Along with blood oranges, quince and yuzu, pomegranates make me anticipate winter. Their season starts in the autumn and continues even when our northern European lands enter the somber grey days of February. Most of the pomegranates in Belgium come from Turkey, but I’ve discovered that Spanish and Californian fruit has the best taste, a rich melange of sour, sweet and mildly tannic notes that calls to mind red wine and Cornelian cherries.
To select a good pomegranate, look for a glossy, heavy fruit that doesn’t have soft spots. Different varieties of pomegranates range from dark red to pale pink, so pick the richest colored fruit from the batch. Opening a pomegranate holds a sense of suspense–what will it hold inside its leathery skin? The moment when the orb breaks open to reveal the segments full of garnet beads is a small wonder. I’ve opened hundreds of pomegranates in my life, but this giddy delight never lessens.
The best way to open a pomegranate is to make cuts along its six ridges and then split it open. I will describe the process in more detail below. The usual techniques of cutting the fruit in half or whacking it with a spoon over a bowl of water are messy and wasteful. Once you open it and take out the seeds, you can keep the arils in the fridge for a couple of days.
I use pomegranate to garnish baba ganoush, Georgian bean salad and spinach side dishes. I also make my winter cucumber-pomegranate salad. A handful of pomegranate seeds over a piece of salmon baked with green onions and cherry tomatoes adds a fruity, tart note.
The easiest way to enjoy pomegranate is out of hand, and it needs few embellishments. Yet, if I were to gild the lily, I would pick out the arils, pile them up in a bowl and add a splash of orange blossom water. The floral scent of orange flowers reminiscent of wild strawberries is a perfect complement to the tangy fruitiness of pomegranate–all of the perfumes of Alhambra in one bite.
Orange Blossom Scented Pomegranate
You will need one pomegranate, 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water (and optionally, sugar to taste). Score pomegranate with a knife along its six ridges, cutting through the skin. Cut off the corolla and with your fingers press in the center to break out the fruit. It should yield easily. If not, make the cuts a little bit deeper.
Remove pomegranate seeds (arils) and divide into two portions. Sprinkle with orange blossom water (and if using, sugar). Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a day. Enjoy!
Photography by Bois de Jasmin