November is National Pomegranate Month, which is the perfect time of year to enjoy this deliciously sweet-tart fruit because it’s in season and widely available at our local grocery stores and Santa Clara County farmers markets right now.
Pomegranate trees are native to Iran and the Himalayas in northern India but have been cultivated over the entire Mediterranean region since ancient times. Pomegranates were introduced to California by Spanish settlers in 1769 and because these trees thrive in semi-arid, mild-temperate climates, they are grown mostly in the drier areas of California and Arizona.
The pomegranate fruit is round in shape and can be up to 5 inches in diameter. It is covered in a tough, leathery rind that is a deep pink or rich red in color. When the fruit is broken open or cut in half, one sees the white membranes that separate the interior into compartments full of beautiful, deep red seed sacs full of juice. While the outside rind and the white membrane are bitter tasting with a spongy texture that is unappealing to eat, the seed sacs of the pomegranate are one of the best flavors known to man. And they contain high amounts of healthy anti-oxidants that are beneficial to our health in many ways.
The versatility of the pomegranate is inspiring cooks from home kitchens to 5-star restaurants and everything in between. Sprinkle the seeds into salads and soups for flavor and crunch; use the juice to create salad dressings, sauces and marinades; add the seeds to muffins and nut breads; and the seeds and juice are absolutely delicious added to traditional guacamole for something just a bit different. Pomegranates have the perfect flavor to marry well with both sweet and savory dishes and drinks so get creative during National Pomegranate Month and come up with your new favorite way to enjoy pomegranates!
When purchasing fresh pomegranates, choose pomegranates that have bright, unblemished outer skins and seem heavy for their size as this means they are filled with juice and not dried out. Be sure to click on the brief video to the left to learn how to quickly and easily remove the seeds of a pomegranate.
For an easy, healthy and delicious meal, try this Pomegranate Chicken with Lemon Wild Rice and Bacon Braised Brussels:
Pomegranate Chicken (makes about 4 servings)
10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or substitute chicken legs or use both)
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup pomegranate juice
pinch of saffron, optional
1 48-oz box chicken stock
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds for garnish
- Sprinkle all sides of each piece of chicken liberally with salt and pepper.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the chicken pieces. Let them brown on one side without moving them around in the pan (moving them around at first will cause the meat to tear) for 3 – 4 minutes until golden on one side. Using tongs, turn the chicken pieces over and let them brown on the other side for about 3 minutes longer. Remove from skillet and set aside.
- Add the chopped onion to the same skillet and sauté for 4 – 5 minutes until onion is softened.
- Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute longer.
- Stir in the zest and juice of 1 lemon, tomato paste, sugar, pomegranate juice, saffron and chicken stock. Stir will to thoroughly combine.
- Add the browned chicken pieces back into the skillet and bring the mixture to a boil. Partially cover the pan and lower the heat to simmer for 1 hour. Check on it from time to time just to make sure the liquid is not evaporating too quickly causing the dish to burn on the bottom. If this seems to be happening, simply add a little more pomegranate juice and cover the pan more.
- Remove chicken to a serving dish. Taste the sauce, adding additional salt and pepper if desired. Pour the sauce over the chicken pieces and sprinkle the toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds over the top.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the Wild Lemon Rice.
Once you’ve got both the chicken and rice going, prepare the Bacon Braised Brussels:
1 & 1/2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
4 slices bacon or pancetta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon butter
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon dried dill (or use 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill if you can find it this time of year)
salt and pepper
- Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. When boiling, add the halved Brussels sprouts and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process, Drain thoroughly and set aside.
- In a large skillet, cook the bacon slices until fully browned and crisp. Remove the slices to a paper towel to drain, leaving the bacon drippings in the skillet.
- Add olive oil to the bacon droppings in the skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the drained Brussels sprouts and chopped shallots. Sauté about 5 minutes until the Brussels sprouts begin to lightly brown around the edges.
- Add the sherry and cook for a minute or two until the sherry has mostly evaporated.
- Stir in the butter, lemon zest and juice, and dill. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the braised Brussels sprouts in a serving dish and crumble the cooked bacon over the top.
The Pomegranate Chicken and Lemon Wild Rice should be done right about now so you have a delicious meal ready to enjoy, maybe with a glass of chilled white wine or sparkling rosé? Can you say, “I love making dinner at home!”?
For some other tasty ways to enjoy pomegranates, try:
- Pomegranate-marinated Wild Salmon with Pearl Couscous and Cucumber Salad
- Pomegranate Blueberry Martini
- Pomegranate Cupcakes with Pomegranate Jam
Like this article? Get a spam-free e-mail notice every time I post a new one by clicking on the Subscribe button above. Be sure to check out the San Jose Easy Meals Examiner for great recipes, weekly meals plans with corresponding grocery lists and easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions designed to help people with little or no cooking experience. Also, check out the Sustainable Seafood Examiner (me!) for articles on the seafood industry and recipes focusing on fresh, sustainable seafood.