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Sep 26, 2013 02:08 PM

Basil seeds, Greek (thyme) honey, pomegranate molasses, sumac!

"Discovered" a Mediterranean grocery. At long last found the above ingredients. No preserved lemon so I guess I'll have to make my own. Saw Jeffrey Zacharian (sp?) make a dressing using basil seeds, so will be trying that soon. I asked the clerk what he used them for and I think he said he doesn't use them. (His accent was quite heavy for these Southern ears.) So, does anyone else use basil seeds as an ingredient?

Also, feel free to tell me your favorite uses for any/all of my new goodies! :-)

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  1. Basil seeds absorb water readily. If you add them to a dressing or soak them in any liquid for 30 minutes, you'll find they swell up and exude a gelatinous coat with a slippery texture. Think tomato seeds without the acid. They don't have much of a flavor of their own, but they are add an indispensable textural contrast in Asian beverages/desserts like falooda or Thai basil drink.

    Greek thyme honey is not an ingredient I've used, but I imagine it is going to be the herbaceous honey made from pollen harvested from thyme flowers. This is going to be a honey that does great in savory applications like tajines.

    Pomegranate molasses is a sweet and sour syrup that can be used in stews, marinades, sauces, anywhere a Meyer lemon would be great. This was a topic of conversation just a few weeks ago.

    Sumac is a red powder made from the ground berries of the sumac plant. It is also intensely sour, but with a musky undertone. We covered this in January:

    1 Reply
    1. re: JungMann

      Well, the basil seeds may be a waste of money for me if they don't have much flavor. I thought Geoffrey Zacharian had said they gave a burst of basil flavor but I also thought it was a salad dressing and that wasn't quite right either. Oh well.

      Thanks for your input and links to past threads. Will be sure to check them out.

    2. I don't think I've ever come across basil seeds in a culinary sense - only at the garden centre.

      The molasses and sumac are readily available where I am and feature in our cooking. Molasses go into dishes such as the Iranian fesanjan. Sumac goes into most eastern Mediteranean dishes that call for lemon as I like to increase the citrus flavour. The honey is also available, although not as readily. I havnt use dit as I just prefer to buy honey from a local apiarist who sells at the nearby farmers market.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        Thanks for your reply. I agree about local honey but had heard how wonderful Greek thyme honey was and wanted to try it. Can't say that I can discern any thyme flavor in it as yet but it is nonetheless delicious.

        1. re: MrsJonesey

          Maybe it's me, but I can never taste a difference when I try "flower specific" honey. Just tastes like honey.

          1. re: Harters

            The only two that I have had that I can easily taste a difference in are California sage honey and Greek thyme honey, both of which have a recognizable herbal flavor to me. (Hmm - I haven't had sage honey in a while - now I need to go look for some.) Oh, and buckwheat, in the sense that it tastes heavier. But the differences between clover honey and say, wildflower honey, I'd agree are a little subtle for my palate.

            1. re: ratgirlagogo

              That could probably be regional, as I can tell a distinct difference between the clover and wildflower honeys here. The wildflower has a more intense or heavier taste.

              1. re: MrsJonesey

                Some flowers do give a really distinctive taste.

                My honey's mostly from a local friend who keeps bees. One year our county had a terrible infestation of Scotch and bull thistle (from super-wet late winter and cool wet spring, and the open ground chewed up by cattle hooves). The only upside was her thistle honey, which was much lighter in color but with a delicious taste that's memorable yet hard to describe. A floral-vegetal note.

      2. Had not heard of basil seeds as an ingredient until this post, but a quick search of recipes at Eat Your Books turns up two broad types.

        Indian and Thai beverages, sherbets, and soups with rose milk, yogurt, coconut milk, banana...

        ...and modernist stuff from El Bulli, Eleven Madison Park, Keller's sous vide book, etc. Those involve seafood and/or tomatoes.

        I've got a bunch in my gardening seed tin, but would be reluctant to use those in cooking because of the possibility they were treated with fungicide or other chemicals. Maybe I'll collect a few from the going-to-seed big plant out in the garden, if frost holds off.

        1. Does anyone else think pomegranate molasses tastes a bit like prune juice or did I get a bad bottle? This was so not what I was expecting it to taste like.