Crack into a ripe pomegranate and you open up a Byzantine jewel
box of juicy, ruby faceted seeds, packed tightly into white-hulled
chambers. This wealth of seeds gives the pomegranate its ancient
prestige as a symbol of wealth and fertility, but also poses tactical
challenges for those who would attempt to eat it. Americans (with
the exception of children) are often at a loss about what to do
with this somewhat awkward, messy fruit. But pomegranates are well
worth the work, and can become a little addictive.
Pomegranates originated in Iran and are immensely popular throughout
the Mediterranean, Middle East, India and China. The brilliant ruby-colored
juice and crunchy seeds add color and tart-sweet flavor to salads,
drinks and many traditional dishes such as Persian fesenjan, a chicken
stew made with walnuts and pomegranate molasses.
Pomegranate molasses, which is available in Middle Eastern markets,
is merely the juice reduced to sweetly tangy, potent syrup with
a flavor reminiscent of ripe raspberries.
omegranate juice is now readily available in supermarkets (Pomi
brand.) It can be substituted for citrus juice in any recipe for
vinaigrettes, marinades, sorbets and drinks, while the bright seeds
will give a jolt of color to salads and fruit tarts.
The two trees in the garden next to my house were planted in the
1920’s. The trees themselves are gnarled and wispy, but every
November they put forth a huge crop of enormous, leathery-skinned
fruit which glow red among the sparse leaves like Chinese lanterns
– a lovely sight on a fall day. Commercial crops will make
their annual appearance in farmer’s markets and local backyards
through late December.
Cracking the Pomegranate
Choose large, heavy dark-red fruit. The skin should be leathery
but clean. A crack or two in the skin shows the fruit is ripe, but
avoid any that have mold in the cracked areas.
To dismember a pomegranate, first of all remember not to wear
white. Fill a bowl with cold water. Wash the pomegranate well, then
stick a sharp knife halfway through the fruit and twist the knife
until the fruit cracks open. Use your fingers to pry the seeds out
of the shell, and drop them into the bowl; some people do this whole
process underwater. Continue to break the seeds apart. The white
membranes will float, and the seeds will sink. Discard all floaters
and drain the cleaned seeds.
A single pomegranate the size of a baseball will yield about one
cup of seeds, which in turn will give about ½ cup of juice.
To make juice: place the cleaned seeds in a food processor with
a very small amount of water (1/4 cup of water to 1 cup seeds) Grind
mercilessly; add more seeds once the juice gets going. Strain through
a cheesecloth bag, or large sieve. The juice can be frozen.
Spicy Pomegranate Grilled Chicken
Tart pomegranate and spicy cayenne are a perfect foil for juicy,
dark meat chicken. Leave the skin on- it helps keeps the meat moist
during cooking and crisps up deliciously on the grill. Serves
8 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Method: Combine all marinade ingredients in a
large re-sealable plastic bag. Mix well and add the chicken. Marinate,
refrigerated, for at least eight hours, or as long as 12 hours.
Preheat grill or oven to 375 degrees. Cook chicken skin-side down
on a lightly oiled hot BBQ grill, turning when skin is browned.
Turn heat to low and close BBQ lid. (Alternatively, cook uncovered
in a 375 degree oven.) The chicken is done when the internal temperature
reaches 165 degrees, and the skin is crisp and dark brown.
Variation: Serve the chicken warm on a mixed
salad, sprinkled with toasted almonds and a dusting of chopped cilantro.
Seasonal Fruit Salad With
For its impact, this simple salad depends on the best, ripest fruit
available, set against salad greens with personality and a little
creamy ricotta for contrast. The pomegranate dressing, made from
pomegranate molasses, has a fruity-acid tang that complements all
the different elements. If fresh pomegranates happen to be in season,
finish each plate with a dazzling sprinkle of the seeds. Serves
4 cups assorted salad greens, preferably a mix of colors and flavors
(like radicchio, spinach, arugula, and butter lettuce) washed and
turn into bite-sized pieces
Pomegranate Dressing (recipe follows)
2 cups ripe seasonal fruit such as melon, strawberries, pineapple,
citrus or papaya, cut into one-inch cubes
1 1/3 cups good quality ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons honey
½ cup Pomegranate seeds, unsalted toasted Pepitas or sunflower
Toss the salad greens with about ½ cup of the dressing,
enough to coat them, and divide among 4 chilled salad plates. Mound
the cubed fruit in the center of the plate. Top the fruit with a
spoonful of ricotta cheese and drizzle a very little honey off the
tines of a fork over the ricotta and fruit. Scatter the pomegranate
seeds or other seeds over the salad. Serve immediately.
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses or ½ cup fresh pomegranate
1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ tablespoon whole black peppercorns, crushed or coarsely
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)
Just before serving, place all the dressing ingredients in a blender
and pulse to combine, or shake in a jar until combined. Use immediately.
Pears Poached In Pomegranate
Red Wine Syrup
Two fall fruits combine into a colorful and unforgettable dessert,
suitable for grand occasions. This recipe serves 4, but there will
be enough syrup to poach as many as 8 pears.
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup white sugar
½ cup pomegranate molasses OR 1 cup pomegranate juice
4 large, firm large pears
To serve: Ice cream, whipped cream or sorbet
Choose a deep, narrow saucepan just large enough to hold the four
pears standing on end, with a little space around each. Combine
the red wine and sugar and simmer until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the pomegranate syrup or juice, and set aside.
Carefully peel the pears from stem to base, leaving the stem on.
Use a small melon baller or the handle of a spoon to scoop out the
blossom end, and some of the seeds. (Be careful not to scoop out
too large a cavity, or the pear will collapse when cooked.) Cut
a small slice off the bottom so the pear stands upright.
Set the pears into the saucepan with the syrup. Add water, if
necessary, to just cover the pears. Set over moderate heat and cook
very gently until the pears are barely tender when poked with a
sharp knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pears from the poaching
liquid to a plate to cool, and reduce the cooking syrup until it
just coats a spoon. The syrup should be light; don’t over-thicken
The pears can be served warm or cold with ice cream or a dollop
of whipped cream, and the reduced syrup spooned over the pear. It
would be fun to serve the pears, warm from the poaching syrup, paired
with a scoop of Pomegranate Sorbet.
Pomegranate Iced Tea
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 whole clove
1 whole star anise
Peel of one lemon, yellow part only, preferably in one or two long
3 cups pomegranate juice, fresh or bottled
Thin lemon slices and mint springs for garnish (optional)
Boil the water, sugar, cloves, star anise and lemon peel for 10
minutes, or until sugar is dissolved. Strain and chill. Add the
pomegranate juice, adjusting to taste; the mixture should be very
To serve, pour over ice cubes or blend in a blender to make a ‘slushie.’
Garnish with lemon slices and mint sprigs.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups pomegranate juice
1 egg white
Dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat, and let cool. Add
the pomegranate juice and chill thoroughly. Beat the egg white to
soft peaks and fold into the chilled juice. Freeze immediately in
an ice cream maker or machine, according to manufacturers directions.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, the base can be frozen
in a shallow pan or dish.