Rosh Hashana: the day of the pomegranate

 At the Sephardi Rosh Hashana meal (which begins on Sunday evening) it is customary to eat symbolic sweet foods and say the blessing :”May our good deeds be as plentiful as the seeds of a pomegranate.” Here is a Persian recipe reproduced in the Arizona Jewish Post which combines both honey and pomegranates  to make a rich and tangy dish.

“In “The New Persian Kitchen,” author Louisa Shafia offers numerous
pomegranate dishes, including a classic Iranian stew called fesenjan
that is often served at celebrations. The chicken is cooked with beets
and thickened with coarsely ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses. As
in many Persian dishes, pomegranate seeds are used as a glistening,
jewel-like garnish.

Shafia illustrates removing the seeds a few different ways, but I
like the “water method” best. Simply slice off the two ends and quarter
the fruit with a knife. Submerge the quarters in a bowl of cold water
and pull out the seeds with your fingers. The pith and skin float to the
surface as the arils sink to the bottom. Scoop out everything but the
seeds and pour water and seeds through a mesh colander to collect them.

Consider using pomegranates in your Rosh Hashanah meals when it is
considered a positive omen, or segulah, to incorporate symbolic foods in
our holiday menus. Whip up this easy chicken dish and you’ll have both
bountiful and sweet symbols covered.

Holiday chicken is potent with pomegranates goodness as this symbolic
fruit is used in 3 ways: juice, molasses and arils. The flavors are
bold, tangy and slightly sweet — a Middle Eastern-influenced sweet and

Pomegranates are highly symbolic in Jewish tradition, most often
associated with fertility and good deeds. By combining the tart flavors
of pomegranates with honey here, the sweetness balances the tang and
positive energy is imbued in this main course for Rosh Hashanah.

Note: The simmer sauce may be prepared 2-3 days ahead and refrigerated until ready to prepare the chicken.

Pomegranate and Honey-glazed Chicken

This recipe yields 4 servings.


1 4-pound chicken cut in eighths (cut breasts in half if large)

4 tablespoons canola oil (separated: 2 tablespoons for simmer sauce and 2 tablespoons for browning the chicken)

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup pomegranate molasses

½ cup sweetened pomegranate juice

½ cup honey

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon powdered ginger

⅛ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon turmeric

salt and pepper to taste

For the garnish:

2 tablespoons parsley

2 tablespoons pomegranate arils (seeds)


Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a large pan (you’ll need a lid for later).

Saute chopped onion until soft and translucent. Add minced garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes (do not brown).

Add pomegranate molasses, juice, honey, broth and spices.

Stir and bring to boil. Reduce to an active simmer; cook uncovered
for about 20 minutes or until sauce is reduced by about half the volume
and slightly thickened.

Taste sauce and adjust seasoning. Too tart? Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of honey. Want more kick? Crack more black pepper.

Remove sauce from heat and pour into bowl. Set aside.

Wash pan.

Rinse chicken parts, pat dry, season with salt and pepper.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in pan and place chicken parts
skin side down. Brown on one side and flip to second side. Do not crowd
chicken in the pan as this causes chicken to steam rather than brown.

Lower heat, pour prepared simmer sauce over the chicken. Cover pan and simmer on low for 35-40 minutes.

Remove from pan and platter, garnishing with chopped parsley and pomegranate arils.

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Wishing all Point of No Return readers Shana Tova!

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