Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: Pomegranates show up in all manner of legends and lore -- they should start showing up on your plate, too.
It’s hard to find a fancier fruit than the pomegranate. It’s robed in a ruby-red jewel-toned exterior, and even comes wearing a crown (1, below). The royal connection isn’t just looks, though -- pomegranates have been connected with royalty throughout history from King Tutankhamun to King Henry IV of France. Pomegranates arguably come with a royal attitude, too; if you don’t treat them right, you’ll end up with ruby-red stained hands (or walls).
More: Here's how to avoid that -- eat pomegranates the un-messy way.
While the pomegranates you’re most likely to come across at the store will have a bright red exterior and red arils, both the peel and the arils can come in other colors. Look for pomegranates that are firm and heavy for their size, without cracks or soft spots; they can be kept at room temperature, but if you're looking for longer storage, refrigerate them.
When it comes time to remove the arils (2) you have options. There is the underwater method -- removing arils in a bowl of water offers minimized risk of red juice splattering across your kitchen. There is the piñata method -- cut it in half, hold it upside-down over a bowl, and whack the heck out of it with wooden spoon (this gets bonus points, of course, for also being the stress-relieving method).
Then there’s the perfectionist method. If you like things just-so, have time to be a bit fussy, and don’t want to risk loosing a single aril, this is for you. Cut a cone shaped hole at the flower or crown end (1, above) of the pomegranate, slice off a tiny bit of the bottom of the fruit, gently score the fruit along the ridges, then gently break apart the fruit. All of these options sound like too much work? Take your whole pomegranate, roll it around on the countertop to crush the arils, then cut a tiny hole and suck out the juice (straw optional).
Now for the fun part. You've procured your pile of arils (3) -- here's what to do with them:
Get your day off to an extra-special start with yogurt pancakes sprinkled with pomegranate arils, or french toast smothered in pomegrante syrup. Prefer a lighter meal? Yogurt with toasted buckwheat, mint, berry, and pomegranate is for you. Or take your breakfast to go with a triple pomegranate smoothie.
Any salad topped with ruby-red arils makes for a not sad desk lunch. Try them on a pink grapefruit and mâche salad, a salty-sweet apple and fennel salad, an arugula, pear, and goat cheese version, or a hearty kale salad. Think you'll need something even heartier? Pair your pomegrante arils with black lentils and caramelized onions, a winter panzanella, or farro with roasted sweet potato and kale.
Drinks and Hors d'Oeuvres
Kick off your evening with a ginger, pomegranate, and basil gimlet, a grown-up pomegranate punch, or a refreshing pomegranate lemonade. Set a festive spread with a winter fruit salsa, gruyere ham toasts with pomegranate balsamic drizzle, and baba ghanoush smothered in pomegranates. Try pomegranate raita and balilah with preserved lemons and pomegranates -- your guests will thank you.
If you want to go all out, it's hard to beat this show-shopping pomegrante roast lamb. Holiday shopping taken its toll on your wallet? Go for a budget-friendly buckwheat polenta with walnuts, pomegrante, and mascarpone. Your vegetables want to be paired with pomegrante too: roasted Brussels sprouts, grilled eggplant, or roasted delicata squash.
Grab a spoon and dig into a pomegranate gelée, rum pudding, a pomegrante and blueberry rice pudding, or pomegranate cava sorbet. If you want something more substantial, try persimmons and pomegranate on puff pastry or an eggnog cheesecake with a pomegranate glaze. And no one will be able to resist a piece of white chocolate bark with pomegranate and toasted quinoa.
Let us know your favorite ways to use pomegranates in the comments!
Photos by James Ransom