POMEGRANATE POWER

A delicious fruit historically associated with love and sensuality? Sounds like a perfect package to me! In fact, pomegranates appear to be good for more than your sex life. Research over the past decade suggests that pomegranate juice contains 2-3 times the antioxidant load of red wine or green tea, elevating the pomegranate to superhero status in fighting cardiovascular disease. Studies show that regular consumption of pomegranate juice (unsweetened, 6 ounces daily) may help to:

-decrease thickening of the arteries

-slow oxidation of cholesterol

-increase blood flow

-increase levels of nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels

-act as a natural ACE inhibitor which helps to decrease blood pressure

Pomegranates are used extensively in Middle Eastern cuisine. Once found only in ethnic groceries, these scrumptious bundles, along with both pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses, are now readily available in most natural food stores and general groceries.

Fall is season for fresh pomegranates. When selecting whole fruit, look for heavy fruit, free of blemishes. Pomegranates don’t sweeten once picked, so dense fruit will generally yield the most tangy sweet juice. Try de-seeding the pomegranate by breaking it up into a big bowl of water. The membrane will float to the top, making it easier to get at the seeds. Throw on a pair of latex gloves and you’ll avoid staining your fingers ruby red! Love pomegranates but hate all the work involved in getting at all of those magnificent seeds? Many specialty stores sell containers of fresh pomegranate seeds and frozen pomegranate seeds are available in most natural food markets. So stock up…and let’s get cooking!

MUHAMMARA (adapted from www.101cookbooks.com )

Muhamarra is a delicious Middle Eastern spread. Serve it as an appetizer as you would serve hummus or baba ghanoush or use it as a glaze for meats, chickens, or kabobs.

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, or 1 small red chile

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¾ cup toasted walnuts

¼ cup whole grain bread crumbs

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

¼ cup tomato paste

2-3 roasted red bell peppers

½- 1 cup warm water

½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Using hand blender or conventional blender, puree the pepper flakes, cumin, walnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, and red peppers to a smooth, even consistency. Mix in the warm water in increments to achieve an easily spreadable consistency. Stir in salt and adjust seasoning as needed.

ARUGULA SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE AND TOASTED PECANS (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

Experiment with some high quality red wine and balsamic vinegars…as with high quality olive oils, fine vinegars can add incredible depth to a dish, especially for salads.

1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons aged balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium bunches arugula, well rinsed and stems removed

1/3 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

½ cup pomegranate seeds (about 1 medium pomegranate)

In medium nonreactive bowl, whisk together vinegars, salt, and pepper. Gradually drizzle in olive oil and whisk until emulsified (that’s a fancy term for thickened and completely blended!). Toss arugula with just enough vinaigrette to coat. Sprinkle with pecans and pomegranate seeds to serve. Makes 6-8 servings.

DANDELION SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS, PINE NUTS, AND ROASTED DELICATA SQUASH (adapted form www.epicurious.com )

6 tablespoons pomegranate juice

1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon butter, divided

2 unpeeled medium delicate squash or 1 medium acorn squash, halved, seeded, and cut into 24 wedges

1 pound dandelion greens (or other greens of your choice)

1 ½ cups pomegranate seeds

¼ cup pine nuts, toasted

Whisk pomegranate juice and vinegars in bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Rewhisk before dressing the salad.

Melt 2 teaspoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 of squash wedges. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer wedges to rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining butter and squash wedged. Sprinkle squash with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Transfer squash to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Mix greens, pomegranate seeds, and pine nuts in large bowl. Toss with half of the dressing. Divide among 8 plates, top with squash, and drizzle with dressing to serve.

CUMIN-SCENTED EGGPLANT WITH POMEGRANATE AND CILANTRO (adapted from bon appétit, November, 2008)

5 cups water

2 ½ tablespoons sea salt

2 pounds eggplant, cut crosswise into ½ inch thick slices

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

Pomegranate molasses for drizzling

2/3 cup pomegranate seeds

¼ cup cilantro (or less to taste)

Stir 5 cups of water and 2 ½ teaspoons salt in large bowl until salt dissolves. Add eggplant slices. Place plate on eggplant slices to make sure it is submerged. Let eggplant soak for 1 hour. Drain and pat dry. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sauté eggplant until brown in spots and softened, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Mix cumin and cayenne and sprinkle over eggplant slices. Roast eggplant until golden and cooked through, about 30 minutes. (Love eggplant but hate the sautéing process? Try laying the raw eggplant in a single layer on your rimmed baking sheet, topping each slice with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and then roasting the eggplant until soft and golden) Remove eggplant from oven and sprinkle with minced garlic. Arrange on platter and drizzle lightly with pomegranate molasses. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and cilantro over the slices and serve warm or at room temperature. Make 4 servings.

BULGUR AND BLACK-EYED PEA SALAD WITH TOMATOES, ONIONS, AND POMEGRANATE DRESSING (adapted from www.epicurious.com )

¼ cup pomegranate molasses

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 ½ cups chopped onion

2 cups small grain bulgur

2 cups warm water

3 red jalapeno chiles or other red chile, thinly sliced into rounds

1 cup canned black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 cup chopped fresh basil

3 large green onions, chopped

2 cups plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Combine pomegranate molasses and oil in small bowl. Using garlic press, press garlic into mixture and whisk to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes (Have trouble softening onions without having them burn? Try “sweating” the onions first by cooking covered at medium heat for a minute of so. Then remove the lid, adjust the heat and continue to cook until translucent) Add bulgur and stir for 1 minute. Add 2 cups warm water, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in jalapenos, then black-eyed peas, basil, and green onion. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Mix in dressing then season with salt and pepper to taste. Salad can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature until ready to serve. Just before serving, add tomatoes and nuts and mix into the salad.Makes 6-8 servings.

MATCHSTICK PASTA ( adapted from www.101cookbooks.com )

8 ounces whole grain linguine or spaghetti

2/3 cup pistachios, toasted

1 medium garlic clove, smash and chopped

¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large bunch kale, washed, de-stemmed, and chopped into bite-sized pieces

Seeds of 1 pomegranate

Bring large pot of water to boil. While water is heating, break the pasta into 1 ½ inch long segments. Set aside. Prepare pistachio sauce by pureeing 1/3 cup of the pistachios, garlic, salt, and olive oil in a food processor. Set pistachio sauce aside. Once water is boiling, cook the pasta per package instructions until al dente. At the very last second, add the kale to the pot of boiling water, then IMMEDIATELY drain the pot into a colander. Run cold water over the pasta and kale, using your hand to work the cold water evenly through all of the kale and pasta. Toss gently with a teaspoon of the pistachio sauce then spin the pasta and kale dry in a salad spinner to remove excess water. Just before serving, toss the pasta with a big spoonful of the pistachio sauce and ½ of the pomegranate seeds. Add salt if desired. Turn the pasta mixture out onto a platter and sprinkle with the remaining pomegranate seed and pistachios. Drizzle with extra pistachio sauce if desired. Serves 4.

HALIBUT (OR SALMON!) WITH POMEGRANATE AND ORANGE SALSA (adapted from www.laylita.com )

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoons ground fennel

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1 cup pomegranate seeds

3 oranges, peeled, segmented, skin, pith and membranes removed plus any remaining juice

Juice from 1 lime

½ onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons finely chipped cilantro

2 serrano peppers, seeded, and membranes removed, finely diced (substitute jalpeno for a milder flavor)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix crushed garlic, cayenne, fennel, lime juice, white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper together for marinade. Let fish marinade 1-2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare pomegranate salsa: combine pomegranate seeds, orange segments, extra orange juice, lime juice, diced onion, cilantro, chiles, cumin seeds, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix ingredients well and let rest refrigerated until ready to use. Heat the butter or oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the salmon fillets and cook until browned on each side and cooked, about 3-5 minutes per side depending on fillet thickness. Serve immediately topped with pomegranate salsa.

POMEGRANATE GLAZED SALMON (adapted from www.food.com )

½ cup pomegranate juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1-2 teaspoons soy sauce

Zest of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon butter

2 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons olive oil

Marinate the fish in 2 teaspoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let sit for 20 minutes while you prepare glaze. Combine pomegranate juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce in small non-reactive saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to ¼ cup. While glaze is reducing, sear fish 2-3 minutes per side until browned and cooked to desired temperature. When fish is done, stir 1 tablespoons butter into the reduced glaze. Drizzle over fish and serve immediately.

POMEGRANATE CHICKEN (adapted from www.homecooking.about.com )

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 (3 ½ to 4 pound) chicken, quartered

1 cup pomegranate juice

1 tablespoon pomegranate seeds

¼ cup dry white wine

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix oil and garlic and brush over chicken. Place chicken in shallow baking dish. Drizzle any remaining oil over chicken. Bake chicken for 45 minutes, basting several times with pan juices. Skin should be browned and juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a fork. In a small nonreactive saucepan, mix pomegranate juice, wine, lemon juice, and cinnamon sugar. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook 5 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer roasted chicken to a serving platter and pierce each piece several times with a fork. Pour sauce over chicken. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

LEG OF LAMB WITH POMEGRANATE (adapted from www.pomegranateworld.com )

1 (2-3 pound) semi boneless leg of lamb

3 cups pomegranate juice

¼ cup Dijon mustard

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced or ½ tablespoon dried rosemary

Combine juice, mustard, garlic, and rosemary in a large bowl, dish, or plastic bag. Place lamb in mixture and cover tightly. Marinate in refrigerator for 2 days. After lamb has marinated, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place lamb in roasting pan, reserving marinade. Cook lamb 1 to 1 ½ hours, depending on desired doneness. While lamb is cooking, strain

reserved marinade through a mesh sieve or coffee filter. Simmer liquid in a saucepan over low heat for 1 hour, or until reduced to a thick glaze. Serve glaze over lamb.

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