Posh pomegranate

The pomegranate, popular in Greek mythology, is enjoying a surge in popularity. New products featuring this versatile fruit – foods, beverages, and cosmetics – are popping up everywhere. In fact, in the US, 258 new pomegranate products were introduced last year, up from 19 in 2002, according to Datamonitor’s Productscan Online which tracks new products.

From the Oscars’ Red Carpet Martinis (vodka, Grand Marnier and pomegranate juice, garnished with a gold leaf) to pomegranate chewing gum, lip gloss and shaving cream just to name a few, pomegranate seems to be the ingredient of choice. But the juiciest part is that in this case, trendy also means healthy.

Pomegranate, which has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, has proven to have a variety of modern health benefits, according to a report in The Seattle Times.

“It’s just now that we are finding the modern evidences and proofs of its health effects. … It has been used for medicinal purposes for ages,” says Navindra Seeram, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition and lead co-editor of Pomegranates: Ancient Roots to Modern Medicine.

What makes this ruby red fruit, packed with hundreds of juicy seeds, so healthy? According to Seeram and her associates at the University of California, here are a few reasons:

• Pomegranates contain more antioxidants than you’ll find in cranberries, red wine and green tea. This can help prevent atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries that leads to heart disease and stroke.

• A recent study by UCLA suggests drinking a glass of pomegranate juice every day can help slow the spread of prostate cancer. In fact, drinking a commercial juice such as POM Wonderful is even more healthful than eating the fruit itself because 70 percent of the antioxidants found in the juice are released from the peel when the pomegranate is squeezed, according to Seeram.

• Phytoestrogen found in the pomegranate seed can help to alleviate menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes. It’s the only plant known to contain estrogen.

• Another recent study, which measured the erectile function of rabbits, showed a regular intake of pomegranate juice raises nitric oxide levels and blood supply similar to those who take Viagra.

Want to try cooking with this posh and ultra healthy fruit? A recipe follows – although keep in mind that pomegranate can be used in just about any recipe calling for fruit.

POM Slow-Roasted Rack of Lamb with Mint Molasses
Time to table: 1 hour, 30 minutes (45 minutes preparation plus 35 to 45 minutes cooking)
Makes: 4 servings

juice from 4—6 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates,* or 2 cups POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
2 racks of lamb, frenched and trimmed of fat
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup mint leaves
4 tablespoons dry sherry
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons orange blossom honey
skin of 1 apple (any variety)

1. Prepare fresh pomegranate juice.*

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook pomegranate juice, sherry, bay leaf, honey and apple skin; reduce by half.

3. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf and apple skin. Allow reduction to cool; divide evenly and save in two separate containers.

4. In a blender, place 3 tablespoons of olive oil and mint leaves; blend until smooth.

5. Combine the mint and oil mixture with half of the pomegranate reduction to make molasses. Set aside and keep warm.

6. Salt and pepper the lamb and set aside for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 325°F.

7. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet.

8. Brown the lamb on all sides.

9. Place lamb on a roasting rack over a shallow pan and brush on all sides with the remaining pomegranate reduction.

10. Roast in preheated oven.

11. Baste lamb every 7 minutes (5 times). Lamb should be done to medium rare when a meat thermometer inserted reads 135°F.

12. Remove lamb from the oven and allow to rest for 7 to 10 minutes before carving into chops. Allow 3 to 4 chops per serving or a half rack per person.

13. Drizzle with mint-pomegranate molasses and serve.

* For 2 cups of juice, cut 4-6 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates in half and juice them with a citrus reamer or juicer. Pour mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or sieve. Set the juice aside.

Nutrients per serving (10 oz.): 848 calories, 32g protein, 60g carbohydrate, 54g total fat (19g saturated), 141mg cholesterol, 113mg sodium, 1g dietary fiber, 28mcg vitamin A RE, 5mg vitamin C.

Recipe courtesy of 2006 News Canada

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