Ever since I read about them in Greek mythology as a kid, I have been intrigued by pomegranates. This fruit native to Iran, which today is cultivated primarily in the Middle East, Central and South Asia and the Mediterranean, is just so beautiful! Filled with hundreds of beautiful red arils or seeds on the inside, pomegranate just has a regal quality. I don't know if it's because of its legendary origins or the elegant dishes in which it is often found, but pomegranate - whether it's the actual seeds, the juice or pomegranate molasses - is always special. Pomegranate is also known for its health benefits, apparently reducing risk for heart disease and blood pressure.
Pomegranate seeds are used in all manner of Indian dishes, including biryanis, raita and the savory snack dishes that we call chaat. There is an infinite variety of delicious snacks that can be categorized as chaat and sold at roadside or beachside stalls - some of the more popular ones include bhel puri, pav bhaji, aloo tikki and samosas topped with spicy chickpeas, yogurt and mint and tamarind chutneys. A common ingredient in many chaat dishes is the spice mixture called chaat masala, which is a mixture of amchoor (dried mango powder), cumin powder, coriander, rock salt and pepper. It has kind of an odd smell but the flavor it lends to chaat dishes is incredible.
This chaat is basically a corn and pomegranate salad seasoned with lime juice, tamarind chutney, chaat masala and other spices. It's slightly sweet, tangy and spicy - the perfect combination! I hightly recommend that you make and use the world's greatest tamarind chutney as inspired by Suvir Saran, though store-bought is fine as well. Double, triple or quadruple the amounts for your upcoming Thanksgiving dinners and holiday parties, especially now that the wonderful pomegranate is in season in Europe and the U.S.!
CORN & POMEGRANATE CHAAT
Makes 3 cups - serves 2-4 persons as a snack or side
2 cups corn kernels (can be fresh, frozen or canned - wash and drain thoroughly if canned)
2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 jalapeno or small anaheim pepper, chopped (and seeded if you don't want it very spicy)
1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons tamarind chutney
1 teaspoon chaat masala
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1. Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Eat immediately or make up to one day in advance and refrigerate, bringing to room temperature before serving.