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The Power of Pomegranates

November 3, 2005
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One of the oldest known edible fruits, pomegranates were brought to the New World by Spanish missionaries in 1521. It is one of the earliest cultivated and most revered fruits. The pomegranate is native to Iran and the Himalayas in northern India, and has been cultivated and naturalized to the Mediterranean region, as well as parts of China.

It is now known that pomegranates contain antioxidants called polyphenols, important in the daily diet. Such antioxidants help protect the body against "free radicals" - molecules that cause damage to the body over time. Free radical damage is a major factor in again and chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

November is the height of the pomegranate season. The harvest is over, and the fruit is making its way to stores. Celebrate pomegranate month with these tasty treats.

Pomegranate, Banana & Pistachio Bread

1 cup arils [seed sacs] from 1 large pomegranate
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
21/2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup shelled pistachios or slivered almonds, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease 1 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.

Score 1 fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water.

Break open pomegranate under water to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl, and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the arils from the fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze the remaining arils for another use.)

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together bananas, oil, milk and egg; stir into flour mixture with arils and the chopped pistachios until just moistened. Do not overmix.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. If desired, sprinkle a few whole shelled pistachios and a few additional arils over the batter for garnish.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the loaf from the pan and cooling on a wire rack.

Store bread tightly covered, or wrap rightly in foil and freeze for up to 1 month.

Pomegranate Cheesecake

Crust Ingredients:

11/2 cups graham-cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter

Filling Ingredients:

1 cup arils from 1 large pomegranate
11/4 oz. package kosher gelatin
1/2 cup water
3 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
11/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix graham-cracker crumbs thoroughly with melted butter.

Gently press crumbs into the bottom and up 1 inch of the sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan.

Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small saucepan. Let set for 5 minutes, then heat until gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Mix in the gelatin. Set aside.

Score 1 fresh pomegranate and place in a bowl of water.

Break open the pomegranate underwater to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top.

Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.)

Whip the cream until stiff.

Gently but completely mix cream cheese and one-half cup of the pomegranate arils into the whipped cream.

Spoon into prepared, cooled crust. Smooth out the top.

Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. This can be made a day ahead of time.

To remove from pan, gently run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan, then open the pan. Top with remaining pomegranate arils.

Serves 10.

Pomegranate Parfait

1 cup pomegranate juice
1 Tbsp. unflavored kosher gelatin
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream

Garnish (Optional):

3 Tbsps. arils from 1 pomegranate
whipped cream
shelled, chopped pistachios

Mix the gelatin and sugar in a heavy saucepan, reserve.

Whisk egg yolks and water together; stir into gelatin mixture. Cook over medium-low heat (do not boil), stirring constantly until gelatin and sugar dissolve, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in the pomegranate and lemon juices.

Refrigerate pomegranate mixture, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from a spoon, about 21/2 hours.

When pomegranate mixture is ready, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry; thoroughly fold into pomegranate mixture. Reserve.

Whip cream until soft peaks form; reserve 6 tablespoons for garnish. Carefully fold remaining whipped cream into the pomegranate mixture.

Divide the mixture among six 8-oz. parfait glasses; chill at least 4 hours.

Garnish each parfait with a dollop of whipped cream; sprinkle with chopped nuts and pomegranate arils.

Recipes courtesy of Pom Wonderful

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