The pomegranate is a fruit rarely found to adorn the family fruit bowl. It’s not common in fruit salads and, until I baked those Pomegranate White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies (I’m drooling over the memory of those..) I had never seen them baked. They make a great garnish too, say for this Chocolate Coconut cake with Avocado Frosting or a salad with pistachios and goats cheese. But somehow, having a reputation as a garnish seems a little dismal.
So, as usual in trying times, I turned to the Bible to find out what this humble fruit has to offer. As it turns out, pomegranates (seeded apples) have a rich history and symbolism in Jewish culture, and to this day are considered beautiful and precious, up there with grains, figs, grapevines and water.
“Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.” No pomegranates? Forget about it! This is no place worth visiting!
With no actual flesh, just seeds, I can understand why pomegranates aren’t a daily snack. However, once you start popping the seeds into your mouth, or sprinkling them over yogurt and muesli you might get hooked. If you aren’t yet sold, the arils are also very high in Vitamin C, antioxidants and the pantothenic acid (B5) that helps reduce muscle cramping. Woot, nature’s candy as always, is beautiful and nutritious!
Balsamic Pomegranate Chicken on Barley Risotto
2 chicken breasts
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp pomegranate juices (if you squish the arils it should seep out)
2 green onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
splash of stock (from stock to be used in risotto)
salt and pepper
pomegranate arils (removed this way)
Preheat oven to 350˚F and lightly oil a casserole or Pyrex dish. Heat a pan over moderate heat. Add a splash of olive oil. Place the chicken breast on the hot pan and season well. Brown on each side then transfer to casserole dish. Meanwhile, mix together the balsamic vinegar, sugar, pomegranate juices, green onions, garlic and stock and pour into the pan the chicken was cooked in. Simmer for a couple of minutes until sauce reduces, 1 or 2 minutes. Remove from heat, pour over the chicken breasts in the casserole dish and cook in oven for 15mins or until chicken is completely cooked through.
Because barley is not risotto rice, technically you could add all the stock, let it simmer and walk away. But I love stirring risotto – it is very therapeutic for me and I enjoy watching the stock get absorbed.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup wine (red or white)
2 cups organic stock, chicken or vegetable (keep warm on the stove)
handful peas and spinach
In the same pan the chicken was browned in (and the sauce reduced), heat a dab of butter and saute the onions. Add the garlic and barley and stir until toasted. Add the wine to deglaze the pan. While simmering, pour in the stock, 1/4 cup at a time and stir until absorbed. Continue this until all stock is absorbed and barley is tender (an extra 1/4 cup of water may be necessary to reach desired consistency). With the final addition of stock, add the peas and spinach and season well with pepper (salt is only necessary if your stock is not already salty).
Stir through a handful of Parmesan and serve on warmed plates, topped with more Parmesan, the chicken breast, a splash of the juices from around the chicken, and a sprinkling of pomegranate arils.