There are few fruits as utterly gorgeous as pomegranates, at least once you break them open and spill out the jewel-like seeds, as brightly crimson as garnets. Pomegranate seeds are not only beautiful, but they have a bright acidity that lends itself equally well to sweet and savory dishes. Tossed into salads or onto a platter of roasted meats or a bowl of soup, the seeds not only look like edible jewels, but they provide a tartness that can benefit many recipes, kind of the like the squeeze of lemon that not only brightens a dish but somehow enhances it.
Pomegranates are also a great fruit to have available during the holidays, as not only are they versatile, but they look about as festive as a food can get. You can find pomegranates right now in farmers markets, where many farmers also sell the seeds -- since seeding a pomegranate can be a somewhat arduous process -- and sometimes the juice. And if you're stocking your larder with all things pomegranate, don't forget a bottle of pomegranate molasses, which is great in braises, as a glaze for roasted carrots or a garnish for carrot soup -- and in granola, where you can use it instead of honey. If you need more inspiration, here are six pretty great recipes.
This red pepper and walnut dip, also known as muhammara, is a classic Middle Eastern dish, earthy and deeply flavorful stuff that can be eaten with many, many more things than just bits of pita bread. Double the recipe and serve the stuff with crudités or to go with roasted lamb (or chicken kebabs, if you keep reading). If you're not a date fan, make the dip with some of that pomegranate molasses you just bought.
Ana Sorton's 2006 cookbook Spice is a terrific book, which you should probably go find if you're not familiar with it. Sorton, the owner of Boston's Oleana restaurant, makes great use of pomegranate seeds and molasses in many of her recipes, which are mostly Middle Eastern or from the Eastern Mediterranean. This one, for chicken kebabs, would make for a great holiday appetizer -- or part of a small plates feast, maybe with some muhammara.
If all the roasts and heavy dishes are getting you down, try one of Martha Rose Shulman's recipes for health, from her long-running New York Times column. This recipe for a quinoa pilaf is light and gorgeous -- and if you're doing a roast or a leg of lamb, this would pair very nicely with that too.
One of the many nice things about pomegranates is that they're great for both sweet and savory dishes. Deborah Madison puts them in many of her vegetable recipes, but also in her lovely desserts. This is a great recipe that uses not only the gorgeous seeds but the fantastic juice as well -- in a gelée spiked with orange-flower water. Add the yogurt-saffron cream and then sprinkle both crimson pomegranate seeds and pale green pistachios and you have something that looks about as Christmassy as you can get.
If you have a copy of Ottolenghi's Plenty in your kitchen, which you really should, then you'll probably have spent an inordinate amount of time staring at the cover photo of this dish: split roasted eggplants loaded with buttermilk-yogurt sauce and sprinkled very liberally with pomegranate seeds. It's a great dish -- and if it's pretty enough to put on the cover of the book, it would probably do well on your holiday table too.
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Pastry chef Alice Medrich could probably build a car out of chocolate if you asked her. She certainly makes spectacular cakes and cookies and pretty much everything else out of the stuff. This stunning torte is built with cake made from 70% or 72% chocolate, pomegranate jelly, more chocolate for the glaze, and then decorated with pomegranate seeds, like jewels on all that dark chocolate. Ta-da.
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