The pomegranate may be super-trendy, but it has long had a place at the Rosh Hashana table.
Its 613 seeds match the number of mitzvahs, or good deeds, that Jewish people as a society are expected to perform, according to the Jewish Outreach Institute's Web site. The pomegranate also is a symbol of fertility and possibility for the Jewish New Year, which begins at sundown Friday. Sometimes the pomegranate serves as the "new fruit" traditionally eaten on the second day of the holiday.
Chef Diane Bukatman, owner of For the Love of Food in Reisterstown, often coats pomegranate seeds in a boiled-down honey sauce for the "new fruit," which she says makes them taste like candy. She also uses pomegranates in centerpieces.
"I make an apple tart and sprinkle pomegranate seeds on the top," she says. "I do poached pears that I poach in a pomegranate syrup. They get this great color and pick up a nice tang."
The rest of the world has turned on to pomegranate because of its health benefits, which include particularly high levels of three antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium, according to the California Pomegranate Council. Now pomegranate is featured in products from energy bars to vodka to frappuccinos.
Pomegranate-Avocado Salad With Grapes and Mint
Serves 4 to 6
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar or lime juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil or other nut-flavored oil
1 ripe avocado, peeled with core removed
juice of 1 lemon
4 handfuls fresh romaine or other crunchy lettuce, broken into bite-size pieces
20 dark seedless or seeded grapes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt and pepper to taste and white-wine vinegar or lime juice. Whisk in vegetable and walnut or other oils.
Cut pomegranate in half and remove seeds to another bowl. (An easy way to remove the seeds is to cut the crown end off the pomegranate. Score the outer peel from the top in 5 places. Place the pomegranate in a bowl of cold water. While the fruit is under the water, carefully break the sections apart, separating the seeds from the membranes. Skim off the membranes with a slotted spoon. Pour the seeds into a strainer, let drain and dry with paper towels.)
Cut avocado in large chunks, sprinkle with lemon juice and toss with lettuce, pomegranate seeds and grapes. Toss again with dressing, sprinkle with mint and serve.
Adapted from "What's Cooking at Hadassah College." Recipe analysis provided by Tribune Media Services.
Per serving (based on 6 servings): 157 calories, 2 grams protein, 12 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 14 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 7 milligrams sodium
Pomegranates are generally available September through January. They look a bit like apples, with deep-red or almost-purple skin. A heavy pomegranate is a juicy pomegranate, write Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens in their new book, The 150 Best American Recipes. The skin should be thin, tough and unbroken.
For a short period you can keep pomegranates at room temperature, out of direct sun, says the California Pomegranate Council. Refrigerate for longer storage at between 32 and 41 degrees. Seeds can be refrigerated or frozen in plastic bags.
Only the juicy sacs, called arils, are edible. The pomegranate council recommends removing them this way: First, cut off the crown of the fruit, then cut into sections. Plunge the sections into water and roll out the arils with your fingers. Strain out water and eat. (A medium pomegranate will yield about 1/2 cup of juice or 3/4 cup seeds.)
Use pomegranate seeds in salads, as a garnish for chicken or even as a sundae topping, the council suggests.