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Edible Ojai Ventura Fall 2016 : Page 28

TASTES LIKE FALL EDIBLE JEWELS Pomegranates add zing to earthy fl avors of fall BY MARCUS HOLLINGSWORTH | PHOTOS BY JAYME BURROWS P omegranate season reaches its peak in the fall here in California, which leads the country in growing the ancient fruit native to Iran. Th ey’re popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, where their use is inspired and resourceful, and my recipes here try to have the same eff ect. It is the vibrant fl avor of this amazing fruit that brings me back to pomegranates for my fall recipes, time after time. Th e deep, hearty, earthy fl avors of fall benefi t tremendously from the zing of this versatile fruit, bringing balance and contrast to whatever ingredients they dance with. Everything in these recipes can be sourced locally. I encourage you to go to local stores and our county’s farmers’ markets. Th e farmers there are committed to their chosen livelihood, and many enjoy the community connectedness of meeting, talking with and feeling the love from the people who eat the fruits of the farmers’ labors. The fruit’s shiny red “jewels” are called arils, and commonly referred to as pomegranate seeds. Marcus Hollingsworth is an Ojai-based, award-winning chef who has cooked throughout the Western and Southern United States. He is the owner of Ojai Soul Kitchen, a private chef and catering company where he also teaches classes and makes artisanal food products using local ingredients. To learn more, visit OjaiSoul.com. 28 Fall 2016 edible ojai & ventura county Photo by Ron Wallace

Tastes Like Fall

By Marcus Hollingsworth • Photos By Jayme Burrows

EDIBLE JEWELS

Pomegranates add zing to earthy flavors of fall

Pomegranate season reaches its peak in the fall here in California, which leads the country in growing the ancient fruit native to Iran. They're popular in Middle Eastern cuisine, where their use is inspired and resourceful, and my recipes here try to have the same effect. It is the vibrant flavor of this amazing fruit that brings me back to pomegranates for my fall recipes, time after time. The deep, hearty, earthy flavors of fall benefit tremendously from the zing of this versatile fruit, bringing balance and contrast to whatever ingredients they dance with.

Everything in these recipes can be sourced locally. I encourage you to go to local stores and our county's farmers' markets. The farmers there are committed to their chosen livelihood, and many enjoy the community connectedness of meeting, talking with and feeling the love from the people who eat the fruits of the farmers' labors.

Marcus Hollingsworth is an Ojai-based, award-winning chef who has cooked throughout the Western and Southern United States. He is the owner of Ojai Soul Kitchen, a private chef and catering company where he also teaches classes and makes artisanal food products using local ingredients. To learn more, visit OjaiSoul.com.

PLAYFUL FALL SALAD

Serves 4

4 cups organic mixed greens

1/2 cup torn whole basil leaves

1/4 cup torn whole tarragon leaves

1/4 cup sliced almonds

4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

1 Golden Delicious apple, thinly sliced

1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

6 tablespoons Saffron Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the first 8 ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss well. Arrange salad mixture in a gentle mound on 4 plates. After plating the salad, there will be some "goods" at the bottom of the bowl. Distribute this equally. Finish with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Saffron Vinaigrette

1 large pinch saffron (about 1 teaspoon)

1/8 cup minced red onion

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon honey, preferably local

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 cup olive oil, preferably local

Place first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes to infuse the flavor and color.

While the saffron mixture is resting, combine sesame and olive oil in a pourable container, and mix. Whisk oils into saffron mixture. You don't need to be too careful–this is a dressing you want to break; the colors are amazing.

GRILLED POLENTA CAKES WITH POMEGRANATE SAUCE

Serve these savory polenta cakes with their tangy sauce as an appetizer, side dish or light meal, alone or with a salad and parsnip purée. (The Parsnip Purée recipe is available at EdibleVenturaCounty.com.)

You can, and should, make this recipe ahead of time. Give the polenta about 4 hours to set properly before cutting it into cakes.

Serves 6

2 cups milk

1 cup heavy cream

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dry tarragon

3 tablespoons Chardonnay

Sea salt and ground white pepper, to taste

1 cup polenta, plus more for coating polenta cakes

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt

Extra-virgin olive oil

Green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Grease a baking sheet (approximately 9 by 13 inches) with olive oil.

Heat the first 5 ingredients in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until it reaches a simmer. Add the salt and pepper, just a bit at a time, and taste after each addition. Add polenta a little at a time, while whisking.

Switch to a wooden spoon and keep stirring. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Add Greek yogurt, turn off heat and stir well. Remove bay leaf. Pour onto baking sheet and smooth with a buttered or oiled rubber spatula.

Cover with plastic wrap, put on the top shelf of the refrigerator and chill for 4 hours. While polenta is chilling, make the Pomegranate Sauce.

Once the polenta has set, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat until very hot. While pan is heating, cut polenta into roughly 3-inch pieces, using cookie cutters, biscuit cutters or a metal spatula. Pour the uncooked polenta onto a plate and roughly coat both sides of polenta cakes.

When pan is very hot, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and put 2 polenta cakes in the pan, gently shaking pan from side to side for about 20 seconds, to keep cake from sticking. Cook for about 5 minutes, until browned.

Gently flip polenta cake with a spatula and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Place on a plate. Serve with spoonfuls of sauce and garnish with thinly sliced green onions.

Pomegranate Sauce

1/4 cup dried hibiscus flowers*

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoons unsalted butter

Sea salt, to taste

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Place hibiscus flowers and white wine in a small, heavy saucepot. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Add pomegranate juice and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes, until reduced by half and liquid looks a bit syrupy. Remove flowers, allow them to cool and finely dice. Add back to liquid.

Stir in heavy cream and bring back to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until cream thickens a bit and starts to darken around the edges.

Remove from heat, add sugar and stir. Add butter and whisk continuously until all butter is incorporated into sauce. Add parsley and salt, to taste.

*Hibiscus flowers, also called Jamaica flowers, are available at natural food stores and Latin markets.

CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING WITH POMEGRANATE-ORANGE BUTTER

For me, nothing screams fall like bread pudding. It sticks to your ribs, stimulates your senses and contents your tummy. This recipe is a classic, but is a little less sweet than what you might get in a diner.

Instead of Pomegranate-Orange Butter, the bread pudding can be topped with whipped cream, powdered sugar or cocoa powder.

Serves 4 to 8, depending on portion size

1 cup whole milk

1/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 tablespoon hot chocolate mix (or 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder and 1/2 tablespoon sugar)

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Pinch salt

4 cups rustic style French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, except bread cubes and turbinado sugar. Mix well.

Add bread cubes and toss well. Press bread down a bit to absorb liquid. Press down and cover with plastic wrap. Put a plate on the plastic wrap to keep bread submerged. Set aside for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 350°. Also, grease an 8- by 4-inch baking pan with butter. Place turbinado sugar in prepared pan and tilt it around so sugar coats sides and bottom. Pour out excess sugar.

Place bread pudding mixture in pan and press down a bit to make it level on top. Cover with foil. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a wooden skewer poked in the center comes out clean.

Remove from oven, uncover and let cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. While bread pudding is cooling, make Pomegranate-Orange Butter.

To serve, cut warm bread pudding into slices and top with 1 to 2 tablespoons Pomegranate-Orange Butter.

Pomegranate-Orange Butter

Makes about 1/2 cup

1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature, 1 to 2 hours

2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Zest of 1/4 orange

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch clove

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Blend all ingredients using a whisk. Place in a plastic container and refrigerate.

Pomegranate Primer

Approximately 40 acres of pomegranates grown commercially in Ventura County

72 Calories in 1/2 cup seeds

Pomegranates are rich in in vitamins C and K, folate and potassium

"Small studies seem to suggest that drinking pomegranate juice might lower cholesterol. It's also thought that pomegranate juice may block or slow the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries of people who are at higher risk of heart disease."

–Mayo Clinic

Pomegranates aren't a primary crop here, but there is an important Ventura County link.

S. John Chater was passionate about pomegranates and bred them for decades at his Camarillo home. His goal: To create new varieties that would produce fruit in mild weather. Here are some he's credited with developing in the 1980s:

Blaze: Medium-size, tart, shiny, bright red

Golden Globe: Very large, honey-sweet, golden-yellow

Green Globe: Large, sweet, green-skinned

Phoenicia: Large semi-tart

Rosamia: Scarlet, sweet, soft-seeded

Though Chater passed away in 2001, the original trees are still alive in Camarillo, says his grandson, John Chater, who breeds pomegranates as a doctoral student in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at UC Riverside.

Sources: Henry S. Gonzales, Agricultural Commissioner for the County of Ventura; New York Times; California Rare Fruit Growers; HortScience, American Society for Horticultural Science; Mary Reilly, chef, publisher and editor in chief of Edible Pioneer Valley, The Kitchn blog.

How to Seed a Pomegranate

Seeding pomegranates can be a messy chore. Follow the numbers and you'll learn how to keep the seeds intact with no stained fingers or sticky juice.

1 Using a paring knife, cut around the crown (calyx) of the pomegranate.

2 Angle the knife blade so that when you remove the crown, a cone-shaped piece comes out.

3 Slice off stem end, being careful not to go too deep; you don't want to cut the seeds.

4 Look for the naturally occurring vertical ridges on the skin, and lightly score at each ridge.

5 Break open the pomegranate at each scored section (like you're segmenting an orange).

6 Peel off the outer skin and membrane and gently break the seeds from the pomegranate.

How to Juice a Pomegranate

Add seeds to a blender or food processor with a smidgen of water and pulse quickly. Don't blend too much or the white seeds will make the juice bitter. Pour the pulp through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Gently press the pulp in the strainer with the back of a wooden spoon to extract more juice.

POMEGRANATE MOLASSES

Reduce pomegranate juice to a molasseslike consistency, and–violà!–you have pomegranate molasses. Widely used in Middle Eastern cookery, its addictively intense sweet and tart flavor is now making it a popular addition to a wide range of dishes. In recipes, its flavor is reminiscent of balsamic vinegar, which sometimes is used as a substitute.

Beth Lee of the blog OMG! Yummy shares her recipe for pomegranate molasses and a simple vinaigrette to use it with.

Makes about 1/2 cup

2 cups pomegranate juice

Pour juice into a small heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a low boil over medium to medium-high heat. Adjust heat as needed to maintain a low boil.

At about 30 to 35 minutes, you'll notice the liquid is taking on a syrupy texture and that it's becoming bubblier. At this point, the transition from syrup to molasses happens quickly. Watch closely and keep testing with a spoon.

As it becomes syrup, it will start coating the spoon. As it becomes molasses, it'll have an even heavier coating. Better to take it off the stove too early than too late. If it's too liquidy, you can boil it down a bit more, but you can't reverse the process if it's too thick or burnt.

The whole process will take between 30 and 40 minutes (closer to 40). You can be more aggressive with the heat to speed up the process. Pay close attention near the end because as it gets syrupy, it can burn and over-reduce very quickly.

Store the molasses in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, where it will keep for a while.

SHALLOT VINAIGRETTE

Arugula is a great salad base for this easy, flavorful vinaigrette, but other dark leafy greens would work well, too. Consider adding a soft, creamy goat cheese, dried figs and roasted hazelnuts or almonds.

Makes about 1/2 cup, or enough to dress 4 servings of salad

2 teaspoons minced shallot

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

3 1/4 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (store-bought* or homemade)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon each, to start)

In a small bowl, combine shallot, balsamic vinegar and pomegranate molasses. Whisk olive oil into mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

*Pomegranate molasses is available at Middle Eastern and specialty retailers.

Read the full article at http://digitaleditions.sheridan.com/article/Tastes+Like+Fall/2574719/334287/article.html.

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