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Pomegranate Power

With a gorgeous leathery skin that ranges in hue from soft pink to ruby red, the pomegranate would make a lovely ornament for your holiday table. And yet the jewel-like treasures within this fruit are what really make it special.

Each pomegranate contains hundreds of crunchy seeds surrounded by sweet, tart, red juice. To botanists, the seed-and-juice combo is known as an aril, but most people refer to it simply as a seed. Fresh, dried, or juiced, pomegranate seeds can add bright flavor and a hearty antioxidant kick to a variety of dishes.

Pomegranates have a reputation for being difficult to open, but a few simple tricks make getting into this fruit and removing its ruby-red seeds relatively easy. And because pomegranates deliver a nutritious boost for your heart, mind, joints, bones, and overall health, the effort is well worth it.

Quick and Easy

  1. Stir pomegranate seeds into your favorite salsa for added fruity pizzazz.
  2. Jazz up your salads with a garnish of pomegranate seeds.
  3. Top avocado or peanut butter toast with pomegranate seeds.
  4. Blend 1/2 cup pomegranate juice into your morning smoothie.
  5. Toss some pomegranate seeds and toasted pecans into your breakfast bowl.
  6. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over plain yogurt, along with chopped nuts and a drizzle of honey.

How to Open a Pomegranate

You might expect that opening a pomegranate is a time-consuming task. But with this technique, you can release all of those tart, jewel-like treasures in just a few minutes.

  1. Put on an apron — pomegranate juice can stain!
  2. With a sharp knife, score the skin of the pomegranate around its circumference, taking care not to cut too deeply — about a quarter of an inch should be deep enough.
  3. Pry the pomegranate apart, using your thumbs to separate the halves from each other. This will reveal the juice-encased seeds embedded in the inner membrane of the pomegranate.
  4. With both hands, squeeze and pull at the edges of each pomegranate half to begin to break the membrane and loosen the seeds.
  5. Place one pomegranate half seed-side down in the palm of one hand, holding your hand over a bowl.
  6. With wooden spatula held in your other hand, firmly tap around the entire outside of the pomegranate half. The seeds will release through your fingers into the bowl below.
  7. Repeat steps 4 through 6 with the other pomegranate half.
  8. To clean up, use vinegar or lemon juice to get rid of any pink stains on your cutting board or counter.

Pomegranate Recipes

Spinach Salad With Grapefruit, Avocado, and Pomegranate

This beautiful winter salad combines tart pomegranate with tangy citrus, rich avocado, and deep-dark leafy greens. Substitute arugula, endive, or baby kale greens for the spinach if you like. For a little extra crunch, sprinkle with a handful of toasted walnuts or pecans. 

Spinach Salad

Makes four to six servings
Prep time: 15 minutes

For the Salad

  • 6 cups spinach, washed and trimmed
  • 2 large red grapefruit, peeled, cut into slices, then quartered
  • 2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and cubed
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds

For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup grapefruit juice
  • 2 tbs. pomegranate juice
  • 2 tbs. red-wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Arrange the spinach leaves in a large, shallow bowl and top with the grapefruit, avocado, and pomegranate seeds.
  2. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth.
  3. Drizzle enough dressing over the salad to lightly coat the ingredients; toss and serve.

Pork Chops With Pear-and-Pomegranate Sauce

You can cook up this aromatic main dish in a single skillet. Garnish with fresh rosemary or sage leaves if you like. 

Pork-Chops

Makes four servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp. high-heat cooking oil, such as sunflower or safflower, or pasture-fed lard
  • 1 tbs. minced shallot
  • 1 tbs. minced gingerroot
  • 2 pears (Bosc, Anjou, or Bartlett), cored and sliced into eighths
  • 4 tbs. pomegranate juice
  • 2 tbs. port (or you can substitute an additional 2 tbs. pomegranate juice)
  • 4 tbs. chilled unsalted butter
  • 1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. (You will allow the seared pork chops to rest here while you prepare the pan sauce later.) Preheat a large skillet with a heavy bottom (a cast-iron pan works well) over medium heat. Add oil to pan.
  2. Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper and add to the heated skillet, searing for two to three minutes on each side. When the chops’ interior temperature reads 145 degrees F, remove them from the pan and transfer to a baking sheet. Place in oven to rest while you make the pan sauce.
  3. To prepare the pan sauce, first add the minced shallot to the heated pan and cook for about a minute until it begins to turn golden brown. Then add the ginger and pear slices, and sauté until they are just tender. Add the pomegranate juice and port; simmer and reduce the liquid to half. Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in the chilled butter, one tablespoon at a time until the sauce has thickened a bit. Stir in the pomegranate seeds.
  4. Place a pork chop on each plate and divide the pear-and-pomegranate sauce over each chop to serve.

Sweet-Potato Mash With Pomegranate and Maple-Balsamic Drizzle

Pomegranates transform humble, roasted sweet potatoes into a dish perfect for entertaining.  

Sweet Potato Mash

Makes six to eight servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbs. freshly grated gingerroot
  • 1 tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes to one hour. When tender, remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the skin with tongs.
  2. Place the peeled sweet potatoes in a large bowl and mix in the butter with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the ginger.
  3. Mix maple syrup and balsamic vinegar together in a small bowl. Scatter pomegranate seeds on top of the sweet-potato mash and drizzle with maple-balsamic sauce. Serve warm.

Pomegranate Granita

This elegant frozen dessert — with a flavor reminiscent of mulled wine — includes spices that help support your immune system during cold-and-flu season.

Granita

Makes eight to 10 servings
Hands-on preparation time: 10 minutes
Total preparation time (including freezing time): eight hours or overnight

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 whole cloves
  • Zest of one organic orange (to create, cut long, thin strips of orange peel with a vegetable peeler, avoiding the pith)
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds, for serving

Directions

  1. Pour 1 cup of pomegranate juice into a small saucepan over low heat and add the honey, cinnamon stick, cloves, and orange zest; bring to a simmer. Stir to make sure the honey is dissolved and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Steep at room temperature for one hour.
  2. Strain the infusion into a 1-quart baking dish and add the remaining pomegranate juice and the grated ginger. Stir.
  3. Place the dish into the freezer, stirring every couple of hours to ensure even freezing. When the mixture is uniformly crystallized, cover and store in the freezer until you are ready to serve.
  4. Garnish each serving dish with fresh pomegranate seeds.|

Pomegranate Gremolata

A gremolata is a condiment made from chopped aromatic herbs and citrus zest. This variation is a particularly pretty one, and tastes great served with roast lamb, other roasted or grilled meats, or fish. Lemon zest is used traditionally, but you can change it up by trying lime, grapefruit, or orange zest.

Gremolata

Makes about 3/4 cup
Hands-on preparation time: 10 minutes
Total preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tbs. lemon zest
  • 1 tbs. shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions

  1. Place the parsley, mint, lemon zest, and shallots on a cutting board and gather into a pile. Chop everything in the pile together to mix the flavors, then toss into a bowl. Mix in the pomegranate seeds.
  2. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Best used within five days of preparation.

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Food photography by: Terry Brennan; Food styling by: Betsy Nelson

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