(Chinese) Apples for the New Year
What a response I got when I told friends I was writing about pomegranates! It seems that everyone has a bit of trivia to share about this funny little fruit! For instance, in Jewish tradition (and in many others), the pomegranate also known as the Chinese Apple symbolizes fertility.
The pomegranate differs from most fruits were familiar with. It doesnt have edible flesh and we eat only its seeds. Jewish lore holds that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness a meaning derived from the idea that its seeds number 613 the number of commandments in the Torah. This makes them ideal for New Year season eating another traditional practice.
Pomegranates appear again and again in our tradition. The Torah says the image of the fruit embellished the hem of Aarons and the other priests robes, and consequently the crowns that adorn the tops of the Torah scrolls are called rimonim, Hebrew for pomegranate, and often depict the fruit.
The Bible also says that pomegranates were in King Solomons Temple in Jerusalem. They are said to have been in the Garden of Eden and are definitely all over Israel now.
There are a number of ways to serve pomegranates during the holidays. My children just love eating mounds of the individual seeds handful after handful, devouring the edible translucent red pulp covering. It is labor intensive to separate each seed from the bitter membrane, but the tasty treat is worth it. (I have yet to see packages of the seeds ready-to-eat.) If youre not in the mood to painstakingly pry each seed from the membrane, you can simply cut the pomegranate into wedges, like apples. Tearing the light-colored membrane out of ones mouths and spitting out the seeds is not exactly the height of refinement, so some may prefer to eat fresh pomegranate seeds this way only when there are no guests around!
I have to admit, there arent really 613 culinary things to do with a pomegranate, but there is a nice array. I buy a whole bunch at the beginning of the holiday season and use them continuously. They can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two months, so my store takes me through early winter.
Pomegranate juice is delicious especially when added to a glass of seltzer, ginger ale, or a martini (garnished with a few seeds). Not up to extracting the juice? Get a bottle of grenadine, the sweet, deep-red, pomegranate-flavored syrup used to color and flavor cocktails and desserts (take a look at the label though, since it sometimes contains alcohol). Pomegranate juice is also readily available in the stores (although a bit pricey) and it is not as thick and syrupy as the grenadine.
I often use pomegranate juice as a substitute. For instance, for a vinaigrette, Ill use it instead of orange juice, and what a treat to toss a salad with a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds. And for a fruit salad or platter, I add the bright red seeds for an eye-catching edible garnish.
Try the tart and sweet taste of pomegranate seeds with the mellowness of goat cheese in a field green salad with toasted pecans and a drizzle of pomegranate vinaigrette. You might also enjoy the flavor and unexpected crunch of the pomegranate seed in salsa, spooned over grilled chicken. Combine grapefruit, orange, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, and pomegranate seeds and let the flavors marry for a while before serving.
Try steak grilled with pomegranate molasses. The molasses is thick, syrupy, and delicious. Adding a bit of sugar and reducing it over medium heat makes it sweet; you can find bottles of the molasses at Israeli, Persian, and Arabic specialty shops. It creates a decadent treat when drizzled over vanilla ice cream and white chocolate mousse.
I wish you and your family a New Year filled with peace, love, and joy.
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