Recipes: Use pomegranates to make everything from entrees to desserts to cocktails

Pomegranate passion. For me it started at an early age when I pilfered one from a neighbor’s yard, a beauty found on the ground under the tree. It was cracked and revealed 2 or 3 rows of glistening crimson seeds. Years later I apologized to the owners for the larceny. Grinning, they accepted my tearful confession, telling me I wasn’t the only kid in the neighborhood with a yen for snatched pomegranates.

Sweet, yet tart. The juicy seeds, often labeled “arils,” cluster together on thin yellow membranes. They glimmer like ruby-red, crystal prisms. Some folks avoid them. Too messy, they say. Leave stubborn stains on clothes, teeth, and hands.

This never stopped me. And over time, I learned how to remove the seeds without creating a pool of juice or a single splatter. I use the “underwater technique.” Or, if you prefer, buy ready-to-use seeds in convenient refrigerated containers.

Removing seeds under water: Put a paper towel under the pomegranate and cut it into quarters. Fill a medium bowl with cold water. Hold a pomegranate quarter under the water, seed-side down. Pull edges back, exposing seeds. Most of the seeds will pop out. Run fingers over seeds that are sticking to membranes. Turn it over, still holding under water, and pick out any remaining seeds. The water prevents any splatters or drips. Seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and small membranes pieces will float to the top. Discard membranes (they’re bitter) and drain seeds. Pat dry with a paper towel. Store seeds (that have been patted dry) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Or freeze, airtight, for up to 2 months.

Here are recipes for showcasing pomegranate seeds delicious ways.

Pomegranate seeds are used to top Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet. (File photo)

Bittersweet Chocolate Sorbet

Bittersweet chocolate sorbet is a dessert every cook should have in their recipe arsenal. It is easy to prepare and irresistibly creamy. But most of all, it is extremely versatile because it pairs beautifully with almost any fruit, especially pomegranate seeds.

If you prefer, substitute store-bought chocolate ice cream.

Yield: 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup agave syrup

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2/3 cup Dutch-processed (alkalized) unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Garnish: 1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds

Optional for serving: Pound cake, sweetened whipped cream, fresh mint

PROCEDURE

1. Combine water, sugar, and agave syrup in heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisk to combine and bring to boil on medium-high heat, stirring frequently. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add chopped chocolate; whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.

2. Place cocoa in sieve and shake to sift into medium bowl. Whisk in chocolate-sugar mixture a little at a time. Whisk in vanilla. Cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap onto surface of chocolate mixture. Chill at least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.

3. Whisk mixture and process in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to plastic bowl with a lid; cover surface with plastic wrap. Cover container with lid and freeze for several hours. Place in refrigerator for 15 minutes before serving for easier scooping

4. Scoop sorbet in 6 dessert bowls. If you like, you can place a slice of pound cake under each serving. Top each portion with pomegranate seeds and if you like, a dollop of whipped cream and a sprig of fresh mint.

Chicken Breasts with Pomegranate Sauce

A wonderful blend of flavors, Chicken Breasts with Pomegranate Sauce makes a delicious entrée for family dinners or entertaining. I like to serve it with a simple couscous that is tossed with some pomegranate seeds.

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper to taste

4 boneless, skin-on chicken breasts; see cook’s notes

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, with about 2 tablespoons juice

2 cups pomegranate seeds (2 large pomegranates), divided use

1 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided use

Cook’s notes: I prefer to leave the skin on when cooking the boned chicken breasts. They come out juicier and more flavorful. If desired, remove skin before eating.

PROCEDURE

1. In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat butter and olive oil. Shake pan to mix butter and olive oil to prevent burning. Add chicken breasts, skin-down. Season with salt and pepper. Brown on both sides on medium-high heat, about 8 minutes.

2. Remove chicken. Drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat. Add onion and cook about 5 minutes or until transparent and slightly browned, stirring occasionally. Return chicken (skin-up) and add tomatoes. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes on medium-low heat or until chicken is thoroughly cooked (cooking times vary depending on size of chicken breasts). Remove just the chicken, place on warm plate and cover with foil.

3. Add chicken broth, 1 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds and 1 tablespoon parsley. Boil on high heat, uncovered, scraping any brown bits sticking to skillet, until thickened, about 7-9 minutes. Place sauce in strainer over a pan and shake strainer or push with wooden spoon to get all juice out; discard contents of strainer. Heat sauce.

4. If desired, cut chicken breasts on a slant into 1 1/2-inch slices and fan out on the plate. Top with sauce and garnish with 1 tablespoon minced parsley and remaining 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds. If desired, serve with couscous tossed with pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate seeds add loads of flavor to creamy burrata cheese in this recipe for Pomegranate and Pistachio Burrata. (Photo by John Kernick)

Pomegranate and Pistachio Burrata

Pomegranate seeds add loads of flavor to cheese. Here they top super creamy burrata cheese, the cheese made from mozzarella and cream; the outer casing is solid cheese, while the inside contains a richer, soft creamy filling. For years it was difficult to track down, but now it is much easier to find in supermarkets and specialty shops. It’s delicious served with sliced French baguette, toasted rustic bread, or crackers — either as an appetizer or cheese-centric dessert.

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1/2 cup toasted, salted pistachios, coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, see cook’s notes

6- to 8- ounces chilled burrata cheese

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For serving: sliced baguette or halved slices of toasted rustic bread or crackers

Cook’s notes: Pomegranate molasses is delicious in this recipe, but if you don’t have it, substitute a little balsamic vinegar. Pomegranate molasses is a thick syrup made by boiling pomegranate juice to concentrate it. Some supermarkets sell it, often including Whole Foods Markets., as well as many online sources.

PROCEDURE

1. In a medium bowl, place pomegranate seeds, pistachios, oil, and molasses; gently stir to combine.

2. Tear burrata into large pieces and spread out on serving plate. Spoon pomegranate mixture on top, adding it so that a little gets all over the burrata and some spills over the sides. Allow to sit 10 minutes or so before serving. Serve with sliced baguette or halved slices of toasted rustic bread or crackers.

Source: adapted from “Mediterranean” by Susie Theodorou (Kyle Books, $27.99)

Cookbook author Ina Garten recommends using Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice in her adapted Cosmopolitan recipe. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Pomegranate Cosmos

Ah, Cosmos with a twist. Cookbook author Ina Garten recommends using Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice in her adapted Cosmopolitan recipe. I agree. The fresh juice is stocked in the refrigerated case next to the produce section in my local supermarket (not in the canned juice section). So which vodka does she classify as good? Her pick is either Stolichnaya or Finlandia.

Yield: 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

2 cups (16 ounces) good vodka

1 cup (8 ounces) orange liqueur, such as Cointreau

1 cup (8 ounces) pomegranate juice, such as Pom Wonderful

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (3 limes)

Garnish: lime peel strips or thin lime slices

PROCEDURE

1. Freeze martini glasses.

2. Combine the vodka, orange liqueur, pomegranate juice, and lime juice in a pitcher and refrigerate until ready to use. Pour the cold mixture into frozen martini glasses. Garnish with a twist of lime peel or thin lime slices and serve immediately.

Source: Ina Garten, Food Network

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