Prime Time for Pomegranates
I’m just not sure that there’s any fruit I find more seductive or beautiful than the pomegranate. There’s something about the tough leathery skin that feels more like a withered softball than a fruit–and opens to reveal a glittering world of lively sweet-tart seed jewels. It doesn’t surprise me that pomegranates have had such a long career as a special food. They have been a food of choice from the mythological gods of antiquity to those seeking health in modernity. I’m pretty sure they must also be favored by fairies, unicorns, and any other number of lovely magical creatures.
All of their poetic beauty aside, pomegranates are nutritional powerhouses. They contain calcium, potassium, and iron, plus compounds known as phytonutrients that help the body protect against heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. According to pomegranates.org, the powerful antioxidants in the fruit also help slow aging and can neutralize almost twice as many free radicals as red wine and seven times as many as green tea. As a further benefit, some researchers suggest that the crunchy seeds help flush fats from the digestive tract.
I love to break one open and eat the seeds as is, but there are also about a million delicious uses for them. A few come to mind: Toss them with a beet salad, include them in guacamole, garnish a savory rice pilaf with them or make pomegranate syrup for ice cream, martinis or pancakes.
The possibilities are endless–an Internet search will provide you with a multitude of recipes, while right here in our archives we have some of my favorites like pomegranate flan or this Persian pomegranate tapenade.
When I was looking around for ideas, I came across a fantastic recipe for using pomegranates–one that honestly I might not have come up with by myself: White bean soup with a pomegranate garnish. Yum! The thick smooth bean soup is topped with the bright bracing tang and crunch of pomegranate seeds. It’s delicious!
By the way, do you know the cleanest and easiest way to remove pomegranate seeds? Start by cutting off the crown, then cutting a fruit into several sections. Submerge a section in a bowl of cool water and roll the seeds out with you fingers. When you have removed all the seeds, drain the water out in a colander.
White Bean Soup with Pomegranate Salsa
Inspired by the Pomegranate Council
2 cups dried white cannelloni beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, minced
4 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cold water
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (see note)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup freshly minced Italian parsley
1. Make the beans: Pick through the beans and discard any small pebbles or debris. Place beans in a large pot and cover with 2 to 4 inches of cold water. Let soak overnight and then rinse under running water. Return to the pot and cover with 2 to 4 inches of fresh water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until very tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain well and set aside.
2. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Add the cooked beans and 2 cups of water; bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Cool briefly, then using an immersion blender or standard blender, puree until smooth. Return to the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.
4. For the garnish: In a medium bowl, combine pomegranate molasses, lime juice, and shallot; whisk to combine. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the pomegranate seeds and parsley; toss well.
5. To serve, ladle hot soup into bowls; garnish with a spoonful of the pomegranate in the center of the soup, and drizzle a bit of the olive oil over all.
Note: You can buy pomegranate molasses at Middle Eastern stores, or make your own by bringing 3 cups of pomegranate juice, 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of honey or sugar to a boil, and then simmer until reduced to 1 cup.