Something Different
Week of: November 7, 2011
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A Pomegranate Primer

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

Beauty is as beauty does. This describes pomegranates perfectly. Beautiful to look at inside and out, they are also a very healthful fruit. Their succulent seeds, juice sacs called arils, provide an abundance of antioxidants.

Pomegranates may also be the most intimidating fruit. I know people who display them from November through New Year's Day, but would not dream of trying to open one, convinced it will be a bother and make a mess.

YouTube videos show it is quite easy to score the skin and pull open a pomegranate, then tickle out the arils with your fingers to pop in your mouth. Your reward is luscious juice.

You can also skip buying whole pomegranates because you now can find containers of ready-to-eat arils in the produce department of many supermarkets. Sprinkle them on a spinach salad, fruit salad or a bowl of lentil soup, or munch on them like sunflower seeds.

While I prefer the arils, pomegranate juice is another way to enjoy this ruby fruit. Every brand tastes different, but I suggest choosing juice made from the Wonderful variety of pomegranate grown in California because they have the most intense flavor.

Pomegranate molasses, which falls between balsamic vinegar and plain molasses in texture, is popular in Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean cooking. Good for adding an acidic tang and sweet undertone, this liquid condiment costs little and keeps forever. Look for it in ethnic food stores and the ethnic section of supermarkets and natural food stores.

Besides enjoying the arils, my favorite pomegranate use is boiling down bottled juice until it is almost syrupy. In this Persian Borscht, it adds the luxurious flavor of the fresh fruit. You can also use it in salad dressing and drizzle it on chicken or turkey cutlets.


Persian-Style Borscht

  • 2 cups pomegranate juice*
  • 2 Tbsp. canola or grapeseed oil
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. lean stew beef, well trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium fresh beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 3 cups Swiss chard, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, green part only
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

*If possible, use pomegranate juice made from the variety of pomegranates called Wonderful.

Place pomegranate juice in non-reactive medium saucepan. Set pan over medium-high heat and boil juice until reduced to 3/4 cup, 30-40 minutes. Set concentrated juice aside to cool, then transfer to bowl or glass jar. If not using immediately, refrigerate juice concentrate for up to 1 week.

In large Dutch oven or heavy soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until the onion pieces are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add beef and cook until pieces lose their red color, turning them with tongs, 6 minutes.

Add beets and cabbage. Cook, stirring, until the cabbage is shiny and darker in color, 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water. Bring liquid to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add chard, cilantro, parsley and scallions. When liquid returns to boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until meat is tender but still slightly chewy, not falling apart. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.

If possible, cool soup to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill, or overnight. Skim off any fat from surface of soup. Reheat soup over medium heat, covered.

To serve, divide soup among 6 bowls. Spoon 2 tablespoons concentrated pomegranate juice into each bowl, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Makes 6 servings (8 servings for appetizer).

Per serving: 250 calories, 11 g fat (3 g sat fat), 21 g carbohydrates,
17 g protein, 2 g fiber, 104 mg sodium

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

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