The first time I spotted a pomegranate—aka, the “forbidden fruit” -- was years ago on the cover of Gourmet magazine. It was cut into quarters exposing shimmering garnet-colored seeds. A garnish for a beautifully cooked beef roast, the fruit quarters were nestled among various sprigs of fresh, dark-colored herb greenery. I was struck by the beautiful color contrasts, and even now when pomegranates come in season—largely between October and January—I am reminded of that beautiful cover with its shiny clusters of ruby seeds.
Sometime between then and now the pomegranate has become very popular and much more than a decorative garnish. Today the seeds and juice are used in a variety of ways—pomegranate molasses, pomegranate vinaigrette, pomegranate syrup and all kinds of jazzy cocktail concoctions. The juice that surround the seeds, known as arils, bring sparkle to a wide array of lettuce leaf salads, vegetable side dishes, fruit medleys, and they can be a stunning coating for a festive, winter cheese ball.
Pomegranates have a myriad of health benefits and when they aren’t in season, I keep a bottle of pomegranate juice on hand. I add the juice to fruit smoothies and to cake batter with moist and flavorful results.
The pomegranate seems to have been in existence ever since the earth was created. Some scholars of antiquity assume the pomegranate was the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, and according to a number of legends, it was the fruit of this tree rather than the apple, with which Eve tempted Adam. Hmmm.
A few years ago I was given a writing assignment for pomegranate. The editor wondered, could I come up with a variety of appealing and unusual uses for the seeds? This is my favorite kind of assignment because it allows me to be creative. To create a simple (and healthy) parfait, I added the sweet-tart arils to a medley of freshly cut winter fruit -- apples, pears, oranges, kiwi and pineapple -- spooned the fruit over yogurt and topped the combination with granola. I also used the seeds in an assortment of lettuce leaf salad combinations. My favorite was spinach leaves sprinkled with arils, orange segments, slivers of fennel and a disc of fried goat cheese.
I also created salted chocolate ginger bark to which I added pomegranate seeds—my taste-testers gobbled it up. Bark is quick and simple to prepare and the results are delicious and gratifying -- a perfect ending to a weekend supper on a cold wintry night with friends in front of a roaring fire.
SALTED CHOCOLATE GINGER BARK WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), broken into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons minced crystallized (candied) ginger
- Coarse sea salt
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- Place the chocolate pieces in a medium pan and melt over moderate heat. Stir until chocolate is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in ginger.
- Transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish and spread evenly.
- Refrigerate until the bark is no longer warm and is soft enough to gently press the pomegranate seeds into the chocolate. Season the bark with coarse salt.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until the bark is hard. Gently break (being careful not to crush the pomegranate seeds) into serving pieces. Keep refrigerated until serving time. Bark will last about 5 days.