There was no shortage of pomegranates in the Bay Area suburbs when I was growing up. Pomegranates were fun things you’d pick from the tree in your friend’s backyard. You’d either throw them against the ground and watch them explode into bloody fragments or you'd peel away their tough rusty skin and white connective tissue, put the seeds in your mouth, and see how far you could spit them.
Lately, though, I’ve been rethinking pomegranates. On impulse, I nabbed a heavy specimen from Berkeley’s Monterey Market, which had a generous heap in front of its well-curated produce section. Inspired by the Jerusalem cookbook, I was planning on preparing a butternut squash recipe from the book. To pair with the squash, I also wanted to roast cauliflower in my usual way: high heat, lots of olive oil, seasoned with spices. While all this was going in my tiny kitchen, I finally cracked open the pomegranate.
I don’t know if it's because of my time away from the fruit, but I feel certain that this was a superlative pomegranate, with large ruby kernels that were juicier and tangier than I remembered. Instead of my usual raisins soaked in red wine vinegar, I added pomegranate seeds to the cauliflower. Then I made salad with butter lettuce and balsamic vinaigrette and finished it with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. The next day, I added them to a simple farro salad. I ate a handful of seeds alone, too.
In each instance the pomegranate added a welcome burst of tart juice, like a built-in palate cleanser.
To cook basic farro: Place in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring the pot to a boil and season with a big pinch of salt. Cover and simmer over low heat until tender but still chewy, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain.
Farro Salad with Pomegranates
- bring a pot of salted water to a boil. For 2 people, add 1 cup farro and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
- drain the farro well, then spread on an oiled baking sheet to cool.
- mince a shallot and let it marinate in some fresh-squeezed lemon juice. If it’s really tart for your taste, add a pinch of sugar.
- chop some parsley (and mint, if you have it)
- dice 1/2 bulb of fennel
- dismantle about 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds
- put the farro in a bowl and mix in the shallot, parsley, mint, fennel, and pomegranates. -season with salt and freshly ground pepper
- add a glug of olive oil, taste, and season with more salt, pepper, and a splash of red wine vinegar if the acid level seems too timid. The salad will absorb the acid as it sits, so if it tastes too acidic at first, it will taste mellower in an hour or so.
- The farro salad keeps for a week in the refrigerator.