Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts: Pomegranate Power

Thanksgiving has really come out of nowhere this year.  How is it the end of November?  Due to the mellow and small nature of our dinner this year, and the aforementioned illness we're combating, we haven't plotted our menu to the usual over-the-top extent.  Next year I'll likely provide you with a full-blown menu with recipes weeks in advance, but this year, ideas are smaller in scale and later in coming.  That said, one of my favorite holiday ingredients is the pomegranate.  The sweet-yet-bitter flavor, the garnet-like intense jewel color, and the unique and regal nature of this fruit make it a winter favorite of mine.  Pomegranates are also packed with vitamins and powerful antioxidants, which we could all use this time of year.  Some ideas for how to add pomegranate to your menu:
Cocktail Hour Pomegranate Bellinis
This is a favorite cocktail of mine, holidays or not!  In fact, the husband and I served these at our wedding.  You needn't use pricey champagne to mix this drink.  Prosecco or cava are much easier on the wallet and taste just as delicious.  You simply need a bottle of bubbly and a bottle of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice.  Mix two-thirds bubbly with one-third POM in a champagne flute and serve.  Repeat as needed! At Christmas, you can add a thin wedge of lime to the top to play up the green-and-red theme.  You can also float a few pomegranate seeds on the top for some festive decoration.  And may I suggest that you serve these delicious cocktails with the world's most addictive nut recipe, from NYC's Union Square Cafe, via domestic goddess Nigella Lawson?  I promise you'll thank me for this one.  The nuts are to die for and play off the pomegranate to perfection.
Spinach Salad with Pomegranate, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Pecans
You'll need a bag of baby spinach, the seeds of one pomegranate, 4 oz. of goat cheese (this one is my fave), and either a bag of spiced or candied pecans if you can find them at your store, or else you can heat a bit of butter in a pan, melt about a tablespoon of brown sugar in it, throw in a handful of pecans and stir until they're covered, finishing the mix with a dash of maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Pour the hot nuts onto a silpat or piece of greased parchment and allow them to cool, then chop them.  Toss all the ingredients together with a simple balsamic vinaigrette (either your favorite store-bought, or whisk together equal parts good balsamic and EVOO with a drop of honey).  Finish with fresh ground pepper.  The pomegranate seeds make this a visually stunning dish.  
Pomegranate Brekkie Yogurt
Hosting overnight guests and want to serve a light breakfast before the huge holiday meal later in the day?  Try Greek yogurt (Fage and Oikos are my favorites), sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and finished with honey.  This is a light, sweet, tart, mouth-popping treat that leaves you feeling simultaneously virtuous and scandalous.  Pair with some whole-grain toast for a complete meal.  This was really all I felt like eating when under the weather this past weekend, and it made me feel much better every time I gave in to the craving.

Last but not least, for the pomegranate uninitiated, one of my favorite cooking blogs offers a tutorial on de-seeding these bad boys.  Enjoy!

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