Vail Seasonal: Power of the pomegranate
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Pomegranates are thought to be one of the world’s first fruits, dating back as far as 4000 BC. They can be traced through Greek and Roman mythologies to ancient Arab, Chinese and Jewish cultures.
In Greek myth, the tale is a violent one, involving jealousy and brutal death. Blood is claimed to be the spot form which the first pomegranate tree grew. In modern Greece, the tale has evolved to one of happiness, where the pomegranate is a symbol of abundance – a fruit that spills over in plenitude and good luck.
Ancient Chinese and Arab women viewed pomegranates as indicative of their fertility. An Arab woman would draw a circle in the ground and drop the pomegranate in the center. When it broke open, the seeds would scatter. The number of seeds that landed outside the circle was equal to the number of children she would bear.
Religious beliefs are rich with pomegranate symbolism. To the early Jews, pomegranate seeds were an affirmation of their faith. Each pomegranate was believed to contain exactly 613 seeds, a number that corresponds with the number of commandments in the Torah.
The pomegranate may also be the original fruit from the Garden of Eden, making it the representation of all that is forbidden. Christian paintings often depict the Virgin Mary with a pomegranate, either in her hand or nearby. This was to symbolize the Virgin Mary’s power over life and death, as well as the seed that bore the Son of God.
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Modern Americans look upon the pomegranate as mysterious. Though there is a substantial crop grown in California, many people have no idea how to eat or use one. What they do know is that pomegranates are notoriously messy.
If you can get past the messiness, pomegranates are a rich source of anitoxidants and vitamins C, A, and E. The fruit helps to lower cholesterol, supports the immune system and is believed to keep your complexion clear and glowing.
Larkspur’s executive chef, Armando Navarro, said “With a little practice, you can learn how to take apart a pomegranate and enjoy the seeds. Eat them raw, use to garnish or add to salads for crunch and color.”
Navarro suggests rolling the pomegranate around in your hands, pressing firmly enough to feel the pulpy inside of the fruit. Cut off the blossom end, then cut into sections indicated by the inside membranes. Place these sections in a bowl of cool water for about 10 minutes. The fruit will start to come apart – the pith and membrane float to the top and the seeds drop to the bottom.
Use your hands to pull the remaining seeds loose. Scoop the pith out of the water. Then strain the seeds from the water.
Navarro recommends purchasing a high quality organic pomegranate juice to use for making sauces. “One pomegranate will only yield about one half cup of juice,” he said, “and it’s a long process. It is worth the expense to save the time.”
“Or indulge in pomegranate liqueur,” said Brian Harker, the bar manager at Avondale. “The mellow flavor makes all kinds of great cocktails. Serve your friends a pomegranate margarita for a true wow factor.”
With a sweet tart flavor, pomegranates also lend themselves to desserts. Bill Fitzgerald, pastry chef at Avondale, said “Pomegranate juice makes excellent sorbet. For a dinner party, a small scoop of sorbet will cleanse the palate between courses. Or serve the sorbet for dessert topped with pomegranate seeds.”
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Place pomegranate juice in a small sauce pot and reduce by half. Add the balsamic vinegar, the sugar and cinnamon and mix to combine. Heat briefly to dissolve the sugar and remove from heat. Use as a basting sauce for roast pork, and serve remaining sauce with the finished dish.
2 1/2 ounces Raposado tequila
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce fresh lime juice
3/4 ounce Orchid pomegranate liqueur
Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into a salt-rimmed margarita glass. Garnish with a wedge of lime.
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups pomegranate juice
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
Place sugar, 1 cup water, and pomegranate juice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve garnished with pomegranate seeds.
Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.