A passion for pomegranates

The little red fruits have become wildly popular.

Rafiq Maqbool/AP

On a recent stroll through the grocery store, I was pleasantly surprised at all the pomegranate products currently available. There was pomegranate salad dressing, pure pomegranate juice (three different brands proudly displayed next to the all-American apple and cranberry), pomegranate sorbet, fresh pomegranate seeds, and a pomegranate tea.

Although I have always liked pomegranates, my relationship with them has been casual at best. The whole getting-the-tiny-little-seeds-out-of-the-protective-white-membrane thing has stopped me from taking full advantage of them in their raw state.

Fortunately, other more industrious people have made it their business to find a way to remove the seeds and make them into nice, usable products such as juice, molasses, and vinegar.

A simple method for taking the stress out of getting at the seeds is to remove the crown of the fruit and then slice the pomegranate into four equal sections.

Next, place the sections in a bowl of cool water and, one section at a time, gently roll out the ruby-red seed sacks into the water. The white membrane will float to the top. Discard it, drain the water, and you are ready to add the seeds to any number of dishes.

The pomegranate season is now longer than it used to be. Starting in October and continuing into February, fresh pomegranates are readily available and many stores now sell fresh imported pomegranate seeds year-round.

So toss the seeds into a salad for a bit of color and crunch or use the juice to liven up a main dish or dessert.

Either way, your pomegranate possibilities are endless.

Pomegranate Salad

1/3 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

1 cup pomegranate seeds

2 large Belgian endives, sliced in circles

1 cup watercress leaves, torn

1 red apple, chopped

2 cups mixed radicchio or butter lettuce, torn

1 to 1-1/2 cups cooked chicken or turkey, diced (optional)

Combineall ingredients in a bowl. (Use the chicken or turkey to make this amain-dish salad.) Toss with pomegranate salad dressing (see recipebelow). Serves 4.

Pomegranate Salad Dressing

Thisdressing is perfect for the pomegranate salad, but is also anall-around great dressing for any salad made with light, leafy lettuce.

1/4 cup no-sugar-added pomegranate juice

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup grape seed oil

1/2 cup walnut oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combineall ingredients in a blender and purée. (You may also whisk theingredients by hand in a bowl.) Then refrigerate to chill the dressing.

Before serving, shake the dressing to mix and then drizzle over the salad. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

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