Garnet passion. For me, it started at an early age when I stole a beauty found on the ground under a tree from a neighbor’s yard. It was cracked and revealed 2 or 3 rows of shiny raspberry seeds. Years later, I apologized to the owners for the theft. Grinning, they accepted my tearful confession, telling me I wasn’t the only kid in the neighborhood who appreciated stolen grenades.
Sweet, but tart. The juicy seeds, often labeled as “arils,” are clustered on thin yellow membranes. They sparkle like ruby-red crystal prisms. Some people avoid them. Too dirty, they say. Leave persistent stains on clothes, teeth and hands.
It never stopped me. And over time I learned to remove the seeds without creating a puddle of juice or a single splatter. I use “underwater equipment”. Or, if you prefer, buy ready-to-eat seeds in convenient refrigerated containers.
Removing seeds under water: Place a paper towel under the pomegranate and cut it into quarters. Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Hold a quarter of a pomegranate under water, seed side down. Pull the edges back, exposing the seeds. Most of the seeds will pop out. Run your fingers over the seeds stuck to the membranes. Turn it over, still holding it under water, and pick out the remaining seeds. Water prevents any splashes or drops. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and small pieces of the membrane will float to the top. Discard the skins (they are bitter) and drain the seeds. Dry with a paper towel. Store seeds (dried) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Or freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Here are recipes for delicious ways to showcase pomegranate seeds.
Bittersweet chocolate sorbet
Bittersweet chocolate sorbet is a dessert that should be in the arsenal of recipes of every cook. It is easy to prepare and irresistibly creamy. But most of all, it is extremely versatile, as it goes well with almost any fruit, especially pomegranate seeds.
If you prefer, substitute store-bought chocolate ice cream.
Yield: 6 servings
2 glasses of water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup agave syrup
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed (alkalized) cocoa powder.
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Garnish: 1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds
Additional to submit: Pound cake, sweet whipped cream, fresh mint
1. Combine water, sugar, and agave syrup in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisk until combined and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add chopped chocolate; whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. Place the cocoa in a sieve and shake to sift into a medium bowl. Beat in the chocolate-sugar mixture a little at a time. Beat in the vanilla. Cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap to the surface of the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.
3. Churn the mixture and process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a plastic bowl with a lid; cover the surface with plastic wrap. Cover the container with a lid and freeze for several hours. Refrigerate for 15 minutes before serving for easier scooping
4. Pour the sorbet into 6 dessert bowls. If desired, you can place a slice of pound cake under each serving. Top each portion with pomegranate seeds and, if desired, a dollop of whipped cream and a sprig of fresh mint.
Chicken breasts with pomegranate sauce
Chicken breasts with pomegranate sauce – a wonderful combination of flavors – a wonderful appetizer for a family dinner or guests. I like to serve it with plain couscous sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.
Output: 4 servings
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts; see cook’s notes
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup canned tomatoes, diced, with about 2 tablespoons juice
2 cups pomegranate seeds (2 large pomegranates), split use
1 cup of chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
Cook’s Notes: I prefer to leave the skin on when making boneless chicken breasts. They turn out juicier and more fragrant. If desired, remove the skin before using.
1. In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil. Shake the pan to mix the oil and olive oil to prevent burning. Add the chicken breasts, skin side down. Season with salt and pepper. Fry on both sides over medium heat for about 8 minutes.
2. Remove the chicken. Drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent and lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Return the chicken (with the skin removed) and add the tomatoes. Simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (cooking time will vary depending on the size of the chicken breasts). Remove the chicken only, place on a warm plate and cover with foil.
3. Add chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds, and 1 tablespoon parsley. Cook over high heat, uncovered, scraping up any brown bits that stick to the pan, until thickened, about 7-9 minutes. Place the sauce in a strainer over the pot and shake the strainer or press with a wooden spoon to release all the juices; discard the contents of the filter. Heat the sauce.
4. If desired, slice the chicken breasts on an angle into 1 1/2-inch slices and spread on a plate. Drizzle with sauce and garnish with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and remaining 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds. If desired, serve with couscous sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.
Pomegranate and pistachio burrata
Pomegranate grains give cheese a lot of flavor. Here they fill with super creamy burrata cheese, mozzarella cheese and cream; the outer shell is a hard cheese, while the inside contains a richer, softer, creamier filling. It has been difficult to track down over the years, but is now much easier to find in supermarkets and specialty shops. It is delicious served with a sliced French baguette, toasted country bread or crackers as an appetizer or dessert with cheese.
Output: 4 servings
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup toasted, salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, see cook’s notes
6-8 oz chilled burrata cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve: sliced baguette or half slices of toasted country bread or crackers
Cook’s Notes: Pomegranate molasses is delicious in this recipe, but if you don’t have it, substitute it with a little balsamic vinegar. Pomegranate molasses is a thick syrup made by boiling pomegranate juice to concentrate it. Some supermarkets sell it, often including Whole Foods Markets., as well as many online sources.
1. Place pomegranate seeds, pistachios, oil and molasses in a medium bowl; mix gently to combine.
2. Cut the burrata into large pieces and place on a serving plate. Spoon the pomegranate mixture over the top, adding it so that a little gets on top of the burrata and spills a little over the sides. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with a sliced baguette or halves of toasted rustic bread or crackers.
Source: Adapted from The Mediterranean by Susie Theodore (Kyle Books, $27.99)
Ah, Cosmos with distinction. Cookbook author Ina Garten recommends using Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice in her adapted Cosmopolitan recipe. I agree. Fresh juice is kept in a refrigerated case next to the produce section at my local supermarket (not in the canned juice section). So what kind of vodka does she consider good? Her choice is either Capital or Finland.
Output: 6 servings
2 cups (16 oz) good vodka
1 cup (8 oz) orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
1 cup (8 oz) pomegranate juice, such as Pom Wonderful
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (3 limes)
Garnish: strips of lime zest or thin slices of lime
1. Freeze martini glasses.
2. Combine the vodka, orange liqueur, pomegranate juice and lime juice in a pitcher and refrigerate until ready to use. Pour chilled mixture into frozen martini glasses. Garnish with a wedge of lime zest or thin slices of lime and serve immediately.
Source: Ina Garten, Food Network