POM Party: Drinks and Apps

This post is part of a series of recaps of my POM Wonderful Dinner Party. Catching up? See all the posts here: POM Party.

My party was about to kick off and I had a few friends helping out with lime slicing, candle lighting, and mojito muddling. We took a moment to treat ourselves to a little pomegranate liqueur before the doorbell started ringing.

While I prepped things in the kitchen, guests mingled and enjoyed pomegranate mojitos. Many of the guests did not know each other before the party, so introductions were made and they discovered that they had  a lot in common.

Including a love of mojitos.

Can you spot a familiar blogger’s beau in the photo above?

Hint: he is enjoying a pomegranate mojito…

That’s right, it’s Isaac! Brittany and Isaac from Eating Bird Food joined us for dinner. I have been reading her fantastic blog for about a year and a half AND we are neighbors, yet I just met her for the first time when I invited her and Isaac to my dinner party. Thanks Brittany for joining us and taking some beautiful photos of the event!

From my post in the kitchen, I heard the noise level in the other room rising. I thought to myself, these POM mojitos are getting dangerous, I mean, awesome! I also realized that I needed to get some food passed around pretty quickly, or else I might have a dinner guest swinging from the chandelier before we even get to the salad course.

For our first course, I served tostones with a pomegranate salsa. Tostones are fried plantains and they are popular in Cuban cuisine. I extended the Cuban theme throughout the evening, setting the mood with the festive sounds of salsa music playing in the bacground, loosening up my jubilant guests with sweet, tart, and cool POM mojitos, and giving them a taste of the cuisine to come with small bites of tostones and spicy pomegranate salsa.

I had to laugh when I brought the bowl of salsa out to the table and as I walked away heard two enthusiastic women shout, “Stop! No one can touch it until I get a picture!” Oh, bloggers. . .

The tostones were at once starchy, salty, and sweet. They paired well with the tart and tangy salsa. The soft bite of the fried plantain with the crunchy and surprising pop of the pomegranate seed was all kinds of fun for your mouth.

As the plate of tostones slowly emptied, my lovely guests started eating the salsa with forks. Garlic, onion, and saffron wafted from the kitchen into the living room, and my friends started to eye the dining room tables, looking for their placecards while continuing to joke and laugh with one another. They came with appetites and the smells from the stove and the inviting tablescape lured them into my second course.

I think these lush shades of red were a gorgeous complement to the star of the evening.

In case you ever wondered. . .

Here’s how you seat eleven people for a four course dinner party in a one bedroom apartment.

Now that we’re all seated, I’ll share with you my recipes for the drinks and appetizers, featuring POM Wonderful pomegranates.

Pomegranate Mojito

Ingredients

12 fresh mint leaves

1/2 lime, cut into wedges, plus more for garnish

2 tbsp. simple syrup (1 tbsp cane sugar dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water and chilled)

1.5 oz light rum

2 oz POM 100% pomegranate juice

4 oz club soda

Preparation

Put the mint leaves and lime slices in the bottom of a pint glass and pour simple syrup on top.

With a muddler or a large spoon, crush the lime and mint into the simple syrup to release their flavors.

Fill the cup with ice.

Pour light rum and pomegranate juice over ice and stir to mix.

Fill to the top with soda and garnish with a slice of lime.

Tostones

I originally posted my recipe here, but I have copied it below for your convenience.

Ingredients

3 to 4 large unripe (green) plantains

sea salt to taste

2 cups vegetable or olive oil for frying

Preparation

With a sharp small knife cut ends from each plantain and cut a lengthwise slit through skin. Cut plantains crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces and, beginning at slit, pry skin from pieces. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet heat 1/2 inch oil over moderate heat until just hot enough to sizzle when a plantain piece is added. Fry plantains in batches, without crowding, until tender and just golden, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. With tongs transfer plantains as fried to paper towels to drain.

Remove skillet from heat and reserve oil. With the bottom of a heavy saucepan or a wide solid metal spatula flatten plantains to 1/4 inch thick (about 3 inches in diameter). Into a bowl of warm salted water dip flattened plantains, 1 at a time, and drain them well on paper towels.

Heat reserved oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and fry flattened plantains in batches, without crowding, until golden, about 3 minutes. With tongs transfer tostones as fried to paper towels to drain and season with salt if desired. Serve tostones immediately.

Pomegranate Salsa

Messy kitchen shot. . . eek!

Ingredients

1 medium tomato, diced

1/4 large red onion, diced

1 small bunch cilantro (about 1/2 cup, chopped)

1 cup pomegranate arils

1 jalapeñ0, seeded and finely chopped

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Preparation

Combine the tomato, onion, cilantro, pomegranate, and jalapeño in a medium sized bowl. Be careful cutting the pepper; the capsaicin can linger on your fingers for days which makes it very uncomfortable to touch your eyes or mouth. I almost always wear gloves when cutting hot peppers.

Add the lime juice and olive oil and stir to combine. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tostones. Leftovers can be served with chips, or if you’re like my dinner guests, eaten right out of the bowl with forks.

Advertisements

Plantains

I first tried plantains at the Caribbean lunch cart on 11th and Marshall Streets in downtown Richmond. It was cold and windy outside and the warm fried plantains had a greasy, crispy outside with a soft and sweet middle. They were just what I needed on a frigid day in mid-January on my short lunch break from work.

I encountered plantains again at Kuba Kuba in the Fan, in the form of tostones. These Cuban treats were served as a side, like chips or fries are served with sandwiches. The Cuban tostones were the inspiration for my own experiment with plantains at home. I picked them up at the local grocery store and couldn’t wait to figure out how to fix them.

Plantains look similar to bananas, however they are less sweet than bananas and often need to be cooked before you enjoy them. They are cooked various ways in different parts of the world, either at the point that they are underripe (green) or overripe. Overripe plantains are referred to as “maduros” and are sweeter than the starchy green plantains. Green plantains are double-fried and yield thick chips with crispy outsides and a mashed potato-like center. Maduros are softer and sweeter, and they are typically fried just once.

The double-fried method is popular in Cuban cuisine, in which plantains are a staple. The plantains are cut into thick slices , fried in oil, patted dry, and then smashed individually. In the second step of the frying process, the mashed plantains are dipped in salt water and then returned to the pan to fry until crisp. In Cuba and many other Latin American countries, tostones are fried and coated in salt, and then eaten like fries or chips. When cooked properly, they are a salty and slightly sweet treat.

I used a recipe from Epicurious to make my tostones, with a little advice and pictorial guidance from Three Guys from Miami. While the recipe was pretty involved, it was easy to follow and it yielded three to four batches of beautifully crisp and delicious tostones.

A word of advice: unless you want to season the plantains with your own beads of sweat, do not attempt tostones in a small kitchen on a 100-degree day in downtown Richmond. Double frying several batches of plantain chunks can get a little hot. It was not the most comfortable cooking situation, but perhaps the heat allowed me to get into a more authentic groove. I was feeling a bit closer to the equator at the end of this adventure than I did when we started!

Tostones (Epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

3 to 4 large unripe (green) plantains

sea salt to taste

2 cups vegetable or olive oil for frying

Preparation

With a sharp small knife cut ends from each plantain and cut a lengthwise slit through skin. Cut plantains crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces and, beginning at slit, pry skin from pieces. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet heat 1/2 inch oil over moderate heat until just hot enough to sizzle when a plantain piece is added. Fry plantains in batches, without crowding, until tender and just golden, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. With tongs transfer plantains as fried to paper towels to drain.

Remove skillet from heat and reserve oil. With the bottom of a heavy saucepan or a wide solid metal spatula flatten plantains to 1/4 inch thick (about 3 inches in diameter). Into a bowl of warm salted water dip flattened plantains, 1 at a time, and drain them well on paper towels.

Heat reserved oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and fry flattened plantains in batches, without crowding, until golden, about 3 minutes. With tongs transfer tostones as fried to paper towels to drain and season with salt if desired. Serve tostones immediately.

For an even more authentic treat, serve tostones with an ice cold mojito. The perfect pairing for a hot summer day!