Pomegranates…Not Just For Decorations…

I was inspired by your feedback to actually crack open a few of my pomegranates.  I had not done that in over 10 years, as the last time I tried one, they were so tart,  I can still almost feel the pucker they left behind.  Until this harvest, I primarily used them in a fall table display along with gourds and pumpkins or I just left them for the birds.  Not this year though.  This crop is  just delicious, almost sweet…lovely to eat by the handfuls, toss into salads, to juice,  and use to make into dressings and sauces.  For me, it’s been a re-discovery of a fruit, and as “Martha” would say, “it’s a good thing,” as poms are so nutritious and packed with antioxidants.

While I initially created quite a mess breaking open the first ones, leaving the counter and my white t-shirt looking like a crime scene, my husband coached me through a much cleaner way to open and seed the fruit.  First, cut them into quarters, then, fill a bowl with water, next, use your hands to release the seeds from the pithy fruit under water (no spatter, nice and neat.)  The seeds settle to the bottom of the bowl, the pith rises…you can use a strainer to finish up separating the seeds from the rest.  He got this tip watching the t.v. show, The Chew.  Here is the messier version I first used to get at those jewels of seeds.

pomegranate seeds...floating in sparkling wine

pomegranate seeds…floating in sparkling wine


Slaughtering a pomegranate...ending up with beautiful juice

Slaughtering a pomegranate…ending up with beautiful juice

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Along with giving friends gifts of fruit…here are some of the ways we used pomegranates this week.

We had dinner at our good friend (and chef’s) house the other night. As usual, they had prepared a delightful meal.  The entree was a seared bison filet sitting on (guess what?) a dark, flavorful pomegranate sauce. What a perfect pairing with the 2003 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon they served with this course…truly memorable flavors which complemented each other.

Steak with pomegranate sauce

Bison Steak with pomegranate sauce

You can find pomegranate drinks and infusions on many menus this time of year.  Pomegranate infused teas are popular and prevalent these days too.  Mighty Leaf Teas and Harney & Sons have several varieties, including pomegranate oolongs and white teas.  If you enjoy fruity flavored teas, try these. I’m still hooked on pure tea (no flavors), am going through my second pound of leaves from my current favorite, an organic assam grown on the Rani Estate, from Mighty Leaf Tea.  I might enjoy this morning’s cup with a small bowl of pomegranate seeds on the side :-).


What To Do With All These Pomegranates…

I am not much of a gardener.  Growing up in the inner city of Los Angeles, I wasn’t exposed to farming or large gardens; however, maintaining a small garden is in my blood.  My Italian grandfather had a tiny house in South Central L.A. in which his front yard was “all” garden.  I remember walking through it as a child feeling dwarfed by the tomato plants and corn while inhaling the licorice-like fragrance of basil.  My mom also kept a small garden at our home.  She grew Italian parsley and mint by our backdoor.  When making meatballs, which was a weekly occurrence, she’d have one of us grab a handful of fresh parsley for her.  We also had one or two fruit trees that came from an Uncle’s brother who lived on a real farm in Merced, California, the produce basket region of the state.  That was it, the extent of my exposure to farming or gardening. I don’t enjoy the bugs, rodents, and seemingly never-ending work that goes into bringing in a successful harvest.

I detested yard work as a youth and avoided it as an adult until about a dozen years ago.  Now I enjoy growing a few things, but am afraid of insects and the flying things that seem to gravitate towards fresh fruit and vegetables.  So…when I show you some of my harvest photos, just know that I am kind of impressed at anything I grow that looks like real fruit or vegetables.

This fall’s harvest from our one Fuji Apple, one Fuyu Persimmon, and one pomegranate tree is one of abundance.  I don’t understand why the abundance,  as I think I forgot to fertilize this year.  The apples and persimmons are easy for us to consume and give to family and friends; but what should I do with all these pomegranates?

We picked over 50 this morning.  There are over 50 more on the tree.

Pomegranate harvest...one big ornamental tree gives off lots of pons

Pomegranate harvest…one big ornamental tree gives off lots of pons

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Deciding to use some of the fruit for display and decorating purposes, I pulled out vases in an effort to design a “natural-looking” centerpiece…I am not very good at this creative stuff…never have been, but my sister is.  I need to give her a call for help…am certain she will come up with natural and interesting displays of this stunning fruit.  Mine are a bit on the pathetic looking side 🙁

Currently, pomegranates are rather a trendy fruit.  I see them used in many salads, in teas, in power juices and even mixed drinks.  Pomegranate martinis, pomegranate margaritas, and more…still, I don’t think I’ll use more than a few of these.  I might set up a fruit stand in front of my house and offer them to our neighbors.  Also, am meeting my best friend and cousin for lunch this week, guess what I will be bringing them 🙂

What’s your favorite use of this beautiful, tart fruit?

A Gift Of Tea From France

I love it when family and friends come back from fabulous vacations bearing gifts.  Such was the case this week.  My brother and sister-in-law recently returned from a trip to Paris and Provence, returning with a lovely gift for me of Kusmi Teas.

When thinking of France, one conjures images of incredible food, wine, sidewalk cafes, history, art, architecture, and possibly French sweets; such as Madeleine sponge cakes and French macaroon cookies, but not necessarily tea.   Yet the French have a long and illustrious tea history.  Today there are over 140 tea salons in France offering exquisite teas and tea service.

When tea first came to Europe, the two countries that imported the most tea were the Netherlands and France.

While tea was first imported for medicinal purposes, people soon realized that they enjoyed drinking tea for the flavor. Since it was still imported by a long and dangerous process, it was quite expensive to drink. It became something associated with the upper class.  It’s not surprising, therefore, that tea-drinking was seen as one of the privileges of the rich during the French Revolution, caused the revolutionaries to have much the same feeling for tea that the American colonists did when they dumped it into Boston Harbor (that was some tea party  :-).  For the next 50 years, drinking tea was definitely out of vogue.  The history of tea is riddled with thousands of years of political and geographical travails such as these.

Mariage Freres,  Damman Freres, and Kusmi are three of France’s renowned tea brands. Kusmi is a brand I recently became acquainted with, purchasing it a couple years ago when at Dean and DeLuca in the Napa Valley.

Their origin started in St. Petersburg, Russia over 140 years ago, leading them to Paris in 1917.  Kusmi Tea offers unique Russian blends like Anastasia or Saint Petersbourg tea (which is the one I am drinking right now as I write this post).  Some of their recipes have been kept secret for more than a century, but also many traditional and flavored blends are offered.

French teas...Kusmi and Mariage Freres...my favorite Bodum teacup ..and my other gift from France ....beautiful extra virgin olive oil --

French teas…Kusmi and Mariage Freres…my favorite Bodum teacup ..and my other gift from France ….beautiful extra virgin olive oil —

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Above are the tea tins I get to try…Japanese Genmaicha is next on my list…I love this “popcorn” tea.

Perfect with a few of my version of French Macarons…

My French almond macarons

My French almond macarons – with lots of buttercream filling

And The Seasons Go Round And Round…

As fall rolled in last week, we pulled in our last large heirloom tomato and had one final caprese salad using our dwindling basil, along with the highly touted, creamy and supple, Di Stefano Burrata –  (acclaimed baker and co-owner of Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza, Nancy Silverton’s favorite).  These incredibly fresh and flavorful ingredients, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a teensy bit of Maldon sea salt flakes made us wish we had a few more of those tomatoes. Bye bye summer veggies.

So now we move on to fall fruits and vegetables.  We have a tiny orchard consisting of seven fruit trees that actually bare fruit (and three that just refuse to cooperate but look pretty.)

The last of the heirloom tomatoes with gorgeous bur rata from Di Stefano

The last of the heirloom tomatoes with gorgeous bur rata from Di Stefano

Our one Fuji Apple tree has been a delight and delivers the most crisp, refreshing, firm fruit.  Each year the harvest gets better and better.  Here is the first crop of 2012.

Our first pick of the season from our one Fuji apple tree...deliciously crisp, firm and refreshing

Our first pick of the season from our one Fuji apple tree…deliciously crisp, firm and refreshing

Our Laurel Bay Leaf Tree happily grows in a large pot in our patio, we inherited it from my mother, Betty.  We pruned one wild growing branch the other day and ended up with a bunch of leaves that I hated the thought of throwing out, therefore,  I tried drying them using tips I pulled off the internet.  They made nice gifts for our friends.

Laurel Bay Leaves...drying...ready to give to friends

Laurel Bay Leaves…drying…ready to give to friends

All this change of season stuff got me motivated to decorate the house a bit for fall (which is my favorite season of the year.)  I’ve never needed to purchase much in the decoration department as my mother had that area covered.  She actually had a spare bedroom in her home which we called the “Christmas room.” It was chocked full of decoration paraphernalia.  Not just Christmas items either…name a holiday or season and she had it covered.  After she died, her things were divided between four households.  Ten years later, my sister and I are still using wrapping paper we got from her.  That woman loved celebrating the holidays with foods and decorations.

Well, once I had the decorations up, I got even more inspired and decided to bake pumpkin bread for hostess gifts for friends we were seeing that night.  I was short on pumpkin and stewing over what to do – trying to avoid having to go to the store when my husband suggested substituting shredded apple to make up the difference. (We had a lot of apples.) It worked, albeit, I think they needed a bit more  “punch” in flavor … next time, if subbing apple for half the pumpkin,  I will add a bit more cinnamon and nutmeg.  The texture was quite nice.  They looked enticing wrapped in clear gift bags.

Fall decorations...inherited from mom (Betty)  I still think of her whenever I get the box down to put these up

Fall decorations…inherited from mom (Betty) I still think of her whenever I get the box down to put these up

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Fall brings a whole slew of veggies, fruits, and meats I love to cook with and consume.  Of course, here in Southern California, the

Mini pumpkin bread loaves...with a bit of apple

Mini pumpkin bread loaves…with a bit of apple

IMG_3534introduction of fall brought 100+ degree heat too…I’ll be happy when the weather cooperates with my desire to bake and braise foods.  It is a bit hot for the oven to be on here right now.  But it’s never too hot for a great cup of tea, which I enjoyed while doing all the above work 🙂   My order of Organic Assam, Rani Estate grown from Mighty Leaf  Teas got delivered just in time for me to keep my favorite tea flowing while all this changing of seasons was going on.

Drink tea!