The pomegranate is such an interesting fruit. Pry one open and you see a spectrum of tightly packed ruby gems otherwise known as arils beneath the rind. When ripe those same precious jewels are filled with delectable antioxidant rich juice the shade of a fine Barbaresco. Some would prefer to buy this liquid fountain of youth by the bottle from the nearest grocery store; but I am a purist. Only the freshly squeezed, unpasteurized version will do.
As an act of persuasion, let’s just take a few lines to do the math. Pomegranates carry a very potent anti-oxidant cocktail, also known as poly-phenols, coveted in modern nature. Antioxidants are destroyed during any sort of exposure to heat and air, otherwise known as pasteurization. Pasteurization is mandated by our FDA. A mandate that all major manufactures and most food retailers must abide by in order to sell a product. In other words, the raw juice of any plant is going to be exceptionally more potent in enzymes and nutrients than pasteurized juice, up to 98% more in fact. You can’t buy that 98% in a bottle off a shelf. Considering it takes just as long to juice a pomegranate as it does to chop an onion, I’m placing my bet on the whole food, not anything that has been heated, enhanced, dehydrated, or reconstituted from concentrate.
You have to practically live under a rock to not know the amazing health benefits experts declare come from the pomegranate. They are in everything from skin care (for the amazing firming and anti-aging abilities), to extracts and pills. I can see pomegranate “products” everywhere but yet rarely is an actual pomegranate seen in the homes of friends and family. Which is ridiculous because they are so pretty. Perhaps it may be that no one knows just what to do with one, how to open one, how to store the seeds and so on. Which is why I blog!
The buying guideline for pomegranates is not complicated. They are in season from late October to early January but are best in November and December. Choose firm, fuchsia colored pomegranates that seem heavy for their size with no splits or leaking cracks.
Store your poms in the fridge in an air tight container or bag free of moisture. They can keep for several weeks this way.
Fill a bowl full of water and place it in a freshly sanitized kitchen sink. Score an X or cross down the center of the crown (either end) with a pairing knife. Hold the fruit away from you facing the water and break it open. The arils (or seed casings) will fall into the clean water and sink to the bottom while the pith will float to the top. Gently dislodge seeds from the rind, strain, dry on a paper towel and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Ahh the fun part. Like I said I am a purist. Stored seeds have little chance of making it long in my fridge. I ‘gently’ crush them in a food processor, strain the juice through a mesh sieve and gulp down with haste. You can also cut a whole pom down the center, and juice with a hand held orange or citrus juicer. Running a whole pom through a high powered juice machine will leave you with very bitter juice. This is because a machine will also juice the pith and rind. Don’t do it! Consider yourself warned.
Seeing your food bedazzled with twinkling jewels and to experience tiny sweet explosions in your mouth makes winter moments worth having. I love to sprinkle the seeds in fresh greens with walnuts, grapefruit, avocados, and blue cheese. They are also a fabulous addition to grain dishes as well. Making relishes and sauces for winter meats like duck and lamb are timeless and oh so simple. Explore and enjoy the beauty of the pomegranate with some of my favorite recipes below.
3 tablespoons of pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon of Champagne or Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon of honey (optional)
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 large shallot, diced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Combine first five ingredients in a small bowl or food processor. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking or while the food processor is running. Salt and pepper to taste and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving or chilling. Can be made 1-2 days in advance.
Note: Blend in half of an avocado to make a creamy version of this dressing.
Drizzle over mixed greens for a delicious salad.
Autumn Quinoa Salad
1 cup dry Quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil, avocado oil, or walnut oil
2 cups veggie broth
1/2 white onion (chopped)
1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
3 green onions (chopped)
1/2 toasted walnuts (coursely chopped)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon juice to taste (fresh squeezed)
1 ½ cups of arugula or kale, chopped
1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon raw local honey
1/2 cup walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
Rinse the quinoa in water and transfer to your iron skillet. Over medium-low heat, toast quinoa for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly with the whisk until dry and fragrant. Add chopped onion and oil and bring the heat up to medium. Continue toasting quinoa over medium heat for about another 5 minutes whisking regularly. Add the broth and cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until “the tails pop” on the quinoa and most of the liquid has absorbed. Remove from heat and let the quinoa come to room temperature. Transfer to a large glass or metal bowl.
Whisk together sherry vinegar, honey, and mustard and then gradually whisk in the walnut oil until it is emulsified. Set aside.
Add chopped green onion, walnuts, chickpeas, pomegranates, to cooled quinoa. Toss in greens. Add dressing, salt and pepper as needed, lemon juice and garnish w/ feta before serving. It will always taste better the next day.
Pomegranate and Onion Relish
3 large shallots or 1 red onion
2 ounces of fresh lime juice
2 ounces of pomegranate juice
1/3 of a cup of pomegranate seeds
1-2 tablespoon of one of the following spices
Peel and cut the onion in half, then slice into very thin half moons. Put the onions into a bowl with the lime juice and pomegranate juice and let them steep for half an hour.
Drain the steeped onion into a bowl, discarding the too-oniony juice, and add the pomegranate seeds.
Toss with the coriander and season with salt and put the rest in a bowl.
A wonderful condiment for meats. Spoon over grilled lamb, duck, pork, turkey, or chicken. Yum!