batter evenly.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the tarts are set.
Remove from oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool.
When cool, remove mini tarts from the pan. (You may need to carefully run a knife around the outer edge of the tarts and tap the pan on the bottom to remove.)
Dust the top of each cooled Goat Cheese Gem with a faint sprinkle of ground nutmeg.
Stir together 2 Tablespoons of the Spiced Pomegranate Molasses and the fresh pomegranate seeds, or arils, until they are well coated.
Top each tart with a small spoonful of the coated pomegranate seeds. Garnish with snipped fresh parsley.
Serve and enjoy!