Monday, October 6, 2008

Nutty Pomegranate Salad

Nutty Pomegranate Salad

I have been reintroduced to the pomegranate. The last time I touched a pomegranate was years ago, when I was a child. All I can remember is thinking that it was a lot of work and huge mess just for some tiny seeds. Now, here I am immersed in them, wondering just what I've been missing. These fruits intrigue me. Their bright red color catches my eye, and the shiny sparkling insides make me instantly want one, without even remembering why (just how did those seeds taste?). The trees are beautiful - decorated with plump red fruits hanging from the green branches.

These fruits are surrounded by traditions, custom, and myths. They have been known as the tree of paradise, and also known as the fruit of the underworld. In the ancient world they symbolized both death and birth - being that the fruit itself bled. You will find the pomegranate a present symbol in a variety of religions - from Christianity to Judaism to Greek Mythology. In the Jewish tradition the pomegranate is a symbol for righteousness, because it is said to have 613 seeds - which represent the 613 commandments in the Torah. In many Christian religious paintings you will find the Virgin Mary or infant Jesus holding the fruit. The pomegranate, bursting open, symbolizing the suffering and resurrection of Jesus. Also the pomegranate seeds are often used in memorial dishes, as a symbol of the sweetness of heaven. In the Islamic Qur'an, pomegranates grow in the gardens of paradise, and it is tradition when eating a pomegranate, to eat every seed as one can't be sure which aril came from paradise. In the Greek myth of Persephone, there is an entire story around 4 pomegranate seeds which resulted in the the 4 seasons of a year.

From tree to aril (click on filmstrip or slideshow to view photos):

Not only is it an interesting fruit historically, but it is also said to have numerous health benefits. There have been research reports stating that pomegranates can: keep bad LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, help keep blood platelets from clumping together to form unwanted clots, and improve the amount of oxygen getting to the heart muscle of patients with coronary heart disease. Furthermore it is thought that pomegranate juice might slow prostate cancer growth and help reduce the risk of breast cancer. And the list continues - from potential benefits to arthritis patients to calming diarrhea ... indeed it seems to be quite the fruit!

And what of the taste? The fruit is sweet and tart at the same time. The outside is hard and tough, but the inside glistens and shines. It is a very unique, and in my opinion, somewhat exotic fruit. And currently they are in full bloom in Turkey. They are impossible to miss and seem to beckon to be eaten! This last Saturday I finally gave in to my temptations and found myself standing in my galley wondering, just what am I going to make?

First things first. You've got to get inside the pomegranate. The one clear memory of pomegranates that I have is red-staining juice; everywhere. The first thing I did when I brought home the pomegranates was to cut one open and spoon out a few arils from the inside. Instantly juice sprayed. Ahhh, I thought, this is going to be a nightmare! That's where Google comes in; you can find anything on the internet. And sure enough I found a must know tip for getting out the seeds (arils):

Pomegranate (open)

Tip: Fill a large bowl with water and open the pomegranate underneath the water, using your fingers to release the arils from the membrane inside. The outer flesh & membrane will float to the top and the arils will sink. You may need to score the pomegranate first to help with the opening. This works like a charm and in minutes I had seeded six pomegranates - without a single speck of juice flying!

And what to make? The possibilities are endless; from appetizers to entrees to desserts - in the next weeks I'll be sure to post additional recipes, but for now I'd thought I'd start with something quite simple; a salad. The pomegranate arils really add a flavor burst and bring alive a salad.

Delicious, Nutty Pomegranate Salad:
I find that with salads it is best to go with your own tastes for quantities.

Mixed Greens (I used a combination of romaine lettuce, spinach, and rocket (a somewhat peppery lettuce similar to arugula). Check out this site for some ideas on various greens.
Feta Cheese
Toasted almonds, roughly chopped
Pomegranate arils
Red onion, thinly sliced
Salt & Pepper

Remove any tough stems from greens, wash, and tear into pieces into a bowl. Add red onion and toss with just enough chosen dressing (see below for suggestions) to coat the leaves. Sprinkle with almonds, pomegranate arils and feta. S&P to taste.

For the dressing I recommend trying a poppy seed dressing, pomegranate dressing, or simple lemon based dressing as given below.

2 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey (more or less to taste - depending on if you want a sweet dressing or not).

Whisk together ingredients.


Nutty Pomegranate Salad (2)


Welcome to My Galley, where you'll find an array of recipes and food bits. Having traveled to 23 countries in the last five years I lean towards Intl cuisines, but you'll find a few home-town favorites as well.
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