Big John’s PFI (Pacific Food Importers) is a Mediterranean market long considered a landmark in Seattle food culture by local chefs, caterers and long-time customers. A friend took me to this hidden jewel and I was like a kid in a candy shop! The place is a treasure trove of epicurean delights including an extensive line of olive oils, vinegars, dried pasta, herbs and spices, rice and beans in bulk, jams, chocolate, teas, and so much more. The cheese case is overflowing with exotic choices. Shelves and bins are brimming with hard to find favorites as well as new items from cuisines only just being explored in America. And did I mention that the prices are ridiculously affordable?
Big John’s PFI is located in the back of the an older brick building south of Airport Way on the west side of 6th Avenue South. Without the green, red and white awning over the nondescript entrance, you wouldn’t even know they’re there. The staff is immensely helpful and quite friendly. They made me feel as comfortable as if I’d been shopping there for years. Which I will be.
I came home with a bag full of goodies including pomegranate molasses, which I am looking forward to experimenting with. Fortunately for me, Kerry Saretsky of French Revolution Food already has. Pomegranate molasses is used in Iranian and Middle Eastern cuisine. With its wonderful flavor, fragrance, and dark color, it has much the same attractive, sweet-sour quality as balsamic vinegar combined with the lush fruit aroma of pomegranates. It adds a tart and pungent flavor to poultry and beef and is a great tenderizer for lamb and pork. It can even be used in a tart sorbet or puréed with roasted walnuts for a delicious spread known as muhammarah.
1/2 cup walnuts
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley, optional
Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add walnuts, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, or until browned and fragrant. Remove from pan, and cool. Place all ingredients except parsley in food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Spoon into small bowl and stir in parsley. Serve with pita triangles or thin rounds of French bread.
If you’re feeling adventurous or don’t happen to live near a Mediterranean grocery, you can make your own pomegranate molasses, courtesy of Alton Brown of Good Eats.
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