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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State


Pomegranates from the Oct. 9, 2005
farmers market in Flagstaff, Ariz.


Books About Fruit:


By Anne Kleinberg

Luscious Lemon Desserts
By Lori Longbotham

Sweet Simplicity: Jacques Pepin's Fruit Desserts
By Jacques Pepin

Super Smoothies: 50 Recipes for Health and Energy
By Mary Corpening Barber




Books By Robert Wemischner:

Cooking With Tea: Techniques and Recipes for Appetizers, Entrees,
Desserts, and More

The Vivid Flavors Cookbook : International Recipes from Hot & Spicy to Smoky & Sweet


Gourmet-To-Go :
A Guide to Opening and Operating a Specialty Food Store

More Tips on Fresh Produce from Robert Wemischner:
Fresh figs
uAsian vegetables
uPersimmons, pomegranates and quince



The Many Uses of Pomegranate Juice

Juicing Pomegranates
Pomegranate ‘Granita’
Pomegranate Syrup
Pomegranate Molasses
Sweet and Sour Greens with Quince and Pomegranate
Practically Turkey Fesenjan
How to Cut Open a Pomegranate

You can eat pomegranates out of hand, cracking open the shells, taking whole mouthfuls of the tightly-packed crimson seeds, gently bursting each blister of fruit with your teeth to extract the juice, then spitting out the rest.

"It’s a fun thing to do but it’s a messy proposition," notes Robert Wemischner, a Los Angeles culinary arts teacher, cookbook author and regular In Season commentator on seasonal produce. Wemischner’s advice: Do it over a sink. "It’s a labor-intensive eating process that is repaid with wonderful flavor."

The jewel-like seeds can also be sprinkled decoratively over mousse or other desserts or salads. But alas, "the presentation is beautiful but the eating is not so delicate in a fancy setting because you have to spit out the seeds."

Juicing Pomegranates

There’s another way to capture that flavor: Roll the pomegranates over a countertop in every direction to loosen up the juice, make a small hole in the skin and squeeze the fruit over a bowl. "Because you’re squeezing some of the thicker pith beneath the fruit, you do get a bit of the tannic quality of the fruit," which isn’t bad if it’s not too strong, Wemischner says.

From six nice-sized pomegranates, you can expect to get about three cups of juice, he says. It’s perishable. So drink it within hours, either straight or mixed with other fruit juices that it complements, such as apple or cherry. "I like to add as little sugar as possible, if I drink it straight. But the sugar does tend to round out the flavor a bit," he says.

Don’t drink all that juice, though. Save some of it for other uses.

Pomegranate ‘Granita’

With pomegranate juice, "you can make an excellent sorbet, or for lack of a better word granita," says Wemischner "Sorbet tends to be sweeter and creamer in texture than what you’ll get from pomegranate juice. Because of the lower sugar content, it’s going to be icy."

First, make a simple syrup with equal parts water and sugar boiled until clear. Then add pomegranate juice until the flavor reaches the threshold between sweet and tart that suits your taste.

Then, put the mixture in nonreactive bowl that will quickly conduct heat, such as stainless steel, glass or porcelain.

Lacking something more high tech like an ice cream or sorbet machine, whisk it every half hour to break up the ice with a whisk or spoon until it is frozen.

Pomegranate Syrup

Boil the juice down in a heavy-gauged saucepan until it is a thick maple-syrup consistency and you’ll end up with a unique, intense flavoring for any number of vegetable and meat stews.

The tart pomegranate flavor goes well with lamb, chicken, beef or turkey and any of a variety of fall and winter root vegetables and squashes, along with the usual stew ingredients such as garlic and onions, with or without tomato, says Wemischner.

Pomegranate Molasses

Continuing cooking the syrup until it reaches molasses consistency and you’re creating one of the most distinctive ingredients of Persian cuisine: pomegranate molasses.

The bottled product is readily available in ethnic food markets serving a Middle Eastern clientele and Wemischner pronounces it "excellent stuff." But in the fall, when pomegranates are in season, he still makes his own. "The freshness is incomparable," he says. "And it’s fun."

Wemischner, a big tea fan, uses some of the molasses to flavor black tea. He also uses it in a number of savory dishes, some a variation on the Persian "fesenjan" -- using ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses as a sauce for chicken or turkey -- and other original creations, such as the following two recipes from his first book, The Vivid Flavors Cookbook.

The recipe for sweet and sour greens was inspired, he writes, by a vague memory of have once eaten creamed spinach pureed with pears instead of cream. It is a recipe for those who are "tempted by tartness rather than seduced by sweetness," he writes.

Wemischner calls the fesenjan recipe "a seductive and complex combination of sweet and sour." It is a variation on a classical Persian dish that makes use of two plentiful crops in northern Iran: pomegranates and walnuts. Both crops are in season in the autumn in North America. Instead of the traditional chicken or duck, Wemischner uses turkey breast, a lean white meat that pairs well with the rich walnut sauce.

Sweet and Sour Greens
with Quince and Pomegranate

1 pound assorted bitter greens, including collards, mustard greens, kale, etc.
1 Tbs fruity olive oil
2 tsp finely chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
1 large ripe quince, peeled, cored, quartered

The cooking syrup for the quince:

1/3 cup granulated sugar
water to cover the quince in the saucepan
1 large cinnamon stick
½ tsp ground nutmeg
6 whole cloves

The sauce for the greens:

¼ cup pomegranate concentrate (also known as pomegranate molasses)
3 Tbs white wine vinegar

The garnish:

Olive oil
¼ cup red bell pepper, cut into thin julienne

1. Wash the greens well. Remove woody stems, where necessary. Pile the leaves of each kind separately. Roll them into compact cylinders and slice crosswise into thin shreds. Set aside.

2. Make the cooking syrup for the quince by combining the sugar, water, and spices in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the quince, reduce to a simmer, and cook over low heat, for about 12-15 minutes, or until the quince is tender but not mushy. (Quince is actually quite forgiving of overcooking.) When done, remove the quince, cut into ½ inch cubes, and mound in the center of a heated serving platter. Keep warm, covered, in a 200 degree oven. Sieve the syrup, discarding the solids, and set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet until hot. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic and shallots. Cook stirring constantly for about 2 minutes or until they are tender, but not browned. Add the greens, and cook stirring until they are just wilted but bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove the platter from the oven and arrange the greens over the quince.

4. Add the pomegranate concentrate and the vinegar to the quince syrup and boil until the liquid lightly coats a spoon. In a small saute pan coated with a film of oil, stir-fry the pepper just until slightly wilted. Pour the sauce over the greens and garnish with the red pepper shreds.

Practically Turkey Fesenjan

The Sauce:

2 tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely grated
2 cups ground walnut
3 cups defatted chicken or turkey stock
1 cup pomegranate concentrate (unsweetened)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbs tomato paste
granulated sugar to taste
lemon juice to taste

The Turkey:

2 lbs. boneless turkey breast, sliced into cutlets and slightly pounded
2 quarts water
1 cup finely grated onion
½ tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

The Rice:

1 cup basmati rice
1 ½ cups water
½ tsp salt
1 bay leaf
Peel of 1 lemon, removed in long strips

The Garnish:

4 rounds of pita bread, cut into 6 triangles each, toasted until crisp
1 fresh pomegranate, quartered (optional)

1. To prepare the sauce, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and cook the onion until tender but not browned, stirring frequently. Add the ground walnuts and sauté just until they darken slightly, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Add the chicken or turkey stock and bring to a boil. Add pomegranate syrup and cinnamon. Bring to a boil against and add tomato paste. Reduce heat and cook until sauce is thick but pourable. Add sugar and lemon juice to taste. (The sauce should be tart, not sweet – taste as you go when you are adding the sugar. I like the final flavor to be quite tart, so I use the juice of one large lemon here.) Simmer covered until flavors blend, about a half hour.

2. To prepare the turkey, bring water, onion, and turmeric to a boil in a skillet large enough to hold the cutlets in a single layer. Add cutlets,. cover, lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 6-8 minutes, or until done. Do not overcook. Set aside. Add salt and pepper to taste and keep covered and warm in a 200 degree oven.

3. Cook the rice in a covered 2-quart saucepan over medium heat with the water, salt, bay leaf, and lemon peel for about 20-25 minutes, or until tender and all the liquid is absorbed. Keep warm until serving. Remove bay leaf and lemon peel and fluff rice with a fork before serving.

4. To serve, place a mound of rice on each plate, top with a warm turkey cutlet, and sauce generously. Garnish with toasted pita triangles, and fresh pomegranate wedges if desired.

Copyright 2005  Seasonal Chef