The talent behind the Back Burner is going to be sharing recipes made with pomegranates this week.  Once I read that we were going to be working with this ingredient, I decided to learn more about it.  Honestly, all I honestly knew was how delicious it is.

Pomegranates originated in Persia (modern day Iran) and have been cultivated in Iraq, Pakistan, India, Russia and Mediterranean regions. They prefer to grow in dry areas and are drought tolerant.  Wetter areas will promote root decay and diseases.  The fruit is an excellent source of vitamin B5, potassium and vitamin C.

The outside of the fruit is a semi-hard shell, once broken open, there are hundreds of red (and juicy) seeds. The entire seed is consumed.  The taste can be very sweet or sour, depending on the variety as well as the ripeness.  The juice of the pomegranate is hugely popular in Persian and Indian cuisine and is truly delicious, especially when squeezed fresh.   As well grenadine syrup, which is widely used in cocktails, is made with pomegranate juice.  Before tomatoes arrived in the Middle East, grenadine would be used in traditional Iranian recipes.

Pomegranates can be intimidating when it comes down to breaking it open and removing the seeds.  They are afraid that they will stain the house or that it will take too long.  Some people like to break apart the fruit under running water;  I feel that wastes the juices that are slightly extracted during the process. The process I use is fairly straightforward with minimal (if any staining).  After putting an apron on, I take the fruit and cut it into quarters.  Use a cutting board that you do not mind getting a little stained.  Do not cut it on your gorgeous marble counters!  Then I place a mixing bowl on the counter or in the sink, and I gently break apart the flesh from the seeds over the bowl.  As I drop the seeds into the bowl, the juices from the flesh also run into the same bowl.  The entire process takes less than 8 minutes and if you wash your hands right away, there will not be any staining.

The recipe I made involves braising chicken thighs that are flavored with pomegranates, chilies and garlic.  Moist.  Flavorful.  Delicious.




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