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Get Pomerized!

Posted: December 14, 2010 10:04 p.m.
Updated: December 15, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Pomegranate chive goat cheese log.

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It was my hope to be your Pomegranate Queen this month. I can still imagine a crown dotted with crimson teardrop jewels and a scepter topped with a crystal pomegranate ball. But alas, I didn’t win the POM Wonderful Pomegranate Dinner Party Contest.

However, I am now a wealth of information on this nutritious fruit and filled with party ideas and recipes. I have a collection of pomegranate-themed photo collages and even a video you can see on YouTube entitled “How to Open a Pomegranate the Merry Way.”

Let me back up a little. I discovered POM Wonderful was sponsoring a dinner party contest. They generously offered two free cases of pomegranates to selected party hosts. I sent in my party plan and was selected along with 99 other hosts.

Forty-eight huge, bright-red glorious pomegranates quickly arrived along with 16 gift bags, wristbands, coupons, cutting board, and an apron, I was set, and my pomegranate-themed dinner party was in motion.

Themed parties can be a blessing or a curse. Keeping within a theme sometimes helps me to focus and narrow my choices. Not this time. I went POM crazy! I loved every moment of “epomerizing” the activities, decorations, table setting, and food. I even had aprons embroidered “Cheers” for the men and “POM Wonderful” for the women.

I taught my guests how to open a pomegranate and handed out pomegranate molasses samples as I demonstrated how to make it. At the make-it-yourself pomegranate bar, recipes were posted on how to make a pomegranate martini, margarita, mojito or Italian soda. There was even a make-it-yourself pomegranate bruschetta bar with instructions included.

The activities included: ring around the POM tea bottles, a pomegranate trivia contest and a race to see who could select the right product and remove a pomegranate stain. Very fun and informative! Immersed in my pom-crazy theme, my 17 guests and I had an extraordinary time of exploring, learning, viewing, drinking and eating pomegranates.

For example, pomegranates can be purchased from November to January. When you select a pomegranate, check for the weight, not the rind color. With hundreds of varieties, the rind color can be deep red, crimson, yellow-orange, white, green, deep reddish-purple and even almost black. Pomegranates don’t continue to ripen once picked.

California is one of the largest producers of pomegranates with POM Wonderful in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California leading with 18,000 acres. Wonderful is a variety of a pomegranate, and POM Wonderful supplies 55 countries with pomegranates.

Pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than green tea and is more beneficial to your health than a glass of red wine. The word “pomegranate” is Latin and means “apple of many seeds.” The seeds are actually called “arils.”

Up until my dinner party, cooking with arils has always been more of an interest than a reality for me. I generally receive a large bag of pomegranates every year from a friend. I would proceed to decorate with the beautiful scarlet balls with ease.

When it came to making one of the many recipes I had collected, I felt challenged just by the thought of opening the juice bomb. No more.

I’ve conquered how to open a pomegranate. I hope you watch my video because it really is easy and not messy! Here is the short version on how to open a pomegranate:

1. Cut 1 inch off the crown (the top).

2. Identify four to six white membrane sections inside. Score deeply (do not cut completely) on the rind the membrane sections.

3. Crack the pomegranate open.

4. Immerse the sections in a bowl of water and gently remove the arils. The white membranes will float, and the arils will sink.

5. Strain the membranes from the top.

6. Pour the arils through colander. Shake the arils in the colander and remaining membranes will rise to the top.

7. Pour arils into a covered bowl for storage. Arils will stay fresh in the refrigerator for two weeks.

In my pomegranate culinary adventure, I learned how to make pomegranate molasses. This one feat is a reason to thank POM Wonderful for hosting the party, even though I didn’t win. I’ve been hunting in stores and online for pomegranate molasses for two years. I didn’t realize that with three ingredients and a little time I could make my own.

Pomegranate molasses robust flavoring can be used to deepen flavor in a glaze, rice pilaf, pesto and sauces. I now use it as a base in vinaigrette and squeeze it onto roasted vegetables. It is versatile, too, whether you want to drizzle on ice cream or thin with water to make pomegranate syrup for drinks or pancakes.

Pomegranate molasses
4 cups pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons citrus of choice (lime, orange, lemon, or tangerine)
2/3 cups sugar

Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring liquid just to a boil, and drop heat to medium-low or low stirring occasionally. Cook for 60 to 90 minutes to reduce and thicken.

Check for desired thickness by pouring a spoonful onto a cold plate.

While hot in the saucepan, the reduction sauce will look thin, but it will thicken on a cold plate when done.

Another indicator that the molasses is done reducing is it gets frothy. 

Here is one of the appetizer recipes I served using a pomegranate molasses dip. This was a hit because the arils pop in your mouth against the creamy Parmesan rice filling and contrast nicely with the toasty Panko crumb exterior.

Fontina arborio balls with pomegranate orange sauce and arils
Makes about 50

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 pound Arborio rice (2 1/3 cups)
1 cup dry Chardonnay
6 cups water, plus more if needed
3 small sprigs rosemary
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh minced basil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt (add more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 cup diced Fontina cheese    or Havarti (4 ounces)
1 cup pomegranate arils
4 cups Panko bread crumbs
4 large eggs, beaten with 1   tablespoon water
Safflower oil or grapeseed oil, for frying

Heat grapeseed oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Add onion, and cook until soft and translucent, about seven minutes.

Add rice, and toast, stirring often, for two minutes.

Remove from heat.

Add wine. Heat over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until wine has reduced by half, about three minutes.

Add two cups water and the rosemary.

Cook, stirring constantly and adding two cups water at a time, plus more if needed, waiting for each addition to be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is al dente, about 20 minutes more.

Discard rosemary sprigs.

Add Parmesan, butter, basil, lemon zest and season with salt and lemon pepper. (Mixture will loosely hold its shape.)

Transfer to a baking sheet, and refrigerate until cooled, about two hours or overnight.

Transfer rice to a bowl, and stir in Fontina and arils. Form into 1-tablespoon balls and transfer to a clean baking sheet.

Place breadcrumbs on a plate, and roll each ball in crumbs to coat, then in egg mixture, then again in crumbs, returning to baking sheet as you work.

Heat 3 inches safflower oil in a large high-walled frying skillet until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 350 degrees.

Working in batches, carefully drop rice balls into oil, and fry until golden, about 2 1/2 minutes.

Transfer to paper towel-lined plates to drain.

Sprinkle with salt. May be made ahead and reheated in a 400 degree oven.

To make dip: Mix 2/3 cup pomegranate molasses with 1-tablespoon orange zest and thin with orange Muscat vinegar or orange juice.

If you need quick appetizer recipes, then make my pomegranate cheese log or add arils to your favorite guacamole or pesto for holiday flair.
 
Pomegranate chive goat cheese log

Mix 1/2 cup chopped fresh chives with one cup pomegranate arils.

Roll an 8-ounce goat cheese log in the arils and chives.

Serve with crackers.

(Hello, this is the easiest recipe I’ve ever developed or made).

Here’s another favorite recipe from my pomegranate party.

Persimmon, jicama and arils salad on butter lettuce with pomegranate shallot vinaigrette

The preparation is simple: cut up persimmon, julienne jicama or Asian pear and add to butter lettuce. Sprinkle with arils and pour on vinaigrette.

To make my pomegranate shallot vinaigrette: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, reduce two cups of POM pomegranate juice to 1/2 cup. Meanwhile, sauté three minced shallots in one-tablespoon olive oil until cooked. Add cooked shallots to reduced pomegranate juice, along with two tablespoon chopped fresh chives, and two tablespoon pomegranate molasses.

Add one cup grapeseed or olive oil, plus ¼ cup (or to taste) orange Muscat vinegar. Add honey, salt, and black pepper to taste.

To end our party in a sweet way, I served this scrumptious and gorgeous pavlova.

Pomegranate cranberry pavlova
Serves eight

4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
1/2 cup bakers or super fine sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, divided
1 bag (12 ounces) or 3.5 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
1 cup arils
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trace a 10-inch circle onto parchment using a bowl as the template; place on cookie sheet. (Don’t cut the circle out).

Beat egg whites, cornstarch, salt, and vinegar with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Gradually add bakers sugar. Raise speed to medium-high, and beat until stiff peaks form, about seven minutes.

Reduce speed to medium, and gradually add 1/2–cup sugar. Raise speed to medium-high, and beat until very stiff, glossy peaks form, about seven minutes. Beat in vanilla.

Spread meringue on the 10-inch parchment circle and form a well in the center. Bake until outside is firm and bottom lifts easily off about two hours.

After cooling, carefully remove the parchment. Pavlova can be made a day ahead. Wrap loosely in foil and store on the counter.

Topping can be made a day ahead. Combine cranberries, granulated sugar, and pomegranate juice, and vanilla bean in a saucepan.

Bring to a gentle simmer, and cook until cranberries are soft, about seven minutes. Stir in arils. Let cool.

Remove vanilla bean before serving.

Make whipped topping right before serving. Whisk cream, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 cup powdered sugar until soft peaks form.

Spread in the center of meringue. Spoon the pomegranate cranberry topping over cream and serve.

If I haven’t pomerized you enough, then please check out my photo collages of pomegranate decorations: http://animoto.com/play/ 1FZnWWaUmDLf72UgzXRAKg; pomegranate party food:  http://animoto.com/play/Awr4V8OIhcI41L0ykT7YKA or “How to Open a Pomegranate the Merry Way” http://www.youtube.com/MerryCooking.

Merry Graham is a Newhall resident, fantastic home cook and winner of numerous recipe contests.

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