Pomegranates are synonymous with Fall menus and Rosh Hashanah meals. Harvested now, they can last quite a long time and be used for many different recipes throughout the entire holiday season. Their festive appearance also makes them perfect to use as decorations.
So when we saw that POM Wonderful had teamed up with FoodBuzz and was selecting hosts to create a POM Wonderful Dinner Party, we jumped at the chance and were thrilled to find out that we were among only 100 participants across the country to be chosen.
Imagine our surprise when we were received two crates, not one, but two, full crates of pomegranates to cook with and to use as decorations. That’s about 50 pomegranates in total!
They also sent us a fun apron to wear to shield us from the mess we were sure to make, as well as a cutting mat with handy pomegranate opening instructions printed on it. In addition, there were 10 gift bags for us to give out to our guests. Inside featured a POM Wonderful bracelet and a package of recipes, many of which we used for our menu. There were also coupons for free bottles of POM Wonderful juice!
So armed with our apron and recipes, and more pomegranates than we have ever seen, we got down to business and began the party preparations.
But first, we wanted to learn a little background on our featured guest…
The pomegranate originated in eastern Iran, and is one of the oldest fruits known to man. Because of its many seeds, the pomegranate has been used throughout history as the representation of fertility and plenty. The spies even brought a pomegranate back to Moses in the dessert to show him that the land of Israel was fertile. Jewish tradition holds that a pomegranate has 613 seeds to represent the 613 commandments in the Torah. (We’ve never counted, but now, with all these pomegranates around, we will!) Even the design of the pomegranate was woven into the high priest’s robes, and brass representations were part of the Temple’s pillars. It is mentioned six times in the Song of Solomon. Pomegranates also figures into many Christian and Catholic paintings by Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, often seen in the hands of the Virgin Mary or baby Jesus.
We also see the pomegranate in ancient Greece and Rome. Homer mentions it in The Odyssey, as part of the gardens of Alcinous and the Greek myth of Persephone, the chthonic goddess of the Underworld, prominently features the pomegranate. The fruits were even found in China during the Han and Sung dynasties. Perhaps, it is so widely revered not just because of the symbolism of abundance, but also because of the fruits many health benefits as well. Known for its antioxidant and anti-disease benefits, the pomegranate has been used as a source of traditional remedies for thousands of years.
The Spanish Conquistadores are credited for bringing the pomegranate to America and Jesuit missionaries carried it north to their missions in California. But around 1896, a nurseryman named Mr. Bearss who came from Porterville, CA, brought pomegranate cuttings back from Florida to California. A new variety was grown and yielded a much sweeter and juicier fruit so he aptly named it, Wonderful. This variety is now the fruit that POM Wonderful harvests.
The word pomegranate actually comes from the Latin pomum or apple and granatus meaning seeded. You can see that this “pomum granatus” has influenced the name in many languages. In French, the word for the fruit is grenade, and in Hebrew the word is rimon, which also means grenade! This is likely because it seemed so incredibly difficult to remove the arils and they would literally explode everywhere!
The event was incredibly fun and we entertained guests that we had not seen in quite a long time. Our first thought was to go over the top with ornate golds and reds, but we had just finished painting our dining room and the ceiling in beautiful blues, so we changed the décor to silver.
We found some dazzling initial ornaments that we used to create the place cards for each person. Luckily, everyone had different initials! The silver chargers and white plates and grandmother’s silverware just popped on the backdrop of a black tablecloth. We created a very simple and elegant centerpiece featuring pomegranates in a tower vase surrounded by tea lights, pomegranates and strands of silver beads. We tried to make the rest of the decor as organic as possible to our own decor so we just stratigically placed the pomegranates around the house in different places.
After we determined the décor, we choose our menu. A few of the recipes came from the package that POM Wonderful had sent. And while we usually refrain from over using a single ingredient throughout our menus, we were never overwhelmed by the pomegranates and the flavors worked perfectly together throughout the entire dinner.
Once the decorations were set, it was time for dinner!
Aaron Sampling the Margaritas!
Spinach Salad with Pears & Walnuts, Pomegranate Raspberry Vinaigrette
Enjoying the salad and the company!
The Main Course and POM Wonderful’s Grilled Chicken Mohammara created by Chef Jose Andres
And the grand finale, DESSERT! A POM Cube with Chocolate Streusel
Oops! Wait! I need a picture of that!
Before the dishes.
We had an amazing time. All the food turned out really well, and we had nothing left over! We also found some wonderful (no pun intended!) uses for pomegranates in recipes. They really have a great flavor and we are also enjoying eating just the arils by the handfuls!
One final note though, we had an incredible amount of pomegranates left untouched and being people that feel it’s terrible to waste food, we donated a case and a half to our local food bank. We encourage others to do the same.