(2011) I’m no stranger to sweet wrinkled things. I’m not referring to my senior social network. I’m talking about the variety of dried fruit in my pantry.
Dried apricots, plums, cherries, currants, dates, figs, and raisins are key ingredients in the winter dishes prepared by Persian-Assyrians like me.
Grain pilafs, stuffed vegetables and leaves, sauces and stews all utilize the preserved fruits from the summer and fall harvests.
For dessert, platters of dried fruits, roasted nuts, and salted seeds replace the summer platters of seasonal fresh fruits and melons.
Dried fruits and nuts are not cheap. They are however more affordable and available than organically grown, free-range, locally raised, and ethically slaughtered meat. ‘Sins of the flesh’ have nearly converted me into a full time plant eater. I miss the skin and bones.
Luckily Trader Joe’s carries a wide range of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. They are available raw, roasted, with or without salt. Unfortunately Flint doesn’t have a Trader’s. My neighborhood doesn’t even have a grocery store since Witherbee’s Market, the beautiful new brainchild of the downtown development corporation, closed its door last month after not even a year in business.
Middle Eastern markets and Indian Grocery stores are also good places to purchase these items at reasonable prices.
Today’s Dried Fruits and Nuts Compote is purely Persian. The plumped ingredients are saturated in unsweetened pomegranate juice spiked with some pomegranate molasses. The flavors and textures of the fruit and nut mixture combine with the sweet tartness of the pomegranate to produce a rich and exotic dessert.
At Slims, in Northside, this compote was on the winter Sunday brunch menu. It was served with a dollop of freshly made ‘labna’ (Arabic yogurt cheese). A food critic from City Beat describing the “ambrosia” wrote “the devil is in the details” (she must have been referring to the pomegranate molasses). In ancient times pomegranate was known as the ‘tree of heaven’.
I’ve also served this compote with a wedge of a sharp cheese such as Manchego, Asiago, or Cheddar.
Any combination of fruits and nuts will work. Try dried pears, peaches, cherries, or apples. Use pistachios, cashews, or almonds.
Oh, a spoonful also makes a great condiment for grilled pork, smoked ham, or roasted duck. Ah meat, I knew it well.
Dried Fruits and Nuts Compote
Cook’s notes: If using Mission Figs, the almost black, soft dried figs, do not soak in the juice but add them along with the walnuts and dates. Purchase unsweetened pomegranate juice from the Middle Eastern or Organic section of the grocery store.
1 cup Unsweetened Pomegranate Juice, fresh or bottled
1½ tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses
½ cup Unsulphured Dried Turkish Apricots, cut into ¼ inch slivers
½ cup Pitted Prunes (dried plums), cut in half
½ cup Dried Figs. Remove and discard the stems. Cut the figs into ¼ inch slivers
¼ cup Golden Raisins
½ cup roasted and skinned Walnut Pieces (see separate recipe)
¼ cup Dates, pitted. Cut into bite-size pieces
Place the apricots, prunes, figs, and raisins in a bowl. Cover the fruit with the pomegranate juice. Use more if needed to completely cover the fruits. Cover the bowl and allow the mixture to set for at least 30 minutes or until the figs and apricots have softened.
Drain the mixture and reserve the liquid for another use. Transfer the softened fruit to a bowl.
Stir in the walnuts and dates. Drizzle the mixture with the pomegranate molasses.
Cover the mixture and chill the compote in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Serve in small bowls.