The almighty pomegranate is native from Iran to the Himalayas and has been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa and Europe. This mystical fruit with its healing properties and majestic apperance has been featured in Egyptian mythology and art, praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and referenced in the Babylonian Talmud*
. It has even gained distinction as a royal fruit in the literatures of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Homer*
. Pomegranate fruits contain maximum health benefits best known for its concentrated levels of antioxidants and its ability to combat LDL cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.
This month, the lovely folks at POM Wonderful selected a group of 100 bloggers from across the US to host a POM party and I was fortunately one of them! I especially wanted to participate in this challenge because before this event I have never cooked with pomegranate before. It was fun planning the menu and discovering all the versatile uses for this delightful fruit.
First thing's first. I'll start with how to open a pomegranate -- easy schmeezy, nothing too tricky.
1. Cut. With a sharp paring knife cut off the top about a 1/2 inch below the crown.
2. Score. Once the top is off, you'll see four to six sections. With your knife point, score the skin at each section.
3. Open. Separate the pomegranate at each score, so that you have individual sections.
4. Loosen. Over a bowl of water, use your fingers to loosen the "arils" (the flesh-covered seeds) and drop them into the bowl. The arils will sink to the bottom.
5. Scoop. Use a spoon to scoop out the pieces of white membrane that have floated to the top.
6. Strain. Pour the reamining liquid through a strainer. Place the arils in your favorite dish and enjoy!
Since we're nearing the holidays, I wanted to throw a 5-course dinner for my lovely friends -- it's my way of saying 'Hey, I love you guys!". Now when planning a 5-course menu for a dinner party, there are several things you should keep in mind:
Budget: How much are you planning to spend? Usually when I throw a party I like to keep it at 8-10 people and keep my budget around $100. Keep everything simple and ask your guests to bring the drinks!
Balance: Think about the different flavors, colors and textures that will go into your menu. For a five course menu, there's a gradual progression of flavors -- start off light and build your way up to the main course and always end with something sweet :)
Be Organized: This is probably one of the most important things. The more organized you are the better things will flow the day of your party. Make shopping lists, make a prep list for your dishes, set your table settings the night before, write out what needs to be done, etc.
Timing and Execution: I always like to do a run through of how everything will be served the day of the party the night before. Plan out your cooking times for your menu items so when it comes time to serve everything flows and you can still sit down and eat with your guests.
- Table Settings: I like to keep my settings simple, earthy and seasonal. Plan out what kind of tone you'd like to set for your party and what color and contrast you'd like to use.
For the first course I wanted something to get the party started, what better way then with a fancy jello-shot! It's nice, light and playful -- not to mention it packs a surprising punch.
Ingredients for Pomegranate Jello Shot: serves 8-10; prep time: 10 minutes total cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- 2 packets of gelatin (1 tablespoon)
- 2 1/2 cups POM
- 1/2 cup good-quality Vodka ( I used Luksusowa)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- raw sugar for garnish
- pomegranate seeds for garnish
In a large bowl mix 1 cup of POM with 1 packet of gelatin, allow to sit for at least 5 minutes or until gelatin is dissolved. Meanwhile in a small saucepan dissolve the sugar and remaining POM and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling turn off the heat and mix with the gelatin mixture. Once thoroughly mixed, add the vodka.
Distribute the mix in shot glasses and place in fridge and allow to set for at least an hour. When ready to serve, garnish the shot glasses with raw sugar and top with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately and enjoy frequently
** it is easier to use a glass pan when making jello so that it pops out easier when it is done setting.
For the second course I wanted to do a salad. Salads are easy to prepare and I love this recipe for the warm panko crusted goat cheese and the contrast with the pomegranate seeds and vinaigrette. Also the spiced candied pecans add a nice twist!
Ingredients for Panko Crusted Goat Cheese with Arils Salad: serves 8-10; prep time: 30 minutes total cooking time: 45 minutes
- 16 ounces goat cheese
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 4 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 lb organic field greens
- 1 cup arils
Divide the goat cheese log into 16 - 1 ounce portions and roll into balls, if you're serving 10 divide it a little under -- plan for each salad will receive two goat cheese rounds. Place panko crumbs in a shallow dish. Take each ball of goat cheese and flatten into a 1/4"-thick disk and roll in the bread crumbs, making sure all sides are evenly covered. Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet on medium high heat, when the oil is smoking add the goat cheese discs. Fry each side until golden brown, about 1 minute and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to soak any excess oil. When ready to serve, simply reheat in the oven or toaster oven for 3-4 minutes at 350F.
For the pecans:
- 1 cup pecans
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F. Fill a medium pot with water and boil on high. Once the water is boiling add the pecans and cook for an additional minute. In a large bowl place the spices and powdered sugar, mix well. Strain the pecans and mix in the sugar mixture, make sure nuts are coated evenly. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the outside becomes crunchy -- you can test this by taking a pecan out and letting it cool, if it's still soft give it an additional 5 minutes if it is crunchy take it out and set aside. Once pecans are cool give them a rough chop and place in a container until ready to serve.
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup pomegranate reduction (see recipe below for tenderloin)
- juice from 1 lemon, seeds removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
Place reduction on a small saucepan at medium low heat. Whisk in lemon juice olive oil and water, if the mixture is still a little thick add a little water -- it should have a syrupy consistency. Set aside until ready to serve.
Warm up your goat cheese discs in the oven or toaster oven. Meanwhile,toss salad greens with pomegranate vinaigrette and plate. Top with spiced pecans, arils and warm goat cheese. Serve immediately.
For the third course I went with a nice hearty soup -- this was actually a spin-off of the Chiles en Nogada recipe POM provided us with from Chef Cindy Pawlcyn. I loved the textures of the crunchy pancetta and the smokiness of the poblano in this soup. This was Collin's favorite dish.
Ingredients for Chiles Nogada Corn Chowder: (serves 8-10) prep time: 30 minutes total cooking time: 1 1/2 hours
- 4 tablespoons canola oil or butter
- 1 x 16 oz bag frozen organic corn kernels
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2 celery stalk, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 poblano chiles, roasted and deseeded*
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 8 oz pancetta
- 1 cup walnut, toasted
- 1/2 cup micro arugula
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup arils
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- salt pepper to taste
In a large pot add your butter or oil and melt on medium high heat. Once butter is bubbling or oil is slight smoking, add the corn, spices,chopped vegetables and garlic and saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add stock and water to mixture and cook for 30 minutes. Using a hand blender, blend ingredients thoroughly -- if you do not have a hand blender a regular blender will do. Strain soup through sieve if you prefer a very smooth texture or leave it like it is for a more rustic texture. Add in the chopped roasted poblanos and allow to simmer on medium low heat for an additional 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the pancetta. In a large pan heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium high heat. Once oil is smoking add pancetta and fry until crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Drain on paper towel and once cooled, chop into tiny pieces and set aside. When ready to serve -- heat the soup on medium heat and ladel into soup bowls. Top with micro arugula, cilantro, crispy pancetta and arils -- serve immediately.
For the fourth course I chose this robust 5 spice roasted pork tenderloin -- the spices paired perfectly with the tanginess of the pomegranate reduction. The smooth creamy cauliflower puree gave a nice contrast in textures with the arils and pork.
Ingredients for 5 Spice Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Garlic Smashed Cauliflower: serves 8-10; prep time: 30 minutes cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes
1 pork tenderloin, about 3 1/2 pounds
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
In a large bowl mix the spices salt pepper and sugar together. Using a sharp knife, make shallow criss crossed incisions along the top of the tenderloin - this allows the dry rub to soak in better. Take the spice mixture and generously rub all over the tenderloin, especially the top where the incisions were made. Allow the pork to marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large pan or skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium high heat. Once oil is smoking sear each side of the tenderloin until a crisp golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and cover with foil -- if the pan is not oven proof transfer the tenderloin to a baking sheet and cover with foil. Allow tenderloin to roast for 45 minutes to an hour - use a meat thermometer to track the cooking time. The internal temperatures should reach 145 degrees for the perfect medium tenderloin, 160 degrees for well done. Also keep in mind, the meat will continue to cook once removed from the oven so gauge appropriately. Once the meat reaches desired temperature set aside until ready to serve, make sure it's covered in foil to keep the meat warm.
- 2 head cauliflower
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup cream
- salt pepper to taste
Cut the bottoms off the cauliflowers, making sure to remove the tough stems and leaving mostly the florets. In a large pot fill with water and immerse the entire head of cauliflower in there. Cook each head for 15-20 minutes on medium high heat until cauliflower is completelysoftened. Place the softened cauliflower in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan saute the garlic with a little olive oil on medium high heat until browned add the cream and nutmeg and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and pour into large bowl containing cauliflower. Using a masher or a pestle, smash the garlic and cauliflower until it reaches a paste like consistency -- similar to that of mashed potatoes but grainier. Taste with salt and pepper. You can also use a blender if you do not own a masher or a pestle.
For Pomegranate Reduction:
16 oz POM pomegranate juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 lemon, juice only
2 tablespoons water
In a medium sauce on medium high heat, heat the pom juice and sugar until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 15-20 minutes add lemon juice. If it becomes to thick simply add the 2 tablespoons of water to thin it down.
When ready to serve, place a generous spoonful of cauliflower and thinly slice the pork tenderloin. Arrange the tenderloin around the cauliflower puree and drizzle with pomegranate reduction. Top with arils and micro arugula. Serve immediately.
What better way to end a 5-course than with something light and sweet? I made a silky pomegranate sorbet and folded boozy grand marnier sour cherries to give it a little pizazz.
Ingredients for Pomegranate Sorbet with Grand Marnier Sour Cherries: serves 8-10 makes 1 quart; prep time: 10 minutes cooking time: 1 1/2 hours
- 3 cups of POM pomegranate juice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup Grand Marnier
- 1 cup Sour Cherries, frozen
- 1 cup arils
Place sugar water and pomegranate juice in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled, about an hour. Meanwhile, place sour cherries in Grand Marnier and allow to soak for an hour. When sorbet mixture is ready, process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions and add cherries in once mixture is almost frozen. Serve garnished with arils and mint leaf.
I'd like to share my prep list just to give you guys an idea as to how to plan a stress-free holiday meal for friends. As long as you stay organized and think ahead, everything will go smoothly :). If you notice, I kept my menu simple and incorporated colorful textures and colors to keep my guests intrigued and entertained throughout dinner.
Two Days Before:
- Make candied spiced pecans for salad
- Toast walnuts for soup
- Prepare reduction for the pork
- Prepare dressing for the salad
- Fry the pancetta
- Make the sorbet
The Day Before:
- Make the jello shots
- Make the soup
- Roll the goat cheese balls for the salad
- Marinate the pork
- Make the cauliflower puree
- Garnish jello shots with arils and sugar
- Bread the goat cheese and fry, reheat in toaster oven when ready to serve
- Reheat soup on medium heat, keep at a simmer on back burner til ready to serve.
- Reheat cauliflower puree in a waterbath, keep warm on back burner til ready to serve.
- Begin roasting the pork loin right before serving the jello shot, this allows you time to sit and enjoy the courses and converse with guests.
As you see, I've planned the menu items to where the day of I am just throwing on the last minute garnishes and toppings to the dish. Most of the items just need to be reheated and kept warm until ready to serve.
Always remember to keep it simple. Don't stress out if things don't work out the way they're suppose to, simply move on. The most important thing is to have fun -- your friends and family are already thankful that you are cooking for them! If you need help clearing the table and loading the dishwasher, see if one of your friends will lend a helping hand.
I hope these tips will help you plan your next dinner this would be the perfect guide for the holidays. Bon Appetit and thanks again to the folks of POM Wonderful for the wonderful pomegranates and goody bags for my guests!