Now is when we need to add some spark to our everyday meals, and pomegranates may be just the answer. Brilliant as rubies and rich with flavor, pomegranates are equal in importance through antiquity to the fig, the grape, and the olive. They have been an inspiration to artists and poets, and are glorious in color and luxuriant in content.
According to the well-known story, Eve handed Adam an apple, but some researchers now believe the forbidden fruit was more likely a pomegranate. It breaks all the rules—only its seeds are edible, and the tough, bitter flesh surrounding the hundreds of delicious ruby-hued kernels is discarded.
Although here in America you are more apt to see the pomegranate used in table decorations, Middle Eastern and Indian cooks have relied on the pomegranate’s tangy flavor for a long time to perk up main dishes, desserts and beverages,
Here’s a morning starter called Brilliant Sunset. For four servings, add ice to four glasses, pour 1 tablespoon of pomegranate juice over the ice in each glass, and then slowly add 1 cup of orange juice.
Pomegranates were one of the first foods widely cultivated by the Egyptians, Greeks, Persians and Chinese. In those cultures, their wealth of seeds made them a symbol of fertility.
Unleashing the treasure trove of garnet-colored transparent pulp sacs and seeds may cause some staining, so care should be taken. You may want to wear gloves and an old shirt. The Persians used pomegranates as a dye. One good-size fruit will yield about three-fourths cup of seeds and a half-cup of juice.
To seed a pomegranate, cut it in half crosswise; with the cut sides away from you and your thumbs on the crown end, break each half in half. The pomegranate is now in quarters with the seeds protruding. Coax seeds out from the base with thumbs, being careful not to break them. Remove the white membrane.
The seeds will help produce colorful salads. Here is an example:
CROWN JEWEL SALAD
In a small bowl, mash 2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds, reserving juice for the dressing.
Place mixed salad greens on plates, top with orange sections, a star fruit, sliced, and 1 to 2 kiwi fruit, peeled and chopped, and a scattering of pomegranate seeds.
In another bowl, whisk 1/3 cup of olive oil with 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of white vinegar, the pomegranate juice, dash of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder. Drizzle over salad greens and serve immediately.
Refreshingly tart, pomegranates make a tangy salsa when mixed with fiery chili and sweet oranges. Remove the seeds from 1 pomegranate and place in a bowl; add 1 orange cut into segments, 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro, 1 scallion, thinly sliced, 2 teaspoons of lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1 to 3 teaspoons of minced jalapeno chili. Salt to taste and adjust seasoning. Spoon over broiled swordfish.
Another delightful combination using pomegranate seeds in a salad is with beets and blood oranges. For four servings, place 4 beets in roasting pan and toss with 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper; add 1/4 cup of water. Cover pan with foil, and roast beets in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 1 hour. Cool; peel beets and cut into 1/3 wedges.
Whisk 1/4 cup of blood orange juice from 1 blood orange, 1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (I substituted Karo), and 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar; season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place 1 red onion, thinly sliced, in a bowl with beets, orange slices and pomegranate seeds and toss with vinaigrette. Serve on mixed salad greens.
When buying a pomegranate, choose one that seems heavy for its size and has a bright color and blemish-free skin. If the seeds are opaque and white, then the pomegranate is not ripe. You can still use them, but the juice will be less sweet.
Pomegranate Granita is a coarsely textured frozen dessert that matches with February weather.
2 cups of pomegranate juice
…What’s Cookin? Continued on page 31
1/3 cup of orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice
1/4 cup of sugar
6 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds
In a 9×13-inch pan, stir pomegranate juice, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar. Cover airtight.
Freeze mixture until solid, 3-4 hours. Break frozen mixture into chunks. Beat with mixer just until pieces are pea-size. Return granita to pan and freeze, covered airtight, until firm, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
Meanwhile, using a grater, cut about 1 tablespoon of peel from the orange in long, thin shreds. Cut remaining peel and membrane from the orange. Hold fruit over a bowl and cut between membrane and fruit to release segments into bowl.
Spoon equal portions granita into chilled stemmed glasses, sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of pomegranate seeds, and garnish with orange segments and orange peel. Serves six.
We’re at the end of the pomegranate season so time is running out. Brilliant as rubies, and rich with flavor, pomegranates, however we use them, will surely add brightness to the remaining dark, damp days of winter.
HINT OF THE MONTH: One old farmer once said, “You need to get into a bathtub naked when you eat a pomegranate. They sure stain!”
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Marian Platt's regional narrative cookbook of Washington’s Sequim Valley, From My Kitchen Window, can be ordered by sending cash, check or money order for $25 (includes tax and handling/mailing costs) to Marian Platt, 434 Chicken Coop Rd., Sequim, WA 98382. Phone (360) 683-4691
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