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Posts Tagged ‘pomegranate’

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I am currently addicted to podcasts of Eric Ripert’s cooking show: Avec Eric. I highly recommend that you become addicted as well.

I’ve always had respect for Eric Ripert. (He is head chef of Le Bernardin-a 3 michelin, New York Times 4 star restaurant). As I see it, he is one of a handful of chefs that consistently challenges himself to explore new flavors, develop new dishes, and take risks. He does not rest on a handful of famous recipes that gave him his reputation. I don’t want to sound like a sycophantic bore, but there truly is something special about Ripert’s wide-eyed love for food.

He expresses enthusiasm, wonder and appreciation for each component of cooking.  You’d think that he discovered gold when biting into a freshly picked ripe-red tomato.  Food doesn’t have to be complicated to be great. When people are busy or when money is tight, remember that a simple assembly of a few great, fresh ingredients can be divine.

Ripert also values savoring and celebration.  He emphasizes the community that results when food and cooking brings people together. I unashamedly relate to this sentimental approach to food.

I’ve been trying the recipes available on his website: http://www.aveceric.com. A simple goat cheese appetizer inspired me to create a few simple variations to showcase pomegranate.

In Ripert’s recipe, goat cheese is rolled into balls and rolled in a bread crumb mixture seasoned with olive oil, herbes de provence, fresh sea salt and pepper. The cheese is then broiled briefly and served on thin slices of baguette. Simple and lovely.

I adapted this recipe to create a sweet-savory combination. Goat cheese goes well with many fruit flavors, such as cranberry and pears. Pomegranate seeds add a great bite in texture with the creamy cheese. I add toasted walnuts as well for an earthy, toasted dimension.

POMEGRANATE GOAT CHEESE TOASTS- 4 appetizer servings (two toasts each)

  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup crushed, toasted walnuts (or more if you like)
  • 4 tsp walnut oil or olive oil
  • 4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 8 thin, toasted slices of french baguette bread
  • arugula leaves-optional
  1. Set your oven to broil setting
  2. Leave goat cheese out of the fridge to come to room temperature
  3. Mix pomegranate seeds, walnuts, oil, and S&P in a bowl
  4. In your hands, slice and roll the goat cheese into 8 individual round balls
  5. Roll the cheese in the pomegranate seed mixture
  6. Broil for 2-3 minutes
  7. You can plate these on toasts, or in a bed of arugula leaves drizzled with walnut oil and extracted pomegranate juice. OR on toasts resting on a bed of arugula leaves.

In the spirit of appreciation and respect for ingredients, try to get your pomegranates and walnuts from local food markets. Try to find the french goat cheese from a reputable store instead of a packaged grocery store variety. And savor all sensations of each bite.

Christina, stop rolling your eyes and calling me corny. I see you!

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I think what I proposed as Pomegranate week is going to turn into…weeks. There is so much I want to try and share about this berry.

The Babylonians believed chewing pomegranate seeds made them invincible in battle. When I drink one too many glasses of pomegranate liquor I feel invincible too.

Since making this will take a little over a month- start now to have it available for Christmas or New Years- or winter in general. Anything bright red feels festive to me.

I have many friends who would roll their eyes at the mention of how many days it takes to make this.  “Why not just buy one from the store?”  “Why wait one month when you could have it now?” etc. etc. But making homemade liquor requires actually very little active time and is quite easy. And, of course, there is such satisfaction when your own hands and time go into the process. I enjoy something so much more when it is a creation rather than a product. Watching others enjoy and savor is even better.

This can be drunk after dinner (or before dinner, or at lunch, or in the morning) as a dessert liquor. It can also be mixed with champagne or sparkling wine for a great cocktail. Garnish with pomegranate seeds or a wedge of orange. (I use orange zest to flavor the liquor).

I added orange zest and star anise the second time I made this and it improved the flavor of this drink. The acidity from orange instead of just lemon adds another dimension of acidity. Star anise adds an almost spicy liquorice taste. It comes in powder form, but I prefer to use the star-shaped, rust colored fruit in its entirety.

***Brief interlude of star anise info-Star Anise is a fruit native to China and Vietnam, but now grows in southern China and Japan. Its star shape ranges from 5-10 point sections. It is picked from trees before it is ripe, and then dried. The flavor is much more pungent than anise seed or fennel seed. It is wonderful to use in mulled wine, rice, rice puddings, meat marinades, and fruit salads (among other things).

Okay, back to the recipe. After a few variations, this is my favorite method and recipe for Pomegranate Liquor:

MADE WITH MY OWN HANDS POMEGRANATE LIQUOR

STEP 1

You will need:

  • 1 large sterilized glass jar that can be sealed tightly
  • 2 cups of “base” liquor like vodka or gin
  • one strip of lemon zest and two strips of orange zest- without white pith
  • 2 pieces of star anise
  • 5 large, heavy, firm pomegranates (you may only need 3 or 4, but get 5 just in case)
  1. Cut Pomegranate in half.
  2. With a presser or any kind of handy  juice strainer, extract as much juice as you can. You need to end up with 10 ounces of pom. juice
  3. Put juice (with its pulp- but NO white pith or rind allowed) in the glass jar, and add to it the vodka, and lemon and orange zest.
  4. Seal jar TIGHTLY
  5. Steep this mixture for at least 2 weeks and up to 4 weeks in a cool, dark space. Turn over every few days.

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STEP 2

You will need:

  • A strainer
  • 1 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 2/3 cup Water
  • a 2nd bigger glass jar if needed
  1. Strain the pomegranate-vodka mix- do not squeeze too hard.
  2. Boil the sugar and water together until it dissolves- let cool
  3. Add syrup to pomegranate-vodka mix and seal quickly in a bigger jar now if necessary.
  4. Let steep for 3 weeks to 1 month.
  5. Bottle. I like to add a few fresh pomegranate seeds to the bottle-this is a lovely little decoration.

You can of course decorate your bottle in many ways, and give as a gift- Make your own design into stickers, wrap and tie with colorful twine, etc. Play with textures and colors.

*note- if there is “sludge” at the bottom of the liquor, just take all the clear liquid from the top to bottle and leave the sludge behind.

When I take my first drink on Christmas, I will let you know how it turns out. Ask me any questions you like, and let me know how it turns out for you!

“clink”- Stin Iyia Mas! (A Greek toast- To Our Health)

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Here are two pomegranates sitting on the ledge of my kitchen window.

As you can tell from my logo, pomegranate’s have a special meaning for me. In film school, I made a short series of films about the myth of Persephone. Pomegranates play an important role in the story: Because Hades gets Persephone to bite into a pomegranate she can only leave the Underworld for half of the year. (Thus the explanation for the seasons- when she is above ground there is spring and harvest and mild weather. When she is with Hades, the crops die and winter comes).  I fell in love with the beauty of this fruit while incorporating it visually into the film.

I want to showcase all the sensory wonders of this berry, so this week it’s all about pomegranates. I’ll offer up some recipes that will display the versatility of this ingredient.

Here in Greece, pomegranates are considered good luck. Many people keep a dried pomegranate in their homes, or crystal or glass reproductions of its image.

My neighbor has a pomegranate tree that reaches towards my balcony. She lets us pick from them when we like, which is very generous. I also picked a bag up from the open air market recently.

Pomegranates have gotten a lot of attention the past few years for their high level of antioxidants. They are also a big source of Vitamin C, B, and Potassium.

I used to think the color had something to do with picking the right pomegranate. Although a deep red color make them more attractive to me, it really has little to do with the quality. Some insist that a bright red color is a good sign, but I’m not sure there is any foundation to this. If you squeeze into the top crown of the pomegranate, there should be no gray powder emitting. That’s a bad sign. Here are the trusted guidelines: Try to make sure the pomegranate is on the larger size, and that it feels heavy for its size. There will be more juice. It should be firm and not at all mushy.

Cutting into them is messy, and extracting the seeds can be frustrating. My father loves pomegranate and every time he cuts into them the kitchen looks like a crime scene!  There are a few tricks, though:

  • First of all, use gloves. The juice will stain your hands and your clothes! Fill a bowl with water.
  • Cut of 1/2 inch off the top of the pomegranate.
  • Place it on its side on a cutting board. Make a shallow cut 5 times from the top to the base.
  • With the pomegranate under water, open the fruit from the points where it was sliced. Push the seeds out with your fingers.
  • The seeds will sink to the bottom. Skim the pith of the fruit into the garbage and then strain the seeds.
  • To extract the juice, let the seeds sit in a strainer or colander over a bowl.

Today I’m showcasing a simple salad recipe. I will follow up with many more.

POMEGRANATE SALAD RECIPE

One bunch Arugula

Seeds from 1 Pomegranate

20 Walnuts, Chopped and Lightly Toasted

2 Small Pears, Sliced Lengthwise- 1/2 inch thick

Juice of One Pomegranate

2 tbs Honey

1 tbs Champagne or Sherry Vinegar (white wine vinegar will do)

Olive Oil

S&P

Mix first 5 ingredients together

Mix honey, vinegar, and pomegranate juice with a whisk. Add olive oil while whisking (or while being blended in a food processor/blender) until it has reached the desired consistency. Add S&P to taste.

Drizzle vinaigrette into salad and make sure not to add too much- otherwise the salad becomes wilted.



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