Pomegranate and Queso Fresco Salsa

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Rosh Hashanah starts Wednesday at sundown.  I kept meaning to write a post with a nice recipe for the holiday.  Trouble is, yesterday was Labor Day, we had a few people over for a nice BBQ, which was a lot of fun, but I was in barbecue mode, not really in the Jewish holiday mindset (though I did use Martha’s idea for using a carved out apple as a honey dish and we all said a quick blessing over apples and honey).

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It’s also been unbelievably HOT and humid in San Diego lately.  I think it was 95 degrees today.  (Not really thinking about kugel and roast chicken right now…oy.)  So late last night, I went to the Epicurious site and saw “get ready for Rosh Hashanah with these recipes for the Jewish New Year”.  There were a few categories…”Apples, Honey, Brisket, Pomegranate”.  I wasn’t really interested in a baked apple kugel or a honey cake and for sure not roasting a brisket for four hours, so I clicked on “Pomegranate”.  I actually love using pomegranate arils (seeds) in all kinds of different dishes (see below), including the infamous Pomegranate Margarita.

Okay, and here’s your Jewish lesson for today.  We all know why we dip apples in honey at Rosh Hashanah, right? It symbolizes our wish for a sweet new year.  But do you know why we eat pomegranates? For one, because they are a “new fruit” (meaning, a fruit that has recently come into season but that we have not yet had the opportunity to eat).  A pomegranate is often used as this new fruit…Israel is praised for its pomegranates. It is also said that they contain 613 seeds just as there are 613 mitzvot (commandments).  And (my favorite), it symbolizes that the new year should be bursting with sweetness and blessings as numerous as the seeds of the pomegranate.

Back to the pomegranate recipes.  I found this one for Pomegranate and Queso Fresco Salsa from Marcela Valladolid, Mexican Made Easy: Everyday Ingredients, Extraordinary Flavor.  Sounded really delicious and easy.  And I do love Mexican food.  Thought it would be really good on carne asada tacos.  Done and done.  I did alter it just a bit (used Cotija cheese rather than queso fresco, because that’s what I had on hand and added a little lime juice).  Oh, and truth be told, when I stopped at Trader Joe’s, I bought a package of their fresh pomegranate seeds and, yes, some already marinated carne asada.

It was muy delicioso in the tacos.  I think it would also be delicious on grilled fish, chicken (like paillards) or lamb.  You can do any of these for a non-traditional Rosh Hashanah meal OR, I bet it would be a perfect accompaniment to a roast chicken…or, dare I say, brisket?

Oh, and here are some of my other favorite Rosh Hashanah recipes here on the blog:  Apple/Pomegranate/Blue Cheese Salad with Honey Vinaigrette, Seven Species Salad, Apples & Honey Cake, Spiced Applesauce Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting,  and Oatmeal/Pomegranate/White Chocolate Chip Cookies.

L’shana Tova and may the new year be bursting with sweetness and blessings as numerous as the seeds of the pomegranate!

Pomegranate and Queso Fresco Salsa


1/4 cup pine nuts

1 cup pomegranate seeds, from one large pomegranate* (or one TJ’s 5.3 oz. package)

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

2 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco (or Cotija or feta)

1 teaspoon olive oil

juice of one lime

salt and pepper to taste


Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate to cool.

In a small bowl, mix the seeds, basil, cheese and cooled pine nuts.  Drizzle with the olive oil and lime juice.  Stir gently.  Season with salt and pepper.

*To seed fresh pomegranate – over a bowl (to catch any juices), cut the pomegranate into four pieces.  Then cover the pieces, in the bowl, with cold water and start pulling the seeds out with your hands.  The seeds will fall to the bottom and the “other stuff” will rise to the top.  Now remove the “other stuff” and drain the water.