Complex, enigmatic and beautiful.
I’m not sure there’s another fruit on earth that stirs me quite like the pomegranate.
From its distinctive crown to its soft leathery skin to its chambered interior flush with succulent jewels, the ruby red stunner never fails to capture my attention.
And in this part of the world, I am blessed to encounter them frequently on my walks. Although our backyard holds many gems, this particular fruit is not one of them (or, at least, not that we’ve noticed yet).
I say this only partly in jest because it seems that each week since we moved in, we make a new discovery. Persimmon, goji, orange, calla lily and birds of paradise are just a few of the wonders that have revealed themselves to us over the four short months that we have been here.
Our mandarin tree ~ one of the culinary hallmark’s of the holiday season ~ is now heavy with fruit and I’ve kept a close eye as the globes turned from deep green to yellow and now, finally, a promising blush of orange. The fruit will mature over the coming weeks.
We’ve planted two lime trees, a grapefruit tree and a peach tree and are looking into an olive tree! (oh my).
Needless to say, I continue to marvel at the edible landscape that surrounds us and have to give my head a shake every time I walk outside to pluck a lemon off the tree for my sparkling water, tea or food.
The lemons that were used in this recipe, and appear in these photos, are a great success story. As you might imagine, the horticulture scene here can be a little daunting to the uninitiated. I’ve always joked about my lack of experience in the garden and natural black thumb but I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by these gifts from nature that it’s inspiring me to learn.
When we first arrived, the lemons on this tree were no bigger than the tip of my thumb and showed no signs of progress. With a little TLC, we managed to grow them into thriving fruit with a taste unlike any lemon I have ever brought home from a store.
Fresh and aromatic, you not only taste the difference, you can smell it too! After holding the uncut fruit in my hand even for a moment, the gorgeous fragrance of citrus lingers on my skin like lavender.
And speaking of dreamy…
This appetizer? It has to happen.
(I don’t mean to be bossy but you really do want to make it and your relatives really want you to make it too).
If you haven’t yet baked ricotta, you’re in for a treat. Simple, warming, delicious and satisfying are just a few descriptors that come to mind… but also beautiful and decidedly festive, don’t you think? A perfect holiday choice for all generations.
- 15 oz/425 grams (about 2 cups) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tsp lemon zest, or to taste
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary + more for garnish
- 2 tsp olive oil
- ¼ cup or so pomegranate seeds (arils)
- salt & pepper to taste
- drizzle of honey for topping
- Heat oven to 375 F
- Combine ricotta, lemon juice, lemon zest and finely chopped rosemary together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
- Taste the ricotta mixture and make any seasoning adjustments desired - rosemary, lemon juice/zest, salt & pepper - before placing the mixture into an oven proof dish (ideally ½ - 1 quart size).
- Drizzle olive oil over the ricotta mixture and place it in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until it has heated through and begins to bubble around the edges.
- Carefully remove the dish from the oven and drizzle with a light touch of honey and a sprinkling of sea salt.
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds (pressing them gently into the mixture) and rosemary, as desired.
- Enjoy immediately with cut up fruit, vegetables and/or sliced bread/crackers.
2) It's hard to beat the full fruit of the pomegranate for quality seeds - when you cut into the fruit you will find the arials at their freshest, most succulent and richly pigmented. Having said that, you can save time and mess by purchasing the seeds on their own, so the choice (as always) is yours.
3) There are many different ways to present the pom seed topping on this dip. In the featured recipe, I decorated half the ricotta with a generous amount of seeds and created a dividing line with a chunky piece of rosemary. Another attractive way is to sprinkle the seeds all over the surface (they will appear like polka dots) and toss individual rosemary sprigs here and there between the seeds - they will look a bit like pine needles. Really pretty!
4) I did try baking the pomegranate seeds in one version but I don't recommend it. It will dehydrate the seeds and leave them rather lackluster which you definitely don't want. On the other hand, you can tuck some additional seeds into the ricotta mixture (as opposed to leaving them on the surface) for more texture if you wish - this method seems more resilient to baking.