Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pomegranates offer great health benefits

FAIRBANKS - This year I am resolving to increase my use of exotic or unusual foods, and decrease my waistline. The Lady of the House and I have decided (along 93 percent of the rest of the United States) that we’re going to focus on our health this year. Goodbye Nanaimo bars. Hello lettuce. Butter, consider yourself un-friended. My new BFF? Super foods. I am on day 12. Looking to be equally successful with the next 353.

The pomegranate is the inspiration for this month’s article. The pomegranate is a bit unusual, and it falls into the super foods category, which of course fits nicely into my new eating plan. New research has put this fun fruit on the list of heart-healthy foods. With characteristics similar to red wine, this research is hard to repudiate. Not exactly an easy fruit to eat or prepare but one that is well worth the effort. I know someone (a father) who peels the pomegranates and separates the seeds for his daughters when they have them in their lunches (to which the mother replies, “Who has that kind of time?”) Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Lady of the House, but I am afraid she’s going to have to peel her own pomegranate. And peel them well, she does.

This first recipe calls for a “chiffonade” of fresh mint. A chiffonade is just a fancy (French) term meaning “made of rags.” It simply means to cut into long thin strips. Take a handful of mint leaves, roll them up tightly, and with a knife thinly slice the rolled up mint creating thin strips. Fluff them up to top this dish. The recipe also calls for “orange blossom water.” Don’t be scared, just substitute with some orange zest, orange oil or orange extract.

Citrus and Pomegranate

6-8 citrus fruits (a combination of grapefruits, oranges etc.)

1/4 cup chiffonade of fresh mint

1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds

1 tablespoon of local wild flower honey

1/4 tablespoon of orange blossom water

Cut off the end of each piece of fruit. Stand the fruit on the now-flat end and using a flexible knife cut the peel off working your way around the fruit. Slice the fruit width wise about 3/8-inch thick. Artistically arrange the fruit on a platter, thin out the honey with the orange blossom water and drizzle across the fruit. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds across the top of the fruit display, and garnish with the mint. Serve immediately. This is a great brunch dish that serves six.

The following recipe offers a great combination of flavors. Add, change or eliminate items as you please. I like the way the textures and contrasting flavors work together. Serve as a stand-alone tossed salad, or top with chicken or thinly sliced grilled steak.

Seasonal Salad with Pomegranate

1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds

1 small head of butter lettuce

1 small head of romaine, or leaf you choice

3-4 ounces of feta

1/4 cup of rough chopped toasted hazelnuts

1/4 cup of herb-spice oil and vinegar dressing (as needed)

4-6 ounces per person of sliced cooked seasoned chicken, (this is optional, just use whatever meat you have on hand)

Tomatoes, cucumber, onion etc for garnish

Toss everything together, except the chicken/meat, along with your dressing. Serve with the chicken/meat on top. This is an ideal meal for four.

This chicken wing recipe is a great Super Bowl snack. You can cook your wings and the sauce the day before and just toss them together on game day and warm them up in the oven.

Spicy Pomegranate Chicken Wings

3 pound of chicken wings (cut at the joints)

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

2 jalapenos seeded and minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup of cranberry juice

1 cup of pomegranate juice

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/3 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds

Wash the wings and season them with salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees in a single layer on a non-stick sheet pan until they are golden brown. About 45 minutes.

Meanwhile in a medium sauce pan on medium high heat, saut├ę the garlic and jalapeno for about a minute, then add the sugar, vinegar and juices. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, and is reduced to about 2/3 of a cup.

Toss the wings in the sauce and return to the oven for another ten minutes. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve.

I find that you can get a good two cups of seeds out of one pomegranate, or at least the Lady of the House (Mona) can. The chicken wings and pomegranate salad would both pair well with a Gew├╝rztraminer from Columbia Winery.

Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or comments, I enjoy hearing from you.

Darryl Allan is food and beverage director for Fountainhead Hotels, which includes Zach’s Restaurant at Sophie Station Hotel. He enjoys sharing his passion for fun, creative and great-tasting food. E-mail him at fb@fdifairbanks.com.

Read more: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Pomegranates offer great health benefits

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