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By Lois Manno, SuperSite Managing Editor
Asian Shrimp Salsa with Pomegranate Vinaigrette and Wonton Chips
PAMAgranate Barbecued Salmon
Lamb Fesenjan - Lamb with Pomegranate Walnut Sauce
Roast Duck Breasts with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce
Creamy Cheesecake with Pomegranate Topping
Pomegranate is the fruit of legend. The Greeks gave it a featured role in the myth of Persephone, who was compelled to spend half of every year in the underworld because of the six pomegranate seeds she ate, thus creating the seasons. An Egyptian papyrus over three thousand years old equated pomegranates to breasts, according to Adam Leith Gollner’s excellent book The Fruit Hunters. In another amazing book about plants and their relationship to human culture, The Botany of Desire, author Michael Pollan observed that it’s much more likely to have been a pomegranate Eve handed to Adam on that fateful day in the Garden of Eden.
Eating a pomegranate is a trip. It is the most beautifully designed, labor-intensive edible object I’ve ever seen. Opening a pomegranate is a somewhat daunting prospect; you don’t peel it like an apple. It requires much more force than peeling an orange or a banana, and the leathery husk doesn’t come off in long strips, but must be pried loose with great care, because in some areas it is thick, and in others it’s just a thin membrane between you and the juicy red kernels within. If you miscalculate the skin’s thickness in any spot, you risk unleashing a jet of intense red juice that will inevitably land on whichever piece of your clothing will stain most easily. Oh, but it’s worth the risk.
The globe of a pomegranate is a treasure chest filled with fruit rubies. Each of the hundreds of seeds is encased in its own translucent capsule filled with sweet, tangy (did I mention staining?) juice. The seeds are packed together in a mystifying structure that always makes me think of a geodesic dome. The fruit is divided into segments by a thin, papery golden membrane; removing the seeds with their juicy contents intact requires patience and a deft touch.
My first experience with pomegranates was as a kid growing up in southern California. It was an autumn tradition that at least one fresh pomegranate would make it home in my mom’s grocery bag. I’d spend the better part of an afternoon disassembling the fruit, then admiring, stacking, counting, and finally consuming the juicy red pearls. I didn’t realize then that everyone in the country didn’t also enjoy this pastime; in fact, Gollner noted that until 2006, only 5 percent of Americans had ever tasted a pomegranate.
That number is growing exponentially. With the advent of “boutique” bottled products like Pom Wonderful juices, pomegranate is becoming mainstream. Pomegranates contain the same antioxidants and cancer-fighting flavanoids found in blueberries and cherries. You can buy pomegranate concentrate, pomegranate capsules as a dietary supplement, even a luscious pomegranate liqueur produced by PAMA. According www.pamaliqueur.com, this spirit is a blend of “pomegranate juice, vodka, and a touch of imported tequila.” Their registered tagline modestly describes the product as “Pomegranate Perfected.” While I’m not sure I’d agree that a pomegranate in its natural glory could be made any more perfect, the liqueur is certainly incredible.
The following recipes explore pomegranate as an ingredient, one that holds its own when combined with red chile. The rich, intense flavor of pomegranate lends an exotic feel, a beautiful ruby cast, and memorable flavor to any dish. After all, Adam found it irresistible…
Asian Shrimp Salsa with Pomegranate Vinaigrette and Wonton Chips
This recipe features PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur in a vinaigrette that could be used on a variety of salads. For more recipes, visit www.pamaliqueur.com.
1/2 lb. medium shrimp, cooked and peeled
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 medium tomato, cored and chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Half a package of square wonton skins (about 20 skins)
Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together.
Put the shrimp, jalapeño, shallot, tomato, green onion, and cilantro into a wide shallow bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the wonton chips. Pour oil into a stir-fry pan to a depth of 1 ½ inches and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees F. While the oil is heating, line a plate with two layers of paper towels.
Cut the wonton skins into triangles. Working in batches, fry the skins, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden brown (about one minute per batch). Drain on paper towels.
Serve the salsa with the chips on the side.
Serves 4 to 6
Heat Scale: medium
There are many versions of this dish, which has its origins in the Middle East. Increase the cayenne amount to 1/2 teaspoon for a more fiery dish. Fresh pomegranate juice gives the sauce a rich, fruity flavor.
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup pomegranate juice (one large pomegranate)
1/4 cup currants
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Cornstarch to thicken, 2-3 teaspoons mixed with cold water
Rinse the chicken and divide it into four pieces. Flatten the breasts by covering them with plastic wrap and pounding until they are about 1/2 an inch thick.
Chop the walnuts finely and combine with the flour in a shallow dish, like a pie plate. Put the eggs into a separate dish.
Salt and pepper the chicken breasts, then dip each piece into the beaten egg. Immediately dredge in the walnut/flour mixture, pressing the coating onto the chicken.
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the onion and sauté until golden. Remove the cooked onions and set aside.
Add the chicken and brown on both sides, about 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and keep it warm. Do not wash the skillet.
Add the chicken stock and pomegranate juice to the skillet, along with the cooked onion, currants and cayenne pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, then add the mint and cornstarch. When the sauce has thickened slightly, taste and adjust the seasonings.
Pour over the chicken breasts and serve with a side of couscous and cucumber/yogurt salad.
Heat scale: mild to medium
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