Archive for Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What do I do with pomegranates

Work this nutritious fruit into your weekly menu

Ken Baker, chef and proprietor of Pachamama's, seeds a pomegranate.

Ken Baker, chef and proprietor of Pachamama's, seeds a pomegranate.

December 30, 2009


Seeding a pomegranate

Ken Baker, chef and proprietor of Pachamama's, demonstrates seeding a pomegranate. Enlarge video

How to seed a pomegranate

  1. Cover your counters with newspaper, or old towels. Also, put on an apron or an old shirt you don’t care about. Things will get messy! 2. Put a cutting board and a large bowl, half-filled with water, on top of your covered counters. 3. Using a sharp knife, cut the top off your pomegranate. 4. Cut the pomegranate into quarters. 5. Plunge a quarter pomegranate underwater in the bowl and begin to gently free the seeds from the pith with your fingers. The water will keep the juice spray at minimum and also help the pith separate from the seeds (the pith will float to the top, the seeds will sink to the bottom). Repeat. 6. Throw away the pith and water. Enjoy the seeds!
Chef Ken Baker

Chef Ken Baker

Of all the lines food guru Michael Pollan has written, one of the greatest has to be about the fruit whose blood-red seeds are as good for you as they are murderous to your countertops and clothing: the pomegranate.

“The antioxidants in the pomegranate (a fruit formerly more trouble to eat than it was worth) now protect against cancer and erectile dysfunction, apparently,” Pollan writes in his “In Defense of Food.”

If you’ve ever opened a pomegranate, you know this description is as true as it is memorable. You also probably understand what the French were getting at when they stole their word for the hand explosive from their word for the fruit (grenade).

Cut one of the shiny, round ruby-red orbs in half, and most likely you’ll get squirted in the face, horror-movie style. Inside each fruit are chambers teeming with juice-filled seeds cushioned in a white pith. Disturb the seeds too much, and one is bound to detonate early, spraying blood-red juice in every direction. Seed a whole pomegranate and anyone giving you a passing glance might worry you sliced off a finger in the process.

“You have to take care when you do it,” says Ken Baker, head chef and proprietor of Pachamama’s, who has seeded hundreds of pomegranates in his career. “At home, feel free to wear a trash bag and ... lay down plastic before you cut into it, because they will get everywhere and they do stain.”

History of the pomegranate

Despite being one of most troublesome foods to eat, the pomegranate has managed to be a superfood for thousands of years.

It is one of only seven fruits mentioned in the Old Testament, where it is treasured along with grapes, figs and olives, and mentioned as a festive decoration. The fruit also pops up often as a symbol of fertility in the legends of the regions in which it is natively grown: Africa, the Middle East, India and Malaysia.

The pomegranate was introduced to Southern Europe by the Moors in the eighth century and named the city of Granada after the fruit. Almost a thousand years later Spanish settlers brought the fruit to California and Mexico, where the fruit is still commercially grown and quite popular, says Baker.

“Christmas in Mexico, they use pomegranates quite a bit,” Baker says. “Chiles rellenos in walnut sauce with pomegranates is like, every Christmas table has it.”

Recent boom

Pomegranates and their juice became widely available in the United States a decade ago, when POM Wonderful began distributing its products nationwide after spending $32 million and counting on scientific research detailing the fruit’s benefits. According to the company’s studies, the fruit’s juice improves blood flow to the heart, slowed disease progression in post-surgery prostate cancer patients, improved function for men with erectile problems and provides more antioxidants, ounce for ounce, than other juices.

Like the acai berry of late and the blueberry of yesterday, the pomegranate has come in to fashion as a food suddenly championed as a sort of edible panacea — a food so super it might as well wear a cape. Lawrence dietitian Staci Hendrickson says that while a healthy choice, they aren’t a cure-all, no matter how many times you stain your countertops with their juice.

“I mean, they are a very, very, very nutritious food, but a lot of fruits are,” says Hendrickson, of Healthy Balance, Inc. “They are just kind of the ‘en vogue’ thing right now. A couple of years ago, it was all about blueberries — blueberries everywhere. And now it seems to be pomegranates. Blueberries and pomegranates are both very good for us.”

From Baker’s point of view, the pomegranate is great for both bodies and taste buds. He finds the flavor to be “bright,” and loves using it in seasonal dishes and drinks.

“We’ve done them in salads, we’ve done them with guacamole, which is awesome,” Baker says. “It goes really well with game birds, lamb, duck — fantastic — I’m sure chicken would be fine, I’ve never actually tried it with chicken. It really goes well with a lot of cheeses and other tropical fruits and nuts, that’s what makes it so great for salads.”

Pomegranate facts

What it is: The pomegranate, also known as the Chinese apple, granada (Spanish) or grenade (French), is a heavy, round fruit with a rosy red skin and an interior made up of small, juice-filled kernels called “arils” surrounded by white pith. It is native to the Middle East, Africa, Malaysia and India and was brought to Southern Europe by the Moors, who named the Spanish city of Granada after the fruit.
Season: August to December.
Nutrition: 1 pomegranate has 234 calories, 3 grams fat, 11 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, 48 percent of your daily vitamin C, 58 percent of your daily vitamin K, 27 percent of your folate, 19 percent of your potassium and 17 percent of your manganese, according to
How to pick them: Pick large, brightly colored and shiny fruits that are heavy for their size. They are ripe when they make a metallic sound when tapped, according to Aliza Green’s “Field Guide to Produce.”

How to store: Green suggests storing them at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks or in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Arils can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Pomegranate recipes

Quail in Pomegranate
2 shallots, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh or bottle pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
3/8 teaspoon salt
8 semi-boneless quail
1/4 unsalted butter
1/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (from 1 pomegranate)

Combine shallots, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice, 2 teaspoons tarragon and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add quail, tossing gently to coat, then marinate, covered and chilled, at least 2 hours, and up to 4 hours.

Remove quail from marinade, scraping off shallots and reserving marinade, then pat quail dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Cook 4 quail, turning over once, until browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes total (quail will be rare). Transfer cooked quail to a serving dish and keep warm, loosely covered with foil. Cook remaining 4 quail in remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the same manner, transferring to serving dish.

Add reserved marinade to skillet and cook over moderately high heat, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon, until shallots are just softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice and season with salt, then spoon over quail. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and remaining teaspoon tarragon.

To juice a pomegranate, cut in half, crosswise, then use a manual or electric juicer. Alternatively, remove seeds from pomegranate and pulse seeds in a food processor until juicy, then transfer seeds to a sieve and drain, pressing on and then discarding solids.
— Recipe by Ken Baker, head chef and proprietor of Pachamama’s,

POM Velvet cupcakes with POM cream cheese frosting


Juice from 3-4 pomegranates, or 1-1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup arils from 1-2 large pomegranates
4 ounces soft unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
14 ounces powdered sugar
juice from 6-9 large pomegranates, or 2-1/2 cups pomegranate juice
16 ounces granulated sugar
14 ounces soft unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
15 ounces all-purpose flour
1-1/2 ounces cocoa powder
3/4 ounces baking soda
Pinch salt
1/4 cup heavy cream

Frosting: Prepare fresh pomegranate juice, score 1-2 fresh pomegranates and place in a bowl of water, break open the pomegranates under water to free the arils (seed sacs), the arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top, sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside, (refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use).

Reduce the pomegranate juice, over low heat, down to 3 ounces. Allow to cool. Place butter into electric mixer bowl with paddle attachment and cream on medium-high speed for 1 minute, add the cream cheese and continue to mix for 2 more minutes. Turn the speed down to low and slowly add in the powdered sugar and the pomegranate juice reduction, mix until the sugar is fully combined, remove icing from the mixer and place into a piping bag with a round or star tip.

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Reduce the pomegranate juice, over low heat, down to 1/2 cup, place sugar and soft butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream on medium-high speed, until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy. Turn the speed down to low and add the eggs in one at a time. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, pomegranate juice reduction, white vinegar and vanilla extract. Then slowly add half of this to the mixer. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, and then sift at least two times until well mixed, add half of this to the mixer. Add the remaining half of the liquids to the mixer, and then the remaining dry ingredients. Finish off with the heavy cream, beat just until combined. Place cupcake liners into cupcake pan, and using a spoon, fill with cake batter until it is just about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the pan to cool slightly, and then remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool fully. Once the cupcakes are cooled completely, they can be iced with the pomegranate cream cheese frosting and topped with fresh pomegranate arils.
— Recipe by Ashley James for

POM, persimmon and pecan salad
1 cup arils from 1-2 large pomegranates
8 cups baby romaine lettuce
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
2 ripe persimmons, peeled and cut into thin wedges
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
Juice from 1 large pomegranate, or 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Score 1-2 fresh pomegranates and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate underwater to free the arils. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.)

Use any collected juices for the dressing or press 1/4 cup arils through a strainer to collect 2 tablespoons of juice.

In a large bowl, combine baby romaine lettuce, arils, green onion, ripe persimmons and pecans Mix all the dressing ingredients together and toss into the salad.

Serve immediately.
— Recipe from

POM guacamole

1/2 cup arils from 1 large pomegranate
2 ripe avocados, pits removed, peeled and diced
1/2 cup chopped cucumbers
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Place diced avocados in bowl.

Score one fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate underwater to free the arils. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.)

Add 1/4 cup pomegranate arils and the remaining ingredients to the diced avocados. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place guacamole in a serving bowl and sprinkle remaining pomegranate arils on top for garnish. Serve with assorted color tortilla chips.
— Recipe from


Sherry Warren 8 years, 2 months ago

I keep a fruit salad in the frig of fresh pineapple, peeled grapefruit sections, cutie clementine segments, and pom arils. I dress it with some ginger run over a microplane and lime juice. With this in the frig, I stand a better chance of eating something healthy.

EAStevens 8 years, 2 months ago

It's all in how you look at it. Instead of viewing pomegranates as a problem food because you can't just rip one open and gorge immediately without making a mess, try thinking of pomegranates as slow food -- a fruit to be eaten leisurely while savoring the experience. I grew up in Southern California with a backyard filled with pomegranate trees. My mom squeezed them for juice and made delicious tart jelly. My sisters and I looked forward to the fall harvest, when we would sit down with a pomegranate and a couple of paper towels -- and slowly, carefully dismantle and dissect the fruit to enjoy those tasty seeds.

acg 8 years, 2 months ago

They are awesome in a salad. If you use fresh spinach, chopped walnuts, pom seeds, red onions, feta cheese and a little balsamic. Mmmmmm.

Kirk Larson 8 years, 2 months ago

Pull them apart under water. The seeds sink, the chaff floats. They're delicious!

overthemoon 8 years, 2 months ago

quinoa pilaf with pomegranate, chickpeas, and onion. Seasoned with cumin and cardamom. A new classic at our holiday table. Somehow its just simply perfect.

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