Pomegranate juice a vehicle for Hasidic help and healing


Get Rabbi Shulim Greenberg talking about the health benefits of pomegranate juice and he sounds like a homeopathic nutritionist — with a Yiddish accent.

Every January, the Hasidic charity Greenberg runs obtains some 40,000 pounds of California pomegranates (donated by Pom Wonderful, the nation’s largest pomegranate producer), squeezes them into juice and ships the product in eight-ounce plastic bottles to ailing Jews.

The recipients — mostly residents of the haredi Orthodox strongholds of Brooklyn, Lakewood, N.J., and New York’s Rockland County, where the New Square Hasidic village is located — apparently believe in the nectar’s healing powers.

“People think it heals, but it doesn’t heal,” Greenberg says on a tour of the juice production line during its annual two-week run in January. “It’s keeping the blood count up, mainly for people taking chemo. If the blood count is good, the body has strength to fight the illness.”

Many manufacturers of food and dietary supplements promote the supposed health benefits of pomegranates, which are high in antioxidants, and the fruit also occupies a prominent place in Jewish tradition. Pomegranates are said to have 613 seeds – the same as the number of mitzvahs, or commandments, in the Torah. Pomegranate decorations adorned the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the robes of its high priest. Greenberg says there is also a reference in a medieval Jewish commentary to the fruit’s healing qualities.

But scant scientific evidence exists to establish these hypotheses as fact, and in 2010 the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to the nation’s largest pomegranate juice manufacturer, Pom Wonderful, for making unproven claims about the fruit’s disease-fighting properties.

None of that has deterred Greenberg, who says his product differs from manufactured pomegranate juice in one small but crucial way: His juice is unpasteurized.

“Pasteurized is garbage,” Greenberg said of the heating process meant to kill bacteria and prevent spoilage. “The whole natural is out.”

Pomegranate juice delivery is one small part of Chesed 24/7, a $4.5 million charity that focuses on the Jewish sick. (Until a couple of years ago it was called Chesed of New Square; chesed is the Hebrew word for kindness.)

The charity has 16 “chesed rooms” in hospitals in New York and New Jersey where patients and family members can find kosher food and sundries, and an apartment near Columbia University Medical Center for family members who need to stay near patients. The group also delivers free home-cooked kosher meals by request directly to hospital rooms, provides Medicaid-funded day programs for developmentally disabled Orthodox Jews, and runs free shuttle services between hospitals and Chesed’s home base in the New Square area, about 30 miles north of midtown Manhattan.

The organization was founded 25 years ago by volunteers in the village, where about 7,000 Hasidim affiliated with the Skverer sect live and where the poverty rate is about 58 percent, according to census data. The impetus for the organization came from Greenberg’s wife, Chavi, who started out helping a woman in New Square who did charitable work for the sick.

Most of Chesed’s budget comes via Medicaid funding: $3.45 million in 2012, plus another $600,000 in government grants, according to tax filings. But the organization also relies heavily on volunteers.

The meals Chesed delivers to hospital rooms are cooked in the kitchens of New Square homemakers who volunteer their time and the expense of buying the ingredients. The group’s Shabbat-in-a-box packages for hospital patients, which include Sabbath essentials, are packed by volunteer schoolchildren – sometimes as a birthday party activity. Aside from the group’s regular hospital shuttles driven by staff, some 150 volunteers using their own cars provide additional personalized pickup and drop-off service for community members traveling to and from hospitals – sometimes as far away as Boston.

The volunteers take their work seriously. Dispatchers keep track of the miles logged by the drivers, providing them with monthly updates. While most volunteers log 1,000 to 4,000 miles per year, two Chesed volunteer drivers last year each logged more than 30,000 miles.

“My husband gets up in the middle of dinner if he gets a call to go and drive someone,” New Square resident Baily Kaufman said of her husband, a Chesed volunteer.

Gitty Biston, one of the dozens of women who cook meals for hospital patients, says she considers the four meals she makes per week an opportunity, not a burden.

“They’re doing me a favor by giving me an opportunity to do a mitzvah,” she told JTA.

Biston found herself on the receiving end of Chesed’s largesse 14 years ago when her 3-year-old son was hospitalized after being struck by a van in her driveway.

“I didn’t have any heimische food,” she recalled, explaining that the hospital food was hardly edible, intended only for patients and was not heimische, or homey. “That’s when I saw what it is to sit in a hospital and not have food. When you get a package, you know you’re being cared for.”

Biston tries to put special care into the packages she makes, including beef or chicken, a starch like mashed potatoes or sweet noodle kugel, a vegetable and dessert, such as apple pie. If she packs chopped liver, she decorates it with cucumbers, tomatoes and red pepper in the shape of a flower. For soup, she packs two types of croutons.

And like many of the volunteers, she includes little notes for the anonymous recipients. “A little something to sweeten your day” might be attached to a chocolate dessert, for example.

“I want to make sure when the patient gets the food they should have something to look at,” Biston said. “Anything that distracts their mind a little is good for them.”

Now Biston, a mother of six who works in Chesed’s special-needs programming, has an ill adult son who has been losing weight for months for reasons unknown. When she requested a delivery of pomegranate juice, she said, the juice arrived within two hours.

The pomegranate operation also relies on donated work and materials. Volunteer girls in New Square affix the labels to the juice bottles. David’s Cookies, a dessert food manufacturer with a 160,000 square-foot plant in Cedar Grove, N.J., provides free space at its kosher facility for the juicing operation. And Pom Wonderful bears the expense of trucking in the hundreds of crates of donated fruit across the country from California to New York.

“Our mission statement is ‘Doing well by doing good.’ We’ve enjoyed putting that to practice with Chesed 24/7 for the last several years,” said Tom Rouse, Pom Wonderful’s vice president of sales for North America. “We believe strongly in the healthful benefits of pomegranates, and we celebrate any organization that brings joy to others by doing the same.”

The pomegranate seeding work is painstaking. Some 40 manual laborers working in two eight-hour daily shifts stand alongside a row of tables banging on pomegranates with kitchen mallets to release the seeds. Before bringing their bins to the juicers, they sift through the ruby-red kernels to weed out any stray membrane – a process that is repeated by a rabbinic supervisor wearing a plastic beard protector. His concern is not kashrut but quality control.

In the early years of the pomegranate operation, Chesed used manual juicers to produce the liquid. Now a modified machine designed to grind beef gently presses the kernels to release their juice into a large vat, spitting out the bitter dross generated from the centers of the kernels into waste buckets.

Once the juice is bottled, the bottles are placed in a subzero freezer in a rented facility in upstate New York until they are ready to be shipped. In all, the operation produces 20,000 to 25,000 juice bottles.

While most of the consumers are Orthodox Jews — Chesed has freezers stocked with juice bottles in Borough Park and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Lakewood, Monsey, N.Y., and New Square — the bottles are available to anyone who asks, says Tzvi Miller, Chesed’s director of development.

“When someone’s in a hospital, we’re all brothers and sisters,” Miller said.

Israelis paying a honey of a price


The price of Israeli honey is soaring because of “outrageous” customs duties that prevent imports and therefore competition, according to a new study.

The Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies in a study released Wednesday recommends eliminating high tariffs on honey to increase the amount of imported honey and the number of countries from which it is imported. Meanwhile, the market share of Israel’s Kibbutz Yad Mordechai honey is over 50 percent.

The cost of Israeli honey rose 26 percent between 2005 and 2010, the independent, nonprofit economic policy think tank’s study said.

According to the study, Israeli honey costs 3 1/2 times as much as in the United States and is twice as expensive as in Britain. Canada, Mexico, Argentina and China offer honey for export at 15 percent of the price of Israeli honey.

The Israel Honey Production and Marketing Board claims that the figures in the report are wrong and untruthful, Haaretz reported, and has threatened to take legal action against the institute.

Institute economist Keren Harel-Harari said that 40 percent of the annual consumption of honey in Israel takes place at holiday time this month, mainly on the Jewish New Year, and that Israelis will consume 1,500 tons of honey in one month, valued at about $16.2 million.

Meanwhile, pomegranates in Israel are being marked up to between 200 percent and 330 percent during the holiday season according to farmers, Haaretz reported.

Israeli farmers produced 20 percent more pomegranates this year over last year, at about 40,000 tons, the paper wrote. About 16,000 tons are exported.

The farmers say they are selling the red fruit for under a dollar a kilogram, but that retailers are selling them for between $2.50 and $3.50 a kilogram.

Pomegranates have become more popular because of its reputation for healthful properties.

Say L’Chayim to 5768!


The smells and tastes of Rosh Hashanah are like no other. The sweet honey, crisp apples and refreshing pomegranate make for quite a feast for the senses. While tradition dictates that we enjoy sliced apples and honey and have a new fruit on our table — most families use pomegranate, with its 613 seeds (mitzvot) — there’s nothing that says we can’t drink them.

The recipes below, which can be made with and without alcohol, are just some of the hundreds of drink creations that use apples (tapuach), honey (devash) and/or pomegranate/grenadine (rimon). All make for a delicious, sweet and colorful way to welcome 5768 — after all, it is New Year’s!

613 L’Chayims
2 ounces pomegranate juice
2 ounces vodka
1/4 ounce simple syrup (two parts sugar, one part water; boil, simmered until sugar is dissolved, cool)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice, strain and serve. Garnish with a lemon twist.

So, Nu?
Can be made without vodka.
1 quart pomegranate juice
2 quarts of carbonated or sparkling water
1 pint vodka (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
orange slices for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl and stir. Add an ice ring to keep cool, or may be served warm. Garnish with orange rounds.
Makes 20 servings

Rah-Rah Rimon
1 1/2 ounces pomegranate juice
4 ounces lemon-lime soda

Combine all ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice and stir.

Cran Sameach
4 ounces cranberry juice
1/2 ounce orange juice
2 tablespoons grenadine
1 1/2 ounces cola
1 teaspoon honey

Pour over ice and fill with cola. Stir and add honey. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

A Bissel Berry
2/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup blackberries
1 cup soda water
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a blender. Cover and mix on medium speed until well blended.

Liquid Etrog
2 cups carbonated water (or plain water)
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey

Place all ingredients in a blender. Cover and mix on medium speed until well blended.

Sweet and Sour 5768
1 shot vodka
1/2 shot lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey

Keep the vodka and juice at room temperature. Mix them in the glass, and then add the honey, which will sink to the bottom. Swirl the drink to vary the amount of honey dissolved.

A Taste of Devash
2 ounces gin
1 cup crushed ice
2 dashes lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey

Add crushed ice first, followed by the honey. Stir the mixture as you pour the gin on top, which should be chilled. Add lemon juice to taste, and place a wedge over the rim.

Shevarim Teruah
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) apple juice
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups cracked ice

Blend all together in a blender to the consistency of snow. Serve immediately.

L’Shana Tapuach
1 quart (4 cups) apple cider
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 cups ginger ale
Crushed ice

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Add chilled ginger ale just before serving. Add crushed ice. Serve immediately.
Makes 15 servings.

Sinless Martini
2 ounces sparkling cider
1/2 ounce Granny Smith apple (chopped)
2 ounces lemon-lime soda
2 dashes cinnamon
1/2 cups crushed ice

Put ingredients in blender, add ice and blend. Pour into martini glass. Garnish with an apple wedge and serve.

Sinful Martini
1 part vodka
1 part Sour Apple Pucker
1 part apple juice

Pour all ingredients into a shaker. Shake well and strain into a martini glass.

A dessert wine with a healthy finish


If you’ve been to the supermarket lately, you’ve probably noticed that the hottest trend in the food industry is pomegranate products.

Â
Several years before the trend got started, a family in Israel’s Upper Galilee region began working to create a tastier and healthier version of the ancient fruit, only to cross their way into yet another huge food market. Their product: the world’s first pomegranate wine fit to be sold to international wine connoisseurs.

Â
The story began ten years ago, when father and son Gaby and Avi Nachmias, the third generation of a farming family who were founding members of Moshav Kerem Ben Zimra in the Galilee, began experimenting to create a new strain of pomegranates. Understanding the fruit’s excellent therapeutic qualities, their goal was to engineer a “super fruit” that would be richer in vitamins and antioxidants, sweeter, and deeper in its red color than most pomegranate types.

Â
By 2003, after several years of growing their new strain successfully, the family tried making 2,000 bottles of pomegranate dessert wine from their crop. Everyone who tasted it loved it, the family says, and they built a production line the following year to produce dry and dessert wines in commercial quantities.

Â
That batch was also well received, and the following year the family founded the Rimon Winery, named after the Hebrew word for pomegranate, and began producing en masse and for the local and international markets.

Â
“In general, pomegranates don’t have enough natural sugar to ferment into alcohol on its own,” Leo Open, Rimon’s director of international marketing, said. “In the past, some people have added alcohol to pomegranate juice to create a form of liquor, but no one has successfully made wine. Our pomegranates are the only ones in the world that have enough sugar to do so naturally.”

Â
Rimon’s orchards also benefit from ideal pomegranate-growing terrain, on a plain of basalt-rich soil high above sea level, just a short distance from the Lebanese border. Starting this year, the company began featuring a product line that includes a dry wine, a dessert wine, a heavier port wine with 19 percent alcoholic content, and a rose wine.

Â
The family also produces pomegranate vinegar and a line of cosmetics made with oils extracted from the fruit. The winery’s main task for now is building sales, with a strong emphasis on overseas exports.

Â
“Earlier this year, we started exporting to the Far East, and we are now in touch with people in the United States, Europe and even South America. Getting a product known is a slow process, and there is plenty of bureaucracy, and a long supply chain of importers and distributors to contend with,” Open says.

Â
“We’re in the very first stages, but things are moving. We expect to be available in U.S. markets before the end of the year.”

Â
The progress occurred despite the Israel-Hezbollah war, which saw missiles landing near the family’s orchard every day. Open says the company wasn’t too concerned that an attack could destroy its orchard.

Â
“We were committed to getting through this and moving forward,” he says. “The situation was tough for all businesses in the North, but we continued to make contact with distributors.”

Â
Pomegranates are one of Israel’s oldest indigenous fruit species, and were mentioned in the Bible’s praises of the land 3,500 years ago. The fruit has a strong place in Jewish tradition, and many have the custom of eating pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Â
The fruit also features prominently in ancient Greek mythology, and are commonly eaten at Greek weddings and funerals. Nowadays, the sweet and tart pomegranate has become one of the fastest growing trends in the food industry.

Â
According to product data service Productscan, some 215 new pomegranate-flavored foods and beverages were brought to market in the first seven months of 2006, compared to just 19 for the whole of 2002. Pomegranate flavors are finding their way to everything from natural fruit juices to chewing gum and even sausages.

Â
The rise in popularity stems partly from growing medical interest in the crimson fruit’s health benefits. Pomegranates are naturally high in polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that are helpful in fighting a variety of health problems ranging from cardiovascular diseases and inflammation to certain types of cancer.

Â
Studies have even begun suggesting that the fruit may even be helpful in alleviating menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms in women (pomegranate is the only plant known to contain estrogen) and erectile dysfunction in men. Couple that with their naturally high levels of vitamins A, B and C, calcium and iron, and it’s no wonder the fruit is being touted as a health panacea.

Â
And, Open notes, the antioxidant content of pomegranates is three times higher than that of red grapes.

Â
Rimon Wineries stands to grab the coattails of the surge in international wine sales. That market has been growing strongly since the early 1990s, and Israeli wines in particular have been undergoing a “revolution” in recent years.

Â
Both local consumption and exports of Israeli-made wines are growing at more than 10 percent a year, while the rise of quality boutique wineries around the country is helping to increasing international recognition. Pomegranate wine, which is kosher for consumption by religious Jews with none of the rabbinic stringencies of grape wines, looks to fit nicely into this niche.

Â
The process of making pomegranate wine is similar to that of most grape wines.

Â
The winery gathers the fruit’s juices into large steel tanks to ferment for about a month, and then ages them in the same types of French oak barrels used by most wine producers before the product is bottled and sold. The only point where the pomegranates need special treatment is at the beginning of production, when a specially-designed machine opens the fruits and scoops out its edible seeds, crushing them for their juice.

Â
“Like with all wines, the fermentation process is totally natural,” Open says.
That being said, pomegranate wines clearly belong to a different class than the typical reds and whites, and Rimon recognizes that the market has to treat it as such, Open says.

For the Kids


Rosh Hashanah is upon us. We will use the shofar to blow us into the new year, we will dip apples in honey for a sweet year and our challah will be round just like the yearly cycle. Our new year will be celebrated this on Sept. 26, the 1st of Tishrei.

Here are some weird customs people perform on Rosh Hashanah that you might not know about:

Eating from the head of a sheep and saying: "May we be at the head and not at the tail."

Not napping on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. Why? Because if we do that on Rosh Hashanah we may end up "napping" through the year.

Eating a pomegranate. It is said that the pomegranate has 613 seeds — just like the number of mitzvot in the Torah.

 

Tashlich Time

Another ritual performed during Rosh Hashanah is Tashlich, which is the act of throwing your sins into running water. People use bread crumbs or rocks to symbolize their sins. They go to running water, such as the ocean or a river, because there are fish there. Fish never close their eyes, so they symbolize the ever-watchful eye of God. Cool, huh?

Apples & Almonds

How About This?

Make Rosh Hashanah Cookie Cutters

You will need:

3 1/2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups margarine

1 beaten egg

2 teaspoons almond

extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

bowl

rolling pin

floured board

cookie cutter(s)

cookie sheet

Combine ingredients. Mix, roll and cut out the dough. Bake until lightly browned at 375 F, about 12 minutes.

Pomegranates: The Healthy, Spiritual High Holiday Fruit


When you cut open a pomegranate, first removing its turreted crown, then scoring its red, leathery skin, before breaking it apart under water (so the juices won’t squirt and stain your clothes), you are presented with sacks of glistening, abundant garnet fruit caviar.

These fruit drops are called arils, and when you bite into them, bursting through the shiny membrane, you get a spray of sweet, tart juice in your mouth, less acrid than cranberry, more nuanced than apple, before you reach the white seed, which is hard but edible and full of fiber.

This Rosh Hashanah, Jews all over the world are going to be indulging in pomegranates, a fruit that has much religious significance for the Jewish people. But the High Holidays also conveniently coincide with pomegranate season in America. In the past few years — thanks to health researchers touting the benefits of pomegranate consumption, and some large fruit companies making sure that pomegranates became a more high-profile part of the produce department — this regal-looking fruit has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in America.

For Jews, pomegranates have never gone out of style. We know that Jews have been eating pomegranate from the time that they were slaves in Egypt, because during one of those rough patches that happened while they were wandering in the desert for 40 years, they complained to Moses saying, “Why did you bring us up from Egypt to this evil place? This place has no seeds, or figs or grapes or pomegranates….” Later, when God was enticing the Jews to enter Israel, God promised them a land fecund with “wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates…” which no doubt appeased the Children of Israel somewhat, seeing as they were hankering for that fruit.

Pomegranates appeared in other places, too. “Turquoise, purple and scarlet” wool pomegranates adorned the clothing of the cohen gadol (the high priest). Engraved pomegranates decorated the pillars in the First Temple, built by King Solomon. In fact, a thimble-sized, ivory pomegranate bearing an ancient Hebrew inscription is the only relic ever recovered from the Solomon’s Temple. In the “Song of Songs,” a part of the biblical canon attributed to Solomon, the comely protagonist is told that, “Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate,” and she is invited to go to the vineyards, to see “if the blossoms have opened, and the pomegranates are in bloom.”

But on Rosh Hashanah we eat pomegranates not as an erotic allure but as a symbol of abundant goodness. Jewish tradition holds that a pomegranate has 613 seeds, representing the 613 mitzvot that we are supposed to keep. According to Reish Lakish, a talmudic sage, even the sinners among the Children of Israel have as many good deeds as the seeds of a pomegranate. And on Rosh Hashanah, when we are being judged on high and want to accumulate points in our favor so that God will feel obliged to grant us a coming year full of health and happiness, we eat pomegranates as a symbolic gesture in the hope that our merits will increase like the seeds of a pomegranate.

Luckily, Rosh Hashanah falls at prime pomegranate time. Pomegranate shrubs grow to be 12 to 16-feet tall, and the fruits start to ripen in September, with the season lasting until December. In the past three years, California has become the largest national producer of pomegranates, thanks to efforts of a Beverly Hills-based Jewish couple, Stewart and Lynda Resnick.

The Resnicks, owners of the Franklin Mint and Teleflora, acquired some farming land in the San Joaquin Valley in the late 1980s. The land had some nut trees on it, as well as some pomegranate shrubs. The Resnicks weren’t sure what to do with the shrubs. Pomegranates were an exotic and untasted fruit for most Americans — only 5 percent had ever had on., So the Resnicks didn’t know whether it was worth keeping the plants or using the space to grow more nuts and other fruit.

But the pomegranates grown on the land were sweet and juicy, and knowing that the pomegranate came shrouded in mythology, Lynda Resnick was intrigued by the fruit. She started researching the market potential for it, and found that pomegranates many health benefits. She planted more shrubs on the land, and in 2000, when the shrubs started producing fruit, the Resnicks founded the Pom Wonderful company, named after the variety of pomegranates grown on their land. Pom Wonderful is now the largest pomegranate growing and distribution company in America.

The Resnicks started distributing the fruit to supermarkets, and squeezing the Pom Wonderful pomegranates for their juice, which they sell in bottles that look like pomegranates stacked on top of one another. They funded research into the health benefits of pomegranates, and discovered that eating the fruit can help unclog plaque-blocked arteries. They also found that pomegranates and pomegranate juice had more antioxidants than any other juice or beverage, including green tea and red wine. Antioxidants inhibit free radicals in the body, which can cause cancer, premature aging and Alzheimer’s. Finding all this out made Lynda Resnick the pomegranate’s most ardent crusader.

“I’m up all night worrying that we won’t have enough pomegranates,” she told The New York Times.

In response to this research, Pom Wonderful launched an advertising campaign promoting the fruit with tag lines like “It’s been around for 5,000 years. Drink it and you might be, too,” and “Not all miracle workers are people.” Pom Wonderful has also continued to fund pomegranate research, and is currently supporting 13 independent studies in nine universities in four countries.

Which all means that come this Rosh Hashanah, the pomegranate is not only a spiritual food to eat, but a healthy one as well.

In some Jewish households, the pomegranate will be eaten in a special Rosh Hashanah seder in conjunction with other spiritually significant foods. These foods are called the simanim (omens or signifiers), and, like the pomegranates, they symbolize good fortune for the year to come and are eaten after saying a small “yahi ratzon” (let it be thy will) prayer. Thus, gourds are eaten, because the Hebrew word for gourd is kra, which also means both read and tear, and we hope that our good deeds will be proclaimed and a bad decree (if any) torn up. We eat fenugreek because the Hebrew word for it is rubia, which also means to increase, and we hope that our merits will increase. We eat leeks or cabbage, because karsi (leeks) sounds like kares (to cut off), and we want our enemies to be cut off; beets because silka (beets) sounds like siluk (removal), and we want our enemies to be removed; and dates because tamar sounds like sheyitamu (to be consumed), which is what we want our enemies to be. (Our enemies get a real bum rap over Rosh Hashanah.) And, finally, we eat apple and challah dipped in honey, a symbol of the sweet new year.

But the pomegranate remains one of the most intriguing fruits in Jewish lore. The Talmud says that if a sage dreams of a pomegranate, it is an omen of wisdom; if an ignoramus dreams of one, it is an omen of good deeds. Jewish sages taught that the pomegranate is significant because, unlike other fruits, the red pulp, which is of primary interest to the human consumer but of little interest to the tree because it is only there to protect the seed, and the seed, which the consumer tends to throw away, are one and the same. The primary and the secondary, the future and the present part of the fruit are united. This, the sages tell us, represents a high level of blessing, a sign of totality and perfection, a perfect symbol of the New Year.

Orange Salad With Pomegranates

1 cup red onion slices, cut paper thin and broken into strips

1/2 cup lemon juice

6 large Valencia oranges

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 medium-sized cucumber, pared and diced (about 1 cup)

1 cup pomegranate arils

4 ounces black, oil cured olives, preferably Moroccan

Salt to taste

1 tablespoons finely chopped mint

About one hour before making the salad, place onion slices in a bowl and marinate in lemon juice. Peel oranges and cut into thin, round slices with a very sharp knife. Cut rounds in half and pick out the seeds.

Place oranges in a large work bowl, drain onion of all excess liquid and add onion to oranges. Sprinkle mixture with pepper. Combine oil and vinegar to make the vinaigrette.

Pour over oranges, cover and set aside in a cool place to infuse for 30 minutes.

Add cucumber, pomegranate arils and olives. Adjust seasoning to taste, then scatter mint on top and serve.

Makes six servings.

Pomegranate Eggplant Relish

1/3 cup olive oil

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch squares

1 medium red onion, diced small

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup tomato juice

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/3 cup of sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/2 cup pomegranate arils

Combine pomegranate juice and sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until reduced to 1/3 cup. Remove from flame and cool.

In a large sauté pan, heat oil over high heat until hot, but not smoking.

Add eggplant and cook, stirring until well-seared and quite soft, about five to seven minutes.

Reduce heat to medium, add onion and cook, stirring, for two to three minutes.

Add garlic and continue to stir for one minute.

Add in tomato juice and pomegranate syrup and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.

Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Score a whole pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate to free the arils. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils into a separate bowl.

Stir in mint and pomegranate arils and serve hot or cold with crackers, bread, or over chicken.

Makes four cups.

Pomegranate-Honey Roasted Game Hens

1 cup pomegranate juice*

1/2 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 clove of garlic, chopped

3 game hens, split in half

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons honey

* For one cup of juice, put 1-1/2 to 2 cups of arils and seeds in a blender; blend until liquefied. Pour mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or sieve.

Garnish:

1/2 cup of pomegranate arils

Chopped roasted pistachio nuts

Mix pomegranate juice, 1/2 cup

honey and spices. Pour over hens.

Cover, and marinate overnight or for eight hours in the refrigerator. Turn occasionally.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Drain hens, reserving marinade. Simmer marinade in small saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes; reserve.

Season hens with salt and pepper.

Bake at 450 F, basting frequently with reserved marinade, until hens are just firm to touch, about 25 minutes.

Remove hens from oven; let rest covered with a ten towel for five minutes. Brush each half with 1/2 tablespoon honey.

Score a whole pomegranate and place in a bowl of water. Break open pomegranate to free the arils. The arils will sink to the bottom and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils into a separate bowl.

Garnish hens with pomegranate arils and chopped pistachios.

This recipe can also be made with chicken.

Makes six servings

Recipes courtesy POM Wonderful.