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Bring pomegranates into your recipes

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Watching Good Eats last week--while totally avoiding Chef Alton Brown's dreadful new show known as Cutthroat Kitchen--I learned a thing or two to do with a pomegranate. To open one, cut off a slice of the lower end and use your hands to open it up to expose all the seeds.

Once the seeds are beginning to fall out, put the fruit over a bowl of water and begin opening the membranes up while the seeds fall into the water. Little flecks of white membrane will float up, while the seeds sink. Soon you can drain off the water and the white flecks, leaving you the seeds enclosed in their little globes of juice.

At that point, I would run the seeds through a food mill to separate them from the juice. I will repeat this once again: DO NOT eat pomegranate seeds, or indeed any seeds such as blackberry, raspberry or the very small watermelon seeds that are found in "seedless" watermelons. They can get lodged in your appendix on their way through your digestive system, and it's time for an operation.

Once you have some pomegranate juice, you can mix it with other juices or use it as an ingredient in salad dressings. But there is something much more interesting to do with it, and the good news is that you can use bottled pomegranate juice just as well, especially since you are going to cook it.

What I would use is POM, a juice product that can be recognized in your store's produce department by its double-round bottle. That juice can be made into a syrup, or even what Brown calls a molasses, as long as you cook it down with sugar and stop when you have the consistency you want.

That means that you can use a pomegranate molasses to season meat or make a vinaigrette salad dressing. A light pomegranate syrup will be your own home-made Grenadine, which is a cocktail ingredient that used to be made with pomegranates but isn't any longer. But if you are not acquainted with my favorite bar drink, make some real Grenadine and try a Singapore Gin Sling; you'll never look back.

But I am going to give you another version of vinaigrette dressing, using pomegranate syrup instead of the Prickly Pear syrup that I usually use.

GRENADINE VINAIGRETTE

From Cafe Margot

Ingredients:

1 cup safflower or canola oil
1/2 cup pomegranate syrup, about as thick as pancake syrup
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
Fresh onion, a chunk (to taste)
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Turn the machine on and run it until the dressing is blended uniformly. Transfer the dressing to an airtight container and refrigerate until serving.

Now--to make pomegranate syrup, use this formula:

HOME MADE GRENADINE

Ingredients:

2 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar

Place the juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil quickly over medium-high heat. Boil the mixture and watch it carefully, stirring to prevent burning and also to help water evaporate away.

When the syrup is the consistency that you want, take the saucepan off the heat and leave it alone until it is no longer dangerous. Transfer the syrup to an airtight container and use in the salad dressing, or store it for a later use.

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