My dad always called them Chinese Apples. I’m talking about pomegranates, the jeweled-looking fruit that makes its way to our markets from late fall through early winter. The pomegranate’s sparkly, ruby-red, gem-like seeds seemed so exotic to me way back when. They were a fascinating fruit, those little, edible jewels. Found right before Christmas, we always purchased one to just take apart and to eat.
There was just one problem with pomegranates – their leathery skin. That tough skin always gave me a run for my money when trying to extract the seeds. It is possible to just slit the skin and tediously pop out those bright kernels. But, besides being time consuming, the juices from the pomegranate seeds, if broken, can cause staining. So, how do you get those seeds out easily?
One method that I have used to easily remove the pomegranate seeds goes like this. First, cut off the flowery top. Next, score four slits into the skin lengthwise, top to bottom, leaving pomegranate intact but divided into four quadrants. Use gentle enough pressure to just pierce through the skin, but be careful not to puncture the seeds. The pomegranate should remain intact, although the skin is now divided into four sections. Next, place fruit in a bowl containing enough water to cover it, and let it soak for 5 minutes. Finally, carefully break apart the sections while it is in the water. Dislodge seeds gently with your fingers. The seeds should sink to the bottom, and the membrane particles should float to the top. Discard rind and floating membrane debris and drain seeds. It’s really a quick, painless, stainless operation.
Little did I know that pomegranates were destined to become one of our nutritional super foods. Fast forward to today, and the pomegranate has come a long way. Besides adding a little sparkle to the following salad, pomegranates contain antioxidants found in Vitamins E and C and Vitamin K, as well as the minerals potassium and copper. Plus, they contain fiber. Current research suggests that the antioxidants found in pomegranates, called polyphenols, may play an important role in protecting your heart and arteries.
Here is a jewel-bedecked salad for your holiday table or buffet. It mixes pomegranate seeds with orange slices for a sweet tart-like taste that makes a spectacular presentation.
POMEGRANATE CHRISTMAS SALAD
For the Dressing:
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
½ tsp. salt
½ cup virgin olive oil
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp. pepper
-Combine all ingredients in processor or blender and puree.
-Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
-Dressing can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
For the Salad:
Container of mixed greens
Small bag or bunch of spinach or one head of butter lettuce
3 navel oranges, peeled and sliced thin
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 pomegranate, seeds
½ cup walnuts, broken
-Wash and dry greens.
-On a large, flat platter, mix and arrange all greens as bottom layer.
-Arrange orange slices and onion rings across the top.
-Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and walnuts on top.
-Drizzle dressing across the salad just before serving.
Foodie Alert: Besides the pomegranate, nicknamed the Chinese apple, there may be another kind of Chinese apple (in addition to Steve Jobs’ Apple) coming to our shores soon. Apparently, China wants to export apples to America, and Washington state growers are giving their OK. Conversely, the US Apple Association fears that by importing China’s apples, we may also be importing some invasive pests (think stink bugs) that could damage orchards here. U.S. law states that imported apples must be free of damaging pests and disease.
So, before you take a bite of that apple you’re holding, read the sticker. If this trade agreement becomes reality, will it still be on point to say, “As American as apple pie?” Oh my, what would Johnny Appleseed say? Will these apples have consumer a-peel?
Eat well, live long, enjoy!
(Questions or tips can be sent to Donna Zitter Bordelon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053)