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Friday, November 23, 2012

Hand Grenades and a Glorious Salad

Hand Grenades and a Glorious Salad
by Victoria Challancin

Anyone who has children absolutely understands that it is your job as a parent, your duty, to embarrass them at any every opportune time--even when it is unintentional.  Here is a wee tale of my work as a mother done well.

When our son was 15 I took him for a 10-week journey through France, Spain, and Morocco.  France, because I had lived there and love it, Spain because I thought he might consider going to university there, and Morocco, not only because I loved it, but because I wanted him to experience with me something of the Islamic world.  We began our trip in France, but returned to Mexico from Madrid, where the dreaded hand grenade confusion occurred.

Going through customs in Spain, where I thought I was completely comfortable with the language, I was questioned by security personnel as to what was in two smallish, but surprisingly heavy boxes that clearly showed up as metal objects on the x-ray machine.  Pleased with my purchases for both myself and my sister-in-law of pomegranate-shaped salt and pepper shakers from the magnificent city of Granada whic named after the pomegranate or granada in Spanish, I beamed, "Granadas, señor.  Granadas."

Audible gasps flew in every directions from my fellow travelers.  The security guy's eyebrows shot up.  My son, fluent in Spanish, dropped his head and pretended he didn't know me.  Of course, I didn't understand what all the fuss was over salt and pepper shakers.  Only as Zack whispered furtively under his breath, "Mom, granada also means 'hand grenade'!"  

"No, no, señor, ellos son saleros y pimenteros.  ¡No bombas!," I said, fumbling to explain.  As the onlookers tsk-tsked, the official opened the boxes, examined the offending goods, and gave me stern looks, and finally sent us on our way,

Yes, clearly my work as a parent was done for the day.  My son was truly embarrassed.  And so was I.

A Happy Ending:  Although my son showed no interest in attending university in Spain, he did complete high school on a foreign study program in France.  Now truly, that was my work as a mother done well.

Although I don't actually repeat recipes in my posts, I clearly hit on certain themes again and again.  Pears and strong cheese are just such a theme.  What can I say?  I have no defense.  They are just a perfect combination.  Here are other recipes I have shared using them:

Here is a pre-Thanksgiving salad I made with my Mexican students in a cooking class this week.

The Hazelnut Vinaigrette--soooo good

Cook's Notes:  I used Anjou pears, mizuna, Belgian endives (which I sliced longitudinally), baby arugula, and curly leaf lettuce for the base of this salad.  Combined with the sweetness of the pears, the tartness of the pomegranate arils, the pungency of the Gorgonzola, this melange of bitter greens struck a perfect note.

Recipe:  Roasted Pear Salad with Endive and Pomegranate-Gorgonzola-Hazelnut Vinaigrette

For the Hazelnut Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup toasted crushed hazelnuts
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Pears:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
3 Bosc pears, slightly underripe, cored, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch slices

For the Salad: (or use your own mix of greens)
4 whole Belgian endives, bottoms trimmed, separated into individual leaves
4 heads frisée lettuce, pale yellow leaves only, roughly pulled apart, rinsed, and spun dry in a salad spinner
6 cups (about 8 oz) baby arugula leaves, rinsed, and spun dry
4 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola, Stilton, or Cabrales cheese
4 ounces seeds from 1 medium pomegranate

For the pears:  Heat the butter in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides.  Add sugar and swirl until melted and starting to brown.  Add pears and toss to coat.  Cook, tossing occasionally until pears are softened but still retain some texture and exteriors are a burnished, glazy brown, about 4 minutes total.  Transfer to a large plate and allow to cool completely.

Make the vinaigrette:  Combine honey, vinegar,and hazelnuts in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.  Place bowl on top of a kitchen towel rolled into a ring to keep it steady, and slowly pour olive oil into bowl while whisking constantly.  Vinaigrette should form a semi-stable emulsion.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, then story in the fridge.

To serve:  Combine endives, frisée, arugula, and pears in a large bowl and drizzle with 6 tablespoons vinaigrette.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Gently toss with hands until evenly coated with vinaigrette.  Taste and add more vinaigrette or salt and pepper as necessary.  Add cheese and pomegranate and toss briefly.  Serve immediately.

A Few Notes on Granadas, the Fruit:

Native to Persia, pomegranates are one of the oldest fruits known to man.  Although at one time pomegranates were thought to be native to China, they were actually introduced there, along with coriander, walnuts, peas, cucumbers, alfalfa, grapes, and caraway seeds, by a representative of the Han Dynasty, around 100 B.C.  

Called the Punic apple, by the Romans, the fruit arrived in Italy via Carthage (Punic) in what is modern Libya.  This history is born out in the etymology of the Latin botanical name for pomegranate, Punicum granatum (granatum refers to the many seeds), though it was originally called Punic malum, or Punic apple.  

A bit of history:
  • What we normally call "seeds" are actually seed casings, or "arils."
  • During the Renaissance, pomegranate patterns were a popular, reoccurring design in fabrics
  • The Ancient Romans ate the fruit and used it to tan animal hides, due to the high amount of tannic acid in the skins
  • In literature, the virtues of pomegranates have been extolled by both Homer, Chaucer, and Shakespeare, not to mention the Bible and the Quran
  • The Moors brought the fruit to Spain around 900 A.D., where it later became the national emblem
  • Henry VIII planted the first pomegranate in Britain
  • The actual name for the explosive grenade came from the French in the 1700s
  • The Spanish conquistadors brought the fruit to the AMericas
  • Pomegranates are often considered "royal fruits," perhaps due to the blossom crown
  • Some Biblical historians believe that it was the pomegranate which was the fruit of temptation for Eve instead of the apple
  • The pomegranate was the undoing Persephone, when she broke her promise not to eat by consuming pomegranate, while being held captive by Hades
  • Ancient Egyptians were buried with pomegranates
  • The pomegranate often appears in paintings of the Madonna and Child
  • The abundance of seeds is perhaps the cause of the pomegranate being a symbol of fertility, bounty, and eternal life, especially in the Jewish tradition
  • The Chinese sugared the seeds and served them to guests
  • Berber women in North Africa used pomegranates to predict the number of their offsprings
  • Mohammed, who urged his followers to partake of the pomegranate,  believed the fruit purged the spirits of envy and hatred from the body
  • The Hittite god of agriculture is said to have blessed people using pomegranates, grapes, and wheat
Parting Shot:

 The offending granadas

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life and love, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using text or photos.


Joan Nova said...

hahahaha ... I love the story! And I love the salt+pepper shakers too. What a fun read!

Not Quite Nigella said...

LOL Victoria, I was laughing out loud! Hehe I can imagine their look of surprise at you saying that they're grenades!! Hehe it's definitely the job of the parent to embarrass :P

Eha said...

Another absolute roar of laughter from Down Under!!! So innocent: so 'guilty' :D ! My older daughter always was a most retiring young lady; my younger so resembles me, which means 'Oh, Mother, how could you embarrass us again?' was an ofttime 'accusation'! I guess I still manage, but now I do not turn puce, but have a laugh myself :) ! Oh, absolutely love the salad - love pears AND strong cheese: about to try and learn!! Have a happy weekend, Victoria!

Hotly Spiced said...

I love salads with pomegranates. Your salad looks so delicious and I know I would enjoy it. I haven't embarrassed my children at customs yet, mostly because I don't know any language besides English. Good on you for trying! xx

Nancy said...

Hahaha! How funny. My husband has made similar mistakes with Spanish but we just can help and laugh. Then again it has never occurred in a security line. You salad sounds scrumptious and I really love granadas!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Oh how our language skills can get us in trouble sometimes...such a funny story. I totally agree about pears and cheese. Your salad sounds terrific. said...

I am still laughing as I write. Mothers!!! my son would say.