February has its perks, namely, today is Valentine’s Day, Monday is Presidents Day, and we are in the final few weeks of pomegranates. Let’s talk about the pomegranates.
Incredibly refreshing on their own, they can also be a surprising and satisfying addition to a green salad, elevating it to free-standing, second-course status, if not promoting it all the way to dessert.
A pomegranate is something you can just pick up and bite into, even when it’s ripe. It comes encased in a hard skin, which must be peeled off. The seeds are the edible part, and they are wrapped in tiny packets of delicious, juicy pulp, like scarlet teardrops. Thus, to eat a pomegranate is automatically a ritual, requiring one to slow down and pay attention. I always consider this a plus.
Here’s a lovely way to build a salad around fresh pomegranates. If you serve this with a hearty bean soup and some fresh, thickly sliced pumpernickel bread and open up a bottle of Syrah, all will be well.
MINING THE SEEDS
Pomegranate seeds are juicy little jewels — bright red, tart and crunchy. The problem is, they’re encased in a hard, tight skin, which, although lovely to look at, is difficult to break into.
When you finally get the skin open, another challenge lies inside: The precious seeds are buried within a copious amount of pith, and you have to coax them out. Don’t despair. Here’s a method that I hope will change your relationship to pomegranates forever.
Have ready a large bowl of cold water. Slice the pomegranate into quarters, right through the skin, with a good, sharp knife. Place the pieces in the water, then pull the pith out and pull the seeds from the pith. Everything will yield quite readily. To make things even easier, the seeds will sink to the bottom of the water and the pith will float to the top.
Another nice thing to know about pomegranates is that they freeze very nicely. Just pack whole fruit in a heavy, zip-style plastic bag and store in the freezer. They will keep for a good, long time.
Defrost before cutting open and juicing or extracting the seeds. Buy and freeze pomegranates during their very short season (late fall to early winter), and you can enjoy them anytime.
2 to 3 medium-sized pomegranates (see note)
About 1 pound mixed salad greens — cleaned, dried and chilled
½ cup very thinly sliced red onion
1 cup very thinly sliced radishes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted walnut oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Up to 1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
Seed the pomegranates (see note).
Shortly before serving, toss the greens in a large bowl with the onions, radishes, oils and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add pomegranate seeds with all their juices, and mix gently. Serve immediately, topped with walnuts. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Note: You can prepare the pomegranates up to a day ahead of time. (Store them in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.) Assemble the salad just before serving.
Note: If you don’t have access to toasted walnut oil, you can use all extra-virgin olive oil. Try to get the fruitiest kind possible.
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