Food & Drink

Little pomegranate seeds pack a nutritional punch

Once you learn how to extract juice from pomegranates, you and your family get to enjoy all the benefits, especially the flavor.
Once you learn how to extract juice from pomegranates, you and your family get to enjoy all the benefits, especially the flavor. Sang An

You may have to work a little to enjoy this superfood, but the fruits of your labor will yield a wonderful prize: tart, gemlike seeds packed with antioxidants, fiber and potassium.

Extracting basics

Seed it: Use a sharp knife to score the fruit all the way around. Cut through its tough skin but not deeply enough to hit the seeds. Twist the two halves apart, and hold each cut-side down over a bowl. Whack the back and sides repeatedly with a heavy spoon to make the seeds fall out.

Juice it: Put seeds in a manual citrus juicer — like one from Hamilton Beach or Nemco — or squeeze them in a ricer. A food processor also works: Just grind the seeds with a little water, then strain. A large pomegranate will yield about one cup.

A healthy choice: According to New York City-based nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, pomegranate juice can have up to three times the antioxidant activity of green tea.

One cup of 100 percent pomegranate juice has more potassium than a medium-size banana — good news, since the mineral keeps your heart healthy and can help lower blood pressure.

Tip: Look for fruits that are heavy for their size — a sign of juicy seeds inside. Mottled or darkened skin isn’t necessarily bad, but the fruit should be firm.

Pomegranates in play

A handful of plump seeds adds color and crunch to a sweet, creamy panna cotta or caramelized fennel; the juice enhances both sweet and savory dishes — and makes a versatile molasses (which you can also buy in stores).

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For breakfast: Buttermilk panna cotta

Serves 6

  •  1/4-ounce package gelatin
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Ground cardamom
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, sliced mandarin oranges and 1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes, for serving

In a small saucepan, soften gelatin in  1/4 cup water for 5 minutes. Add heavy cream, sugar and a pinch each cardamom and salt; heat over medium, stirring until sugar and gelatin dissolve. Stir in buttermilk. Pour into a 1 1/2-quart dish and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. Serve sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, oranges and coconut flakes.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 263 calories, 19 grams fat, 19 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 72 milligrams cholesterol, 127 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 65 percent of calories from fat.

For dinner: Braised fennel

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cut into 1  1/2-inch wedges
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • Fresh mint, fennel fronds, chopped toasted hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds, for serving

Heat a large skillet over high; add olive oil and fennel in a single layer (work in batches, if needed). Season with salt and pepper; cook until browned, 2 minutes a side. Add garlic, orange juice, chicken broth and pomegranate juice. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer, turning once, until tender, 8 minutes. Uncover; cook on high until liquid is syrupy, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate; let cool. Serve sprinkled with mint, fennel fronds, hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 123 calories, 7 grams fat, 14 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, no cholesterol, 127 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 49 percent of calories from fat.

Anytime: Pomegranate molasses

Combine 1  1/2 cups pomegranate juice and 3 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 30 minutes. Let cool. Stir in 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice.

Drizzle the molasses over ice cream, or add it to meat stews in lieu of vinegar.

Nutritional analysis per 1-tablespoon serving: 45 calories, trace fat, 11 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, no cholesterol, 6 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 1 percent of calories from fat.