Sunday, October 27, 2013

Winter Pomegranate Panzanella

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Yesterday, when a beautiful bunch of purslane fell out of the sky and into my market bag, I took it as a sign from the cooking gods that a winter panzanella salad must be created. OK, it didn't really fall out of the sky, it was happily part of our CSA share. And, in fact, I started thinking about how I could “winterize” the Peach, Avocado Panzanella while in the shower the other morning. But to me, it felt like the universe was begging me to make a winter version of that salad -- or maybe just a couple of persistent friends, but you get the idea.

I started thinking about what winter produce would contribute the fresh, creamy, tart, sweet and spicy flavors that I loved in the summer salad. 

I picked a great bread from Artisan Bakers, the Sour Country Walnut which I thought would add nice texture, and another complementary flavor. I used half of the loaf for the salad, and then planned to save the other half for Sunday morning french toast. But, I made a little teensie weensie mistake -- while the bread was toasting, I started shopping for shoes on Zappos. The bread got a bit too toasty, not black, but beyond the point I like, so I ended up using the other half to make the toasted bread cubes, again. So don't be like me, when you've got something under the broiler, keep an eye on it. Sorry fam, no french toast this Sunday. I did find these cute boots though!

Along with the purslane, Quarter Acre Farm gave us some little Baby Blue Hubbard squash. I have never had Blue Hubbard squash before, so I was pretty excited to give it a try. And, if you don't have Blue Hubbard, cubes of pie pumpkin squash, butternut squash, or Red Kuri squash would be good substitutes. 

Baby Blue Hubbard
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While reading about Blue Hubbards, I came across this great tip at The Big Apple Farm's website: to open hard skinned winter squash, like a butternut, wrap the squash in a bag and go drop it on the ground. Cool, huh? So simple, and kind of fun. 

After you've cracked those suckers open, you parbake them at 300° for 15-25 minutes. The flesh will still be firm, but allow it to cool for a few minutes and then peel. So much easier. I actually haven't cooked much with hard winter squash in the past, since I always feel like I need an axe to open the darn things. Learning this technique has been a bit of a revelation for me.

First Pomegranate.
New Pomegranate, red and juicy.
As I was finishing the prep for this dish, I cut open the pomegranate. See the photo on the left? Not so hot, right? So I tasted a few seeds. It wasn't rotten, it didn't taste terrible, but it also didn't taste like a pomegranate should. I didn't go any further with that particular pom. Yes, I went out to get a new pomegranate at the store. See the photo on the right? Much better! This is exactly what I was talking about in my last post: a little quality control at each step goes a long way to making a dish extra delicious.
The salad just before mixing.

I think pears would be fabulous in this recipe instead of apples. Watercress would also be a great purslane stand-in. Panzanellas are very satisfying, can change with the seasons, and with your fancies.

Incidentally, while we were trying the dish out at dinner, a friend asked me "How do you get the seeds out of a pomegranate?" Turns out if you Google "removing seeds from a pomegranate," you will probably find about 6 different methods. Some involve cutting a cone out of the flower end, scoring along the "ridges." Some involve submerging in a bowl of water and then straining the pith off the top.

These all seem a bit complicated to me, so I am a fan of the "whack with a spoon method": Gently roll the pomegranate on your counter top to loosen the seeds. Score the pomegranate around the hemisphere, so its flower end is left intact. Break the two halves apart. Hold the fruit over a large bowl and whack the sides with a large spoon, and the seeds will pop out. 

I will say that, no matter which method I go with, my kitchen counter always ends up looking like a crime scene, so an apron recommended. It's OK though, it is worth it, the pomegranate seeds add a lot to this salad, and they are crazy good for you.

1 comment:

  1. Great job and "vegan" actually appears! Glad to see you took the step maybe I will sometime. Loved the video and the music -- who is the creative director? While I loved your story, your font selection makes it a bit difficult to my old eyes, but I will keep reading. Looking forward to more.