The glorious pomegranate has only recently gained in popularity on our winter tables. Many are, at a minimum unsure how to peel the cute little fruit; others simply too lazy to make the effort. However, the delectable juicy ruby red seeds are well worth the effort and with the technique described below, a minimum of effort.
This glorious fruit has a long and storied past. Some believe it to be the first fruit ever cultivated – the ‘apple’ that Adam used to tempt Eve. It has been thought to have aphrodisiac properties. And eating the fruit has been said to even give you magical powers.
For many, the pomegranate is a symbol of Christmas itself. In nature, its ruby red exterior set against the backdrop of green leaves have it looking like a Mother Nature-inspired Christmas tree simply waiting for a dusting of snow to grace its boughs. The brightly colored seeds and juice add a pop of holiday color and sweetness to everything from aperitifs to main courses to desserts.
Do not let the pithy exterior keep you away from these winter gems. I have found that the easiest way to get to its seeds is simply to cut off the ‘pole’ end of the pomegranate – the little crown. Score long diagonal cuts in the skin from crown end to bottom all around the fruit. Do not cut into the fruit – just score the skin. Simply place in a large bowl of water and tear apart the flesh with your hands. The seeds should easily come out and will sink while the white pithy part will float. Skim off the pith and ta-dah – easy breezy way to peel a pomegranate. (And unlike other methods, will not leave you nor your kitchen painted a speckled red, although I would not recommend wearing that gorgeous white shirt for this adventure.)
So this holiday season, try adding some pomegranate touches to your menu – whether drizzled over fish or chicken or added to a glass of prosecco, its festive color will be sure to raise your spirits and who knows – may even give you those magical powers we all so desperately could use during the holiday season!
Buon Natale, tutti!
Pomegranate Prosecco Sparkler
1 32 ounce bottle of pomegranate juice
¼ cup sugar (you can double if you would like it sweeter)
1 bottle Prosecco
1. Add pomegranate juice and sugar to a small saucepan and simmer over medium low heat. Simmer until reduced until about 1/3. (Be careful not to simmer too long it will be come syrupy. Allow to cool.
2. For the cocktail, pour a bit of the pomegranate syrup into a champagne flute. Top with prosecco and add a few pomegranate seeds as garnish! (You can coat the rim of the glass with (red) sugar for a spiffy festive touch!)
Roasted Lemon Chicken Breasts with Pomegranate Reduction
For pomegranate reduction:
2 cups pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the chicken:
4 skin-on chicken breasts
Salt; Freshly ground black pepper
3 plus tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Make the pomegranate reduction:
-Bring the pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the mixture reduces to about 1/3 – about 30 minutes. It will slightly thicken. Remove from heat.
3. Rub olive oil over chicken breasts and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large dutch oven or ovenproof pan. Add chicken, skin side down, and saute until golden-brown – about 3 minutes -and leave it alone! (Let it sit for the entire 3 minutes so the skin gets nice and brown!) Flip and cook for 3 minutes on the other side. Transfer chicken to plate and reserve.
4. Discard any excess oil. (Do not wipe pan – leave any yummy chicken bits in pan.) Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add diced garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add in the white wine and simmer for about 1 minute.
5. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice and dried oregano. Simmer for a few minutes more to incorporate.
6. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
7. Add back in the reserved chicken to the dish.
8. Tuck the lemon wedges around the chicken.
9. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the chicken is done (160-165 degrees if using a thermometer). Remove the chicken from the oven. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes to let all those wonderful juices settle into the meat.
10. Drizzle the pomegranate reduction around the plate. Place one chicken breast in the center. Drizzle with hot pan juices along with some more pomegranate reduction. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve!
Lentil Salad with Kale and Pomegranate
2 cups green lentils
4 cups water or chicken stock (optional)
1 bay leaf
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 lemon, juiced and zested
6 leaves of Tuscan or dinosaur kale, thick stalks removed and rough chopped
1 pomegranate, seeded
Freshly ground black pepper
Shaved parmigiano (optional)
1. Rinse the lentils and place in a medium saucepan. Cover with the stock if using, or cold water. Add in the bay leaf. Add a healthy sprinkle of salt if stock is unsalted. Bring to a boil over medium heat then lower the heat and cover. Simmer until the lentils are tender but still firm, about 20 minutes. Drain. Check them after about 15 minutes to be sure you do not overcook.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the ¼ cup olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt to taste.
3. Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and soft and the carrots soften, about 5 minutes.
4. Place the vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add in the lentils and stir to incorporate. Add the dressing and lemon zest to the lentils and stir again.
5. Add in the kale and pomegranate seeds. Stir. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Top with shaved parmigiano and serve.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½ head red cabbage (about 4 cups), shredded
1 ½ cups pomegranate juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pomegranate, seeded
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shredded cabbage and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.
2. Add in the pomegranate juice and cook until reduced and thick. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Stir to incorporate.
3. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve. Great alongside simple braised pork chops.