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Cooking With Ever-More-Popular Pomegranate

Pomegranate
CBS/The Early Show
Pomegranates are a great way to add a burst of color and taste to a variety of dishes. They're also packed with nutirents. And they're at the peak of their season right now.

On The Early Show Thursday, Bon Appetit magazine Contributing Editor Dede Wilson imparted some great recipes, as well as easy-to-follow pointers for buying and cooking with pomegranates.

Since widespread distribution in the United States and Canada was started in 2002, the popularity of pomegranate juice has been steadily rising.

The round fruit of the shrub-like pomegranate tree is about as big as a baseball, leathery on the outside, and packed with juicy, edible seeds -- about 600, on average.

Its tangy-sweet flavor gives lift and dimension to Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and even Mexican cooking. Ruby-like pomegranate seeds look beautiful scattered over tossed salads, chicken sautés, lamb stews, couscous, and fruit salads. And just a dash of thick pomegranate molasses gives alluring sweet-tartness to vinaigrettes, marinades, braises, and dips.

When buying pomegranates, look for fruits that are hard on the outside and feel heavy for their size; pass on any that have cracks or bruises. Rind color, which ranges from bright pink to red to brick, indicates variety, rather than ripeness. Choose the largest fruits you can find; the bigger the pomegranate, the juicier it will be.

As for storing them: Whole fruits can be kept at room temperature for a week, or in the fridge for two. Or remove the seeds and seal them in an airtight container; they'll keep for five days in the fridge, or up to three months in the freezer.

Pomegranates are a good source of vitamin C and potassium, plus antioxidants known as polyphenols. Eating them may support cardiovascular health and help avoid certain kinds of cancer.

In addition to pomegranate juice, you can find vodka, salad dressing, ice cream, salsa, lollipops and gummy bears. In the last few years, hundreds of new pomegranate products have come on the market.

Some Jewish scholars believe that it was the pomegranate that was the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden!

The pomegranate is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India, and was cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times.

RECIPES

Mediterranean Salad with Prosciutto and Pomegranate

Pomegranate seeds add brightness to the look and flavor of this starter.

2 cups very thinly sliced fennel bulb
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
6 cups arugula (about 4 ounces)
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 3-ounce packages thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into strips
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Toss fennel and 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Combine arugula, green onions, mint, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in large bowl; toss. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide greens among plates. Top with fennel, then drape with prosciutto. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over.

For more recipes, go to Page 2.