Market Watch: Pomegranates
Incorporate these ruby-hued gems into your winter cooking repertoire.
With the advent of icy weather, the fruit selection at the market begins to look a little ho-hum. But then the festive, red pomegranate arrives on the scene. Encased in its shiny rind are hundreds of juicy, jewel-like seeds — called “arils” by those in the know. One of the oldest known fruits, pomegranates immigrated to California along with Spanish missionaries in the 1700s. Nowadays, the majority of the U.S. crop is grown in the dry San Joaquin valley. Though they’re available starting in late fall, it’s not until December that I finally take notice. Then, I find myself using these sweet-tart seeds to brighten up any number of wintry dishes.
How to Crack ‘Em
Tackling a pomegranate takes a bit of know-how. Of course, you can simply split the fruit in half and laboriously tease out the seeds from the bitter, white membranes. But here’s a slightly quicker method: First, slice off the crown end with a sharp knife. Then make a series of shallow, vertical slits down the raised ridges. Break the fruit into sections and bend each section backwards to pop out the seeds.
Pomegranates are an excellent source of vitamin C, providing almost half the daily recommended value in a single serving, not to mention healthy amounts of vitamin K, folate, and potassium. They are also one of nature’s best sources of polyphenols, antioxidants that are thought to prevent both heart disease and cancer.
At the market, choose shiny, deep red to purplish pomegranates that feel heavy for their size, avoiding those that are cracked or blemished. Uncut, pomegranates will last in the fridge for up to two months. You can refrigerate the seeds for about three days and freeze them up to six months.
What to Do with Pomegranates
A scattering of pomegranate seeds makes any dish look fancy in a flash. To make a salad fit for the holiday table, combine thinly sliced fennel, endives, and oranges, dress with a lemony vinaigrette, and garnish with fennel fronds and pomegranate seeds. For a quick winter cocktail, you can’t beat champagne or non-alcoholic cider topped with floating pomegranate seeds. You can even incorporate them into a gift for the hostess: Take your favorite chocolate bark recipe and add a shower of pomegranate seeds (press them in to help them adhere).
Since the pomegranate originally hails from the Middle East, the seeds are found in many recipes from the region. Try them sprinkled over roasted chicken thighs, glazed with pomegranate molasses (a concentrated form of the juice available in higher-end grocery stores). They also lend their sweetness and crunch to grain salads: Mix them with bulgur or quinoa, toasted walnuts, lots of chopped parsley, and feta cheese. To make a comforting and ultra-healthy hot beverage, simmer pomegranate seeds in water for about 15 minutes. Serve hot, with honey and a strip of orange peel.
Here are a few more seasonal ideas to inspire you: