Pomegranate: jewel of the kitchen
By Genny Wright-Hailey
If you haven’t cooked with pomegranates, you are missing one of the joys of cooking. All the senses come into play here: the textures of hard, leathery skin and sleek, crunchy seeds; the visual beauty of the jewel-like ruby-red seeds and rich red juice; and a delicious sweet-tart flavor that adds a special pizzazz to so many preparations.
They lend a touch of the exotic to just about everything. Fresh pomegranates are in season from August through November; look for deep red skin with no dried or shrunken areas. Bigger is better here; heavier is good. You can store unopened pomegranates in the refrigerator up to three months. Once you open them, you need to use the seeds right away.
Opening a pomegranate is like discovering a small treasure chest of jewels. First, cut the blossom end. Carefully remove the bitter, white pith but leave the seeds intact (if they are broken, the juice can stain.) Score the skin into quarters from stem to blossom end. Then break the fruit apart very gently, bending the rind to pull out the seeds. You can also do this by putting the scored fruit into a bowl of water, then pulling the fruit apart and rubbing the seeds free. Use the seeds right away, or refrigerate them, covered, for a few hours. They can also be frozen in an airtight container for a few months.
Pomegranate seeds are great in baked goods, fruit salads, lettuce or spinach salads and salad dressings. They’re delicious stirred into rice, lentils or couscous. Use them in sauces that have ginger, cumin or Middle Eastern flavorings. For pomegranate juice, put the seeds in a blender or food processor; cover and process until pulverized, then strain the juice. Pomegranate molasses, sold in Middle Eastern markets and used as a flavoring agent or a glaze for meats and poultry, can be made by reducing the juice into a syrupy thickness.
Here are a few recipes to get you started.
Pomegranate -and ginger muffins
This recipe from Sunset magazine makes 12 regular or 24 small muffins.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
11/4 cups pomegranate seeds
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
Preheat oven to 425 F. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in crystallized ginger, lemon peel and pomegranate seeds. Make a well in the center of mixture. In a measuring cup, blend milk, egg and 1/4 cup melted butter. Pour liquid all at once into the center of dry ingredients. Stir just until batter is moistened (it will be lumpy). Spoon batter into buttered muffin cups, filling almost to the rims. Sprinkle with 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake until lightly browned, about 16 minutes for large muffins, 13 minutes for small. Remove muffins from oven and immediately turn them out of pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Pomegranate -and walnut paste
In Turkey, this delicious, spicy dip is a common dish served with pita bread, cooked meats and fish. Here, it adds a touch of the exotic to your table. Recipe from “Mediterranean the Beautiful Cookbook” by Joyce Goldstein; makes 4 to 6 servings.
1 tablespoon coarsely ground dried red chile pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
11/2 cups walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup fine dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon pomegranate syrup (see above)
Pinch of sugar
1/4 cup tomato puree (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 red sweet peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded and pureed
Chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
In a food processor or blender container, combine all ingredients except parsley. Puree until smooth. Spoon into a small bowl; garnish with parsley. Chill until ready to serve.
From Martha Stewart Living magazine comes this beautiful and festive rice recipe to serve with any meat or poultry dish; makes 4 to 6 servings.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small red onion, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
11/2 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped unsalted pistachios or almonds
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (about half of a pomegranate)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion; cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add rice; cook, stirring for one minute to coat. Add chicken stock; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice has absorbed all liquid, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, then stir in the apricots, nuts, pomegranate seeds and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve immediately.
In about 3 hours you can have this beautiful, light dessert. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
6 tablespoons grenadine syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups hearty red wine
3 limes, preferably organic
Halve the pomegranates and spoon out the pulp and seeds as directed above. Put seeds into a saucepan; add grenadine and sugar and stir well. Add a half cup of the red wine; stir well. Heat liquid over low heat, simmering gently for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir well, then strain mixture, using the back of a spoon. Cool, then pour into a wide, shallow pan. Add remaining wine. Squeeze juice from 2 of the limes; add and stir carefully. Place pan in freezer. After about an hour, remove pan, break up granita with a spoon, and process in blender just enough to add a little air. Pour back into pan and return to freezer. When ready to serve, cut the third lime into thin slices; put granita into chilled bowls or glasses and garnish with lime slices. Serve immediately.