Share the Love with Pomegranates
BY Cindy Ramsey
For the health conscious on Valentine’s Day what fruit could be more appropriate than a pomegranate? Not only are its arils red like a heart they boast heart-beneficial nutrients.
Some scholars believe the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate. After all it is quite irresistible and its name means “seeded apple” in its original Middle French form “pomme garnete.”
“It’s a sexy fruit ” says chef Ricky Martin of Cape Fear Seafood Company “from its red color to the heart benefits to the way the juicy flavor explodes in your mouth.”
Although the popularity of pomegranates is a new phenomenon in the American diet other cultures have enjoyed them for many centuries. In addition to their Garden of Eden connection pomegranates have definitive Biblical beginnings and are enjoyed throughout the Middle East today.
Josh Axe a clinical nutritionist points to the fact that pomegranates are among the good things to be found in the Promised Land.
“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land a land of brooks of water of fountains and springs flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley of vines and fig trees andpomegranates a land of olive oil and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:7-8).
Numerous writers researchers and medical experts have published studies and written articles on the benefits of this wonder fruit. They all seem to agree the pomegranate seeds or arils — glistening ruby-red droplets of tart sweetness with an edible crunchy center — may contain almost supernatural properties.
Each pomegranate can produce more than 600 arils bursting with nutrients and antioxidants that offer positive effects on many disease risk factors including high blood pressure high cholesterol hyperglycemia inflammation and stress. Some studies have indicated that pomegranates could also provide anticarcinogenic effects.
Maia Appleby a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified trainer and fitness writer breaks down the benefits of pomegranates for various body systems as well as for men and pregnant women on the website healthyeating.sfgate.com.
Appleby states the flavanols in pomegranates may benefit the nervous system. She refers to a 2006 study published in “Neurobiology Disease” that compared mice that drank pomegranate juice every day for six months to those that did not. The juice-drinking mice through maze tricks and other tests showed superior brain function.
Furthermore the polyphenols in pomegranates may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the buildup of plaque due to high LDL cholesterol. Appleby refers to a 2003 study by Israeli researchers published in “Clinical Nutrition” that shows a 30 percent reduction in the formation of plaque in people who drank pomegranate juice daily for one year as compared to those who didn’t.
Pomegranates contain protein vitamin C and vitamin E which Appleby says can benefit the muscular system. They also contain B-complex vitamins folate thiamin riboflavin vitamin B-6 and fiber that can benefit the digestive system and provide other health benefits as well.
Though pomegranates rank fourth in high-sugar fruits behind figs grapes and lychee experts still argue the nutritional value outweighs the high sugar content. Pomegranates could even be useful in the prevention of blood-sugar issues.
This super-fruit even has its own website — pomegranates.org designed by the Pomegranate Council based in California — that shares the history health research and multiple uses of the fruit including numerous recipes and step-by-step directions on how to extract the precious arils.
Pomegranates are an excellent addition to a healthy diet. Dr. Axe also lists a plethora of uses for pomegranates beyond ingesting them including recipes for lip balm sunscreen and anti-aging serum.
Cooking with Pomegranates
Local chefs share their own recipes along with a warning when using the whole fruit: Don’t wear anything white and avoid using a wooden cutting board when working with pomegranate arils — they will stain. For a mess-free peeling technique cut the pomegranate in half using a sharp knife then immerse the halves in a bowl of cold water. Press the arils out into the water; the water will prevent splattering and the plump arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
Another tip: When a recipe calls for pomegranate juice make sure to use 100 percent juice from concentrate with no sugar or other juices added.
Shaun Fenix & Jessica Cabo
Shaun Fenix sous chef at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort’s East Oceanfront Dining in Wrightsville Beach has been incorporating pomegranates for as long as he has been cooking. His first restaurant job was in California working in the front of the house with his mom while his dad was sous chef. Now he cooks with pomegranates even more since their juice has become readily available.
Fenix says the arils require a lot of prep work for little yield but he uses pomegranates because they are delicious have a distinct flavor and pair well with wine.
“Although my flavor profiles are from all over the world I love to try new things ” he says. “As an artist I like to bring that to the plate.”
Fenix and executive chef Jessica Cabo use their house-made pomegranate vinaigrette to top the fall kale salad and Fenix notes that goat cheese is a tasty addition.
Cape Fear Seafood Company chef and Wilmington native Ricky Martin has been drinking and using pomegranate juice for at least six years. He started buying the whole fruit about three years ago because of his children. This father of three is always looking for healthy snacks and his children absolutely love eating pomegranates.
“They’re healthy and sweet ” he says “and fun for a kid to eat.”
They also go a long way. All three of his children ages 6-10 will share only half a pomegranate at one sitting.
He also incorporates them into dishes at Cape Fear Seafood Company’s Monkey Junction location where he has been a chef since 2012. Although extracting the arils is a bit labor intensive they are easy to use as a garnish and interesting and fun to incorporate into the actual dish as well.
“There are a plethora of things you can do and fun you can have with pomegranates ” Martin says.
Chef Jaime Chadwick adds that the pomegranate in addition to being versatile offers various medicinal properties.
“It’s rich in antioxidants ” she explains. “It can help fight bacterial and fungal infections. Pomegranates contain punicalagins and punicic acid unique substances that are responsible for most of their health benefits.”
Chadwick has owned a catering business hosted the local show “Cooking on the Cape ” and currently owns a grocery delivery business for vacation beach house renters called A Moveable Feast.
The mother of two also teaches full time in Cape Fear Community College’s hospitality and culinary department.
“I have a passion for family food and community and love to incorporate all three whenever I can ” she says. “I love using pomegranates simply because they taste super sweet and yummy!”
Pomegranate Sausage Stuffed Oysters
Recipe courtesy of chef Ricky Martin
4 ounces unsalted butter
1 ounce garlic minced
1 ounce shallot minced
1 1/2 cups celery ﬁnely diced
1 pound mild sausage
12 ounces seasoned breadcrumbs
2 cups of chicken stock/optional half amount beer
2 cups pomegranate seeds (from 1 pomegranate)
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet brown the ground sausage. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon leaving the fat in the skillet. At medium heat add the butter garlic shallot and celery to the skillet. Sweat the mixture until tender crisp.
Pour the stock in the skillet. If adding beer use the half portion of beer ﬁrst before adding chicken stock. As long as the total volume of liquid is 2 cups your creativity can soar. Bring this mixture to a boil.
Place the breadcrumbs and sausage in a 6-quart mixing bowl. Fold in the stock and let rest. (Can be stored in refrigerator overnight.)
To prepare oysters for baking cut under the muscle of the oyster on the half shell.
Fold pomegranate seeds into cooled mixture. Place just enough of mixture on top to cover the meat of each oyster. Sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese on top and bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. For well done reduce heat and cook to desired doneness.
Pomegranate Pot de Creme
Recipe courtesy of chef Ricky Martin
7 large egg yolks lightly beaten
8 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces half-and-half
3 ounces sugar
8 ounces unsweet baking chocolate chips
Break down the pomegranate and reserve 4 ounces (? cup) of seeds for garnish. Squeeze the rest of the pomegranate into a sauce pan. Pour creams and sugar into the sauce pan. Add yolks. Heat on medium — stirring not whipping — until mixture coats the back of the spoon.
Place chocolate into a mixing bowl and pour mixture over chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted and a smooth coloring is created. Pour into individual 4-ounce ramekins. Allow to set at room temperature for an hour until firm but velvety. To serve add whipped cream and sprinkle pomegranate arils on top. Note: The mixture keeps well in the fridge but for best texture it needs to sit at room temperature for an hour prior to eating.
Grilled Lamb Cutlets over Pomegranate Couscous
Recipe courtesy of chef Jaime Chadwick
1 cup couscous
2 cups hot low-sodium vegetable stock
3/4 cup chickpeas
1 lemon zested and juiced
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
6 dried apricots chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)
1/4 cup mint chopped
In a bowl cover the couscous with the hot stock. Cover and leave for 5 minutes then stir in the chickpeas lemon zest and juice vinegar apricots pomegranate seeds and half the mint.
Marinate four 5- to 6-ounce lean lamb chops overnight in:
1 tsp Sriracha chili paste
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
salt and pepper
2 cups Greek yogurt (reserve 2 tsp for garnish)
Grill for 2-3 minutes each side and then pour any cooking juices into the couscous and stir. Serve the lamb with the couscous reserved yogurt and a scattering of mint.
Spinach Pear & Pomegranate Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette
Recipe courtesy of chef Jaime Chadwick
4 ounces baby spinach
4 ounces romaine hearts
1/4 cup gorgonzola cheese crumbled
1/4 cup pomegranate arils
1/2 a pear sliced
1/4 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
Champagne vinaigrette ingredients:
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 Tbsps olive oil
Recipe courtesy of chef Shaun Fenix
20 ounces pomegranate juice
10 ounces red wine vinegar
8 sprigs thyme (fresh leaves only)
1/2 cup whole grain mustard
1/2 cup honey
1 quart blended oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Place first five ingredients in bowl with whisk. Slowly drizzle oil while whisking vigorously. Add salt pepper mustard and honey to taste. Stir. Serve.