Seasonal Sprouts is a column dedicated to exploring new and local ingredients, testing new recipes, and highlighting the culinary side of Friedman!
By Laura Geraty
Despite our best efforts to hold onto summer, or at least to the still warm days of early fall, the pomegranate’s appearance in the supermarket signals that we’ve officially entered the holiday season. While the fruit may not meet most Friedmaner’s criteria for local – most commercial pomegranates are grown in California and Arizona – few fruits enjoy as much attention this time of year. While pomegranate season officially began back in September, they are just beginning to take center stage on supermarket shelves.
If you are like me, you’ve already been successfully seduced by the red-pink color of the pomegranate. Is there a sexier fruit? The vibrantly hued exterior hints at the dark pink seeds inside, held tightly within the fruit’s bitter white pith, and literally bursting with sweetly flavored juices. Similar to fava beans, pistachios, and many of the world’s other most delicious foods, the sassy pomegranate makes you work for its tasty rewards. But just like all things that play hard to get, once you sink your teeth into your first spoonful of fresh pomegranate seeds and experience that nearly forgotten sweet pop, you know that your work was not in vain.
Seeding a Pomegranate
For those of you who’ve given up on pomegranates because of too many ruined shirts or the fear of permanently staining your white kitchen walls, fear not. One of the easiest ways to remove pomegranate seeds from the fruit’s pith is to cut the fruit into wedges and submerge them in a large bowl of cold water. You can then work your way through each wedge, digging your fingers through the tiny, fruity canals. Like magic, the prized seeds sink to the bottom and the pith and skin float to the top.
Tips for Buying and Storing Pomegranates
The good news is that there’s little risk of choosing an under-ripe pomegranate. Unlike many other fruits, pomegranates cannot be ripened off the tree with ethylene gas, so growers must be sure the fruit is perfectly ripe before harvest. To make sure your pomegranate is not overly mature, avoid ones with obvious yellowish-brown blemishes and roughening of the rind. Also, like melons, the heavier the pomegranate, the juicier it will be.
Once you get your pomegranates home, you’ll be happy to know that they rival apples in terms of their storage capabilities. They can be kept in the fridge for up to 7 months in optimal conditions. In fact, pomegranates actually improve slightly with age, becoming juicier and more flavorful. With that kind of shelf life, why not add pomegranates to your list of winter fridge staples?
If you have enough willpower not to eat your pomegranate straight, there are endless ways to incorporate pomegranate seeds and juice into your cooking. Here are a few ideas.
Mixed greens, orange and pomegranate salad with toasted almonds
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
2 navel oranges
1 fennel bulb – halved, cored and cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices
1 head Bibb lettuce
5 ounces arugula
3 ounces crumbled goat cheese
½ cup toasted slivered almonds
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup canola oil or olive oil
1 T pomegranate molasses **
Salt and pepper to taste
- Peel and segment navel oranges into large serving bowl. In a separate bowl for the vinaigrette, squeeze membranes to extract juice.
- Add pomegranates, sliced fennel, torn Bibb lettuce, arugula, crumbled goat cheese and toasted almonds to serving bowl.
- To finish vinaigrette, add pomegranate molasses and balsamic vinegar into reserved orange juice. Slowly wisk in canola or olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss salad with dressing to coat properly and enjoy!
Easy apple and pomegranate tart
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farm) defrosted overnight
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
4 apples (such as Cortland or Pink Ladies), peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch slices
4 T white sugar
4 T brown sugar
2.5 T butter
1 T pomegranate molasses**
1 T maple syrup
1 T water
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roll out pastry sheet on a lightly floured board to approximately 10- by 12-inches and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Using a sharp knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around the pastry dough and prick inside the scored lines with the tines of a fork about 20-25 times.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of pomegranate seeds evenly on inside of scored lines.
- Layer sliced apples on top of the pomegranate seeds.
- Sprinkle the tops of the apples with 4 T white sugar, 4 T brown sugar, a dusting of cinnamon and a small pinch of salt. Dollop evenly with butter.
- Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, until pastry is golden.
- While baking, combine 1 T pomegranate molasses, 1 T maple syrup and 1 T water to make glaze.
- After tart is removed from the oven, brush evenly with glaze.
- Serve with vanilla ice cream or yogurt and sprinkle with left over pomegranate seeds.
** If pomegranate molasses is not already one of your pantry staples, it would be a great addition. Its sweet but tart flavor works well in salad dressings, as a glaze for grilled fish or meats, even as an addition to dessert recipes like cakes and cookies. It can be found in most supermarkets’ “Ethnic Foods” aisle.