Pomegranate Risotto Pudding
I spent quite some time today trying to figure out what to do with this pomegranate. My assistant gave it to me as a valentine, and I realized I’d never actually cooked with one before. I’d never actually been presented with one before. In tact, it is lovely–a blushing, fleshy bulb. When split apart, it’s downright gorgeous. Caverns bursting with fuchsia.
In Greek myth, Persephone is courted by Hades and brought into the Underworld against her will. The law of the Underworld states that anyone who consumes food or drink while there is doomed to spend eternity there. Hades tricks Persephone into eating six pomegranate seeds. And, after Zeus pleads to have her released, Persephone must agree to revisit the Underworld for six months each year, to atone for eating the sweet seeds.
The edible part of the pomegranate being a seed, Persephone is freed from the full brunt of the punishment. She’s obligated, but not entirely. The pomegranate is a perplexing object to me. It defies the logic of fruit. Seeds should be easily accessible so as to be spread widely. What good are they underneath so much armor? Why don’t they mean eternal damnation for Persephone?
It’s an appropriate valentine, anyway. The name derives from pomum–apple–and granatus–seed, in Latin, and some Jewish scholars believe it was a pomegranate in the Garden of Eden. It has been considered an aphrodisiac in the East, with a tradition of using the seeds at wedding ceremonies as rice is used in the West. And it makes a lovely pink pudding.
Pomegranate Risotto Pudding
juice of 1 pomegranate
2 c. heavy cream
2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. water
1 c. Arborio rice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
1 bay leaf
zest of one lemon, in large strips for easy removal
To juice a pomegranate, I did the following (there may be a better way of doing this, but like I said, I’m winging it): Cut the pomegranate in half. Squeeze out the seeds. Dig out the white flesh from the bowl so that it is just seeds. In a food processor, gently pulse the seeds until they are juicy, then strain the juice through a sieve, squeezing out any remaining juice. Discard seeds and set juice aside.
In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, milk, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon to a simmer.
Meanwhile, bring 1 c. water to a boil. Stir in rice and turn the heat to medium. Keep stirring until the water is incorporated. Add sugar, salt, and a ladle full of the warm milk. Add the bay leaf and lemon zest. Stir until the milk is incorporated. Continue to add milk, ladle by ladle, stirring and incorporating until the rice soaks up the liquid. Three-quarters of the way through, add the pomegranate juice, then the rest of the milk. Let it simmer until it is a custardy consistency. The whole operation takes 30-40 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and the lemon zest. Allow to cool in the fridge. Serve cool or room temperature with sliced almonds.