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Pomegranate products make cooking with tart fruit easier than ever

October 27, 2014

Lamb rack with pomegranate hibiscus agrodulce prepared by Chef Ian Cookson at the Vineyard Restaurant in Madera, Calif. It sits on a bed of spinach and butternut squash, garnished with mint and pomegranate seeds

Pomegranates are one of fallís favorite fruits in the central San Joaquin Valley, with its deep-red colored skin protecting hundreds of tiny arils that burst with sweet tart flavor when eaten.

The Valley is the center of the nationís pomegranate industry. It grows several varieties for the fresh market as well as juicing. The tiny southeast Fresno County community of Del Rey is the home of the largest pomegranate juicing plant in the nation. Operated by POM Wonderful, a division of Paramount Farms, the factory produces juice, fresh pomegranates and packaged arils.

Other food manufacturers have also joined the pomegranate bandwagon and are providing the arils in cup-sized packages that are sold to grocery stores and schools.

"More people are becoming interested in pomegranates, but they donít always want to peel them," says David Anthony, domestic sales manager for the Firebaugh-based Ruby Fresh. "We make it easy for them."

Ruby Fresh recently sold a shipment of packaged arils to schools in Oklahoma and Kansas City. Locally, consumers can find Ruby Freshís packaged arils at Fresh & Easy, Sprouts Farmers Market, Costco and Samís Club.

Chefs and restaurant owners say the easier it is to use the juice-packed arils, the better.

Chris Mariscotti, owner of the Vineyard Restaurant in Madera, says that while the trend of using pomegranates in drinks maybe waning, chefs continue to use pomegranates for taste and color. Marinades and sauces are popular uses at the Vineyard.

"As a marinade it has such a soft, rich flavor that really adds a nice balance," Mariscotti says. "With lemons or wines marinades the flavor can sometimes be overpowering."

Mariscotti likes to use a pomegranate marinate on chicken and lamb. You can marinate chicken for just and hour, but lamb is best when marinaded over night.

Reduction sauces are also a nice way to add the pomegranates.

This year, shoppers will appreciate that despite an ongoing drought, pomegranates have not been deeply affected. If anything, the hot summer has reduced yields just slightly, said farmer Dennis Simonian.

"We are picking our fruit and things look really good, the fruit is also tasting really good," says Simonian, who operates Simonian Farms on the corner of Clovis and Jensen avenues. "We should have a nice crop."

When shopping for pomegranates, Simonian recommends looking for fruit that has a deep red color and feels solid. The heavier the better. Avoid fruit that has a dry leathery skin. The skin should be slightly glossy.

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POMEGRANATE-GLAZED LAMB CHOPS

18 small individual lamb chops

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 garlic cloves, pressed or minced

1/4 cup Pomegranate Molasses with a Kick*

1 tablespoon dried mint, crushed

1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil with garlic, Angel Red Pomegranate Molasses, mint, rosemary, 2 teaspoons of salt and a generous pinch of pepper.

Add lamb chops and turn to coat with Angel Red Pomegranate Molasses; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, light a grill or preheat a grill pan.

Lightly season the chops with salt and pepper; grill over moderately high heat, turning, until they are lightly charred outside and medium-rare within, 4-6 minutes.

Drizzle 1/4 cup of Pomegranate Molasses onto grilled lamb chops.

*Pomegranate Molasses with a Kick

4-5 pomegranates, seeded and juiced

1/2 cup sugar

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 dry serrano chili pepper, cut in halve lengthwise, may substitute fresh serrano or jalapeno chili pepper

Place 2 cups pomegranate juice, sugar, lemon juice and serrano chili pepper into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 30 minutes then strain pepper halves and any seeds from juice mixture, discard pepper. Place juice mixture back into the saucepan and continue to simmer over moderate heat, about 20 minutes longer.

Watch juice mixture carefully towards the end of cooking time, the juice will form small bubbles, stir at this stage until the juice has a syrup consistency and has reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and let cool.

Peggy Thurlow, Mountain View Fruit Sales

POMEGRANATE CHEESECAKE

1/2 cup butter, softened

4 eggs

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla

1 16-ounce carton dairy sour cream

1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/4 cups plus 1/4 cup all purpose flour

4 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened

1 1/4 cups plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups fresh pomegranate arils

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl beat butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar. Beat until combined. Add 1 egg; beat well. Beat in 1 1/4 cups flour until combined. Divide dough in half. Cover and refrigerate one portion. Spread unrefrigerated dough half on bottom of ungreased 10-inch spring-form pan with sides removed, spreading dough to edges. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely. When cool, attach sides of pan. Press chilled dough onto sides to a height of 1 3/4 inches, using a thin metal spatula to spread dough. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees F.

For filling, in an extra large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in the remaining flour on low speed until smooth. Add remaining 3 eggs and 1 tablespoon vanilla all at once, beating on low speed just until combined. Stir in 1/2 cup sour cream, the lemon peel and 3/4 cup of the pomegranate seeds. Pour filling into crust-lined pan. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 65 minutes or until edges are puffed.

Stir together remaining sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Spread sour cream mixture over top of baked cheesecake. Return to oven; bake for 10 minutes more. Remove from oven. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Loosen crust from sides of pan. Cool for 30 minutes more. Remove sides of pan; cool completely. Cover; chill 4 hours or overnight.

Remove cheesecake and pomegranate sauce from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Spoon some sauce over top of cheesecake; pile remaining 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds in center of cheesecake.

 

 


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