Monday, October 20, 2008


An exceedingly handsome waiter leans over to take your order. “ Yes,” you say, “hi [blush] I’ll take a Pom-tini and the pomegranate arugula salad with goat cheese to start.” He nods, you swoon and can’t wait to tell him you intend to order-- sirloin with pomegranate balsamic reduction and pomegranate gelato for dessert.

Yep. Perfectly Yum. Is it the hunky wait staff at this swank joint, or the sexy pomegranate that has you reeling? Well, except for the occasional aphrodisiac I deal in dining, not dating, so lets talk about the pomegranate.

First off, where does it come from? This fruit hails from the ancient Middle East, native to arid climates like Iran, India and Turkey. Both a religious and cultural symbol, the pomegranate has a long list of main-stage appearances. Rumor has it that this is the true forbidden fruit, Eve took one look at the beautiful gems hidden inside the rind and couldn’t resist. In the Jewish religion it is a symbol of righteousness because its 613 seeds (not an accurate measure, its more like 800) correspond directly to the 613 mitzvot or commandments.

The pom also figures into the Greek myth of the seasons: Hades was in need of some loving so he kidnapped Persephone and tricked her into eating 6 pomegranate seeds binding her forever t the underworld for half the year. Her mother, Demeter goddess of the harvest was so sad during that lonely time, plants withdrew and died, and thus, winter was born.

But back to the waiter, though I made him up, pomegranate is now a mainstay in dining Mecca’s all over the US. But why didn’t we hear about this bad girl fruit earlier?

The pomegranate madness started in 2002 when POM Wonderful Company first hit the juice market. The company funded millions of dollars in medical studies to explore the fruit health benefits, and lo and behold, a star was born. Credited with the highest antioxidant count in any juice, pomegranate also protects the heart by fighting fight bad cholesterol, delivers a wallop of vitamin C and slows the advance of prostate cancer.

This week, I’m going to eat as much pomegranate as I can get my hands on. It started last night with a simply salad, let the fruit speak for itself. I did however learn the correct way to extract the arils (seeds) from the white flesh inside the rind.

First, cut the crown of the pomegranate, then cutting just through the rind divide into four sections. Now, in a large bowl of cold water, break up the quarters and proceed to gently role the arils away from the white lacy bits. That membrane will float and the seeds sink so straining is easy! This is also the surest way NOT to get stained….a perennial problem for me.

Originally this salad calls for Prosciutto, a decadent leisure that I can neither afford, nor feed to my vegetarian friend. To substitute for its salty bite, I shaved a little Reggiano over the top.

1. Shave a bit of ParmigianoReggiano, extract those arils and chop some chives. Now push all that to the side of the cutting board for later.
2. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and set a side in a bowl with slivered garlic.
3. Thinly slice a small fennel bulb and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil and set aside.
4. Toss 1 bunch arugula with dressing and distribute to plates. Top with fennel, chives, pomegranate seeds and cheese. One good grind of black pepper and your good to go.
5. (if you’ve got it, lay the Prosciutto on top. Sigh…. don’t I wish)

This has been trial #1. This weekend I intend to introduce my pomegranate to some lamb!

A Tally of Pomegranate-Related Items I have eaten this week
1 pomegranate Sucker from Yummy Earth Organics

1 Container of Rachel’s Pomegranate Blueberry yogurt.
1 bowl of left over bowl of juicy pom jewels as a snack.

Mayo Clinic Online