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Pomegranates are Complicated

Pomegranates are complicated- they just are. They have this bumpy, bruised exterior,  a weird seeded interior with no clear center, and although the juice from the seeds(called “arils”) is positively lovely, those weird little seeds  you have to chew through ruins the experience of eating them for some folks. In Greek myhology, the myth of Persephone, the goddess of the Underworld, also prominently features the pomegranate.  Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken off to live in the underworld as his wife. Her mother, Demeter (goddess of the Harvest), went into mourning for her lost daughter and thus all green things began to wither and die. Zeus, the highest ranking of the Greek gods, could not allow the Earth to die, so he commanded Hades to return Persephone. It was the rule of the Fates that anyone who consumed food or drink in the Underworld would spend eternity there.  Hades tricked Persephone into eating six pomegranate seeds while she was still his prisoner and so, because of this, she was condemned to spend six months in the Underworld every year. During these six months, when Persephone is sitting on the throne of the Underworld next to her husband Hades, her mother Demeter mourns and no longer gives fertility to the earth- this became an ancient Greek explanation for the seasons. The six months Persephone is away, we have Fall and Winter. When she returns to her mother is when Spring and Summer occur.

In the northern hemisphere, pomegranate season is from September to February, making them a fall/winter fruit. But in the past eight to ten years or so, pomegranate juice and seeds are available in many stores year-round, as well as pomegranate-infused and flavored items, like iced teas, sorbets, and even vinegars.

My piece, (on the bottom) named appropriately titled “Pomegranates are Complicated” depicts the rich oddness of the fruit exterior, and similar to its interior with all its seeds, the rest of piece is segmented, with the words “complicated” written throughout, bleeding off the canvas. I usually use gold or metallic leaf in a lot of my work, here its helpful as it also expresses a richness of the fruit.  The recipe today is actually a drink– Pomegranate & lime fresh ginger ale.

POMEGRANATE & LIME FRESH GINGER ALE

(one thing to note– since this drink is made “per glass” adjusting to your individual taste is strongly encouraged. If you dont like ginger, use less when simmering.  If you like more pomegranate, use more pomegranate juice, etc)

For the ginger simple syrup:

2 cups water

1/2 cup fresh chopped ginger (in large chunks, about 1/2″ thick)

1 1/2 cups of sugar

other items:

3 to 4 fresh limes (squeeze the juice of two, the other two slice in thin slices and set aside)

2- liter seltzer water

1 16 oz bottle of pure pomegranate juice (POM is a good brand)

First make the ginger syrup- place water and ginger chunks in a saucepan, bring to a low boil on medium heat, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Then, strain the the ginger chunks out using a mesh strainer. Return the liquid to the saucepan on the stove, turn heat to medium and add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, stir till sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool.

To assemble a glass- (again, Im giving approximate amounts — please adjust to your own taste. ) In a large glass, pour 12 oz of seltzer water, 4 tbls of ginger syrup, 3 tbls of pomegranate juice and 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice. Stir and taste. If adding ice, you may want to add more syrup or pomegranate juice. Add additional lime slice(s) in glass when serving.

This recipe makes approx. 2 cups of syrup- you can add this syrup to plain seltzer water to make a simple ginger ale. The syrup will keep, covered in refrigerator 7 to 10 days.The recipe makes approx. 6-7 glasses of Pomegranate ginger ale. You could also pour entire 2-liter seltzer water in punch bowl and mix batch all at once. VARIATIONS- use Stevia or Agave syrup to make the ginger syrup instead of white sugar. Use cherry or mango juice instead of Pomegranate juice for a different flavor

TOP: Pomegranate & Lime ginger ale, BOTTOM: "Pomegranates are Complicated" 2010 by Raquel Stallworth

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Reds, oranges and white beans

Its February, prime time for hot soups and stews…….and chili!
Today the connection between art and food can be seen through the use of color only– The abstract artwork is “Light 2”,(seen at the bottom of this post)  the letters “L-i-g-h-t” are in the painting, and the colors are primarily red, orange, cream and white, with touches of metallic gold leaf. The white used is to suggest light creeping in from the right side of painting, and is echoed in the recipe as the white northern beans. The white bean chicken chili is not to be confused with white chili, which, although may have tomatoes in it, does not have a red broth, it has a creamy light colored stock. This recipe’s consistency is actually is between a soup and stew, thicker than a soup and thinner than a stew. (Rachael Ray calls this “stewp” or “stoop”) The red of the stewed tomatoes is seen in the blazing red on the left hand side , and at the top of the painting– right hand side– you see flashes of light and dark green, which is the color of cilantro and green bell pepper, which is also used in the recipe.  The lines that actually appear black in this piece are actually dark green, repeating the influence of cilantro and green bell pepper. The transparent red broth against the white beans creates an orange hue, which is seen as the orange used in the painting.Conveniently, the white of the sour cream(if used) is seen as the white of the light in the painting also.
The Vegetarian option stays true to the comparison, the chicken itself doesn’t add much color to the chili.
Try this chili one cold night this month– its February, so there will be many nights to choose from!

RECIPE: WHITE BEAN CHICKEN CHILI

1 to 1 1/2 lbs raw chicken breasts, cut in bite sized pieces

½ fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped finely

1 cup chopped sweet vidalia or yellow onion

1 cup chopped red or green bell pepper, or a combo of both

2 stalks of celery chopped finely

3 tbls. olive oil (more if needed)

1 tsp. paprika

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. garlic powder

2 shakes red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt

2 bay leaves

½ tsp black pepper

1 heaping tsp. cumin

½ tsp. chili powder

1 can chicken broth

1 can stewed tomatoes, diced (if avail, use fire-roasted)

2 tbls honey

1 tbls cider vinegar

2 cans great northern beans

½ cup rough chopped fresh cilantro

optional- ½ cup frozen corn, sour cream, tortilla chips, extra chopped cilantro and shredded cheese for individual servings

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in deep pan or stew pot, add chicken, onions, peppers, celery, and all spices (except the cilantro)until chicken is cooked, and onions are translucent.

2. Add vinegar, honey, chicken broth, can of tomatoes and cans of beans.

3. Lower heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, check and stir after 10 minutes to make sure pot is not too hot, as chili could stick to bottom of pot.

4. Taste- adjust seasoning to your liking, re-season with salt and pepper if needed, add more cayenne, pepper flakes or jalapeno if you like more heat. Add more honey if you need more sweetness.

5. Once chili is adjusted to your liking, add the 1/2 cup cilantro, and, if using corn, stir in now. Turn off heat.

6. Serve each bowl with a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese of your choice, a sprinkle of cilantro leaves and tortilla chips if desired.

VARIATION(S)- Vegetarian: Omit chicken and chicken broth. Use vegetable broth and add an additional can of beans, and 1 cup of frozen corn.

Also, a bottle of beer can be used instead of the vegetable broth or the chicken broth.

TOP: White Bean Chicken Chili BOTTOM: "Light 2", 2010 by Raquel Stallworth

Happy 2011!

Happy 2011!

Welcome–Happy 2011!
If you could eat a work of art, what would it taste like? If colors represented flavors and textures
of paint represented food textures, what would a painting taste like?
With easy access to cooking techniques via TV shows such as Food Network and Cooking Channel, food has never been more popular- in some case a spectator sport when it comes to the competitive ones. A good number of the chefs and cooks on the shows went and/or graduated from art school. Is it too simple to state that culinary art is simply another art form, that using fondant to sculpt a rose on a cake could just as easily have been a lump of clay to sculpt a statue? Or is it that food is sensual, felt on the taste buds and artists delight in it the way they delight in a visual piece?
For each posting, a work of art will be shown, then a recipe that is influenced by it in some way. In some cases it will be color(ie- a yellow themed painting may yield a yellow-colored dish, like corn, lemons or bananas) or even texture(a squiggly line drawing may yield a spaghetti dish). In other cases–such as today’s piece– it will be literal, a picture of a cherry yields a recipe that uses cherries. Art has few parameters, so there will be no set rules on how the art and recipe are related. In this way one can “eat” a work of art–contemporary and classic art can be examined. Paintings dont have to be the only artwork, sculpture and photography can also make their way to this blog. My own art will be highlighted, but other artists work will be shown also– I welcome anyone who would like to show their work!
Also– the connection of how artists and food will be discussed– a bio/link of a culinary artist who is (or was) a visual artist may be presented.
Today my own piece- “Ripe 3″(seen at the bottom of this post, click on image to see larger) is examined and paired with a dish that is similar in color(deep reds and greens) and subject matter– the artwork contains a cherry and so does the dish. My work frequently uses words as subject matter and Ive painted the word “ripe” combined with fruit several times. The actual letters of “r-i-p-e” are actually in the painting, hidden deep within. I do this to illustrate how one word can have different meanings to different people– to one “ripe” may mean a cherry, to another a peach, to another–perhaps no food comes to mind–just timing. (when something is ripe- its essentially ready, time’s up)
The lowly beet– its included or tops many people’s least loved food. It simply doesnt get love like its more popular cousin, the carrot. But beets are sweet and its lovely deep red color almost matches the cherries in this recipe. The tang of the fresh orange juice, sweetness of the beets and cherries and creaminess of the goat cheese make this a salad to savor.
Eat and Enjoy!

BEET, CHERRY AND GOAT CHEESE SALAD
10-11 oz mixed salad greens(approx 9-10 cups)
2 cups roasted red beets cut into ½ inch pieces(approx 2 large or 3 medium raw)
1 cup pitted fresh big cherries(cut in half
1 5oz log of plain goat cheese

Dressing:
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of one orange
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

1. Roast whole beets in 350 degree oven (drizzle w/olive oil, place in shallow pan or baking sheet, add about 3/4 cup of water to pan. Bake till beets are soft when pierced with knife, about 40-50 minutes) OR, boil in large pot till soft. Rub skins off once cooled before chopping in chunks- set aside.
2. Mix all dressing ingredients together in small bowl, set aside
3. Gently toss salad greens in large bowl with beet chunks, then drizzle dressing in. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Crumble goat cheese in chunks on top just before serving.
(NOTE- best to toss dressing AND cheese in just before serving, dont make way ahead of time)

TOP: Beet, Cherry & Goat cheese salad BOTTOM: "Ripe 3" 2009 by Raquel Stallworth