FOR all its virtues, the pomegranate doesn’t exactly reach out and grab the cook. It doesn’t release a burst of fragrance, the way a lemon or an orange does the instant the knife pierces its skin. There’s no inspiring rush of juice like the nectar of a peach or fig. None of the evocative crunch of an apple.
But it’s fall. They’re in season. And they’re so beautiful. So, we began to experiment. And our first effort -- a creamy orange cheesecake covered with an impossibly red pomegranate glaze and sparkling seeds -- confirmed our hunch: This is one seriously neglected fruit.
Next we used the seeds to garnish a spongecake frosted with a rich pomegranate molasses butter cream. Topped with toasted walnuts and strewn with the ruby seeds, it was another real looker of a dessert. Pomegranate molasses -- which is actually just the concentrated juice, sold in specialty markets and well-stocked supermarkets -- gives the sweet, thick frosting a unique flavor.
We didn’t stop at dessert. Our pomegranate chicken, which marinates overnight in pomegranate molasses and seasonings, is served with a sauce made from white wine, butter and pomegranate molasses. It was a sophisticated dish, and it came together in less than an hour.
Choosing pomegranates is easy. Buy deeply colored, large fruits that are heavy for their size. Store them in the refrigerator for up to two months or on the counter for a few days.
To remove the seeds, roll the pomegranate on a cutting board, pressing down slightly. Then score the leathery skin into quarters and submerge it in a bowl of cold water. Gently break open the pomegranate and separate the seeds from the pith. The pith will float to the top of the bowl, and can be easily scooped off.
Be sure to keep the fruit under water as you work, to prevent it from squirting on you and your clothing. For all its virtues, the pomegranate can make an indelible mess.
Beat the butter until light and creamy, then gradually add the powdered sugar until the frosting is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and pomegranate molasses.
To frost a cake, cut the cake in half horizontally, and place the bottom on a cake plate. Spread one-fourth of the frosting over the cake and sprinkle with half the pomegranate seeds. Top with the other cake half and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the cake with the chopped nuts and the remaining pomegranate seeds.
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