Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pomegranate "How To"

We hear and read more and more about the health benefits of pomegrantes. But I sometimes wonder if that fruit, in its normal, fruit-like dimension, isn't one of the most-ignored fruits in the market. I can imagine them saying "Choose me, choose me, please" and then sighing dejectedly as yet another shopping cart and customer moves on to the next display -- the customer with a puzzled look on his face.

So here we go. Let's pick one up ... a nice heavy one so that it has lots of the precious seeds. And let's take it home with us and dig in!

Digging in is actually quite the correct concept. We don't bite into it -- ouch! It's the seeds that we're after. In fact, with just a tiny bit of juice for the seeds to live in, and lots of white pithy substance, that's all that's inside the pretty, deep-red fruit.

First we cut off the stem end. That was easy.

Next we cut the fruit into halves, and then those halves in half so that we end up with quarters. Pretty easy too.

And then we just dig in! But first we dive in. Yes, removing the seeds while each quarter is immersed in a container of water is an easy way to separate the seeds from the pulp bits. The seeds sink to the bottom and the pulp bits float.

Thumbs work particularly well to get at the seeds, releasing them from the white pulp with ease.

After all four quarters have been completed, you'll have about two small handfuls of those precious pomegranate seeds.

And you'll have several big handfuls of pulp to be discarded.

Unless I am making a particularly-large salad for a big group of people, I like to use the seeds a few tablespoonfuls at a time. They freeze beautifully ... just spread them in a single layer on a tray in the freezer for a few hours. Then, package them up for future scooping. A small, glass jelly jar is just about the right size and keeps them nice-and-fresh in the freezer.

So now, when those pomegranates come calling in the supermarket, maybe they won't have to feel like the wallflowers at the school dance any longer?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Does Bread Make You Say "Ouch"?

I love bread. It seems to touch, and satisfy, my very being. Like many people, I've tried my hand at baking it. I've enjoyed using an automatic bread machine -- I'm not a bread snob. I've relished, even when flour-dusted from head to toe with muscles screaming from kneading, baking bread from scratch. I've made the well-known New York Times-published no-knead bread recipe -- it works, see the photo above.

But many people are not so fortunate. Gluten sets their bodies to reeling. We see an increasing number of gluten-free products in the grocery stores. And some of them are better than others, not only in taste, but in ingredient content and preparation. I suspect that often, these gluten-free products are the result of necessity leading to invention. Nothing inspires one quite so much as finding a solution for the health problem of a loved one.

And that is exactly the case in the development of a range of new gluten-free products by a company called Gluten Free Treasures. Based in Menasha, Wisconsin, this young company is moving forward quickly in meeting the gluten-free needs of its community. And with the power of the Internet (with customer testimony on Facebook and Twitter) and nationwide shipping, the mail-order needs of an expanding customer base.

These products, from bread and rolls to muffins and cakes and cookies, go a long way in taking the "ouch" out for people who, like me, love their baked goods. Bravo!

And for simple fun related to breadmaking, and to help you lose your fear of flour, check out the recent book by William Alexander titled "52 Loaves: one man's relentless pursuit of truth, meaning and the perfect crust." It's a great memoir about one man's attempt to create the perfect loaf, in his spare time. When that man is highly-creative, a bit compulsive, slightly devil-may-care and a gifted storyteller, the fun can't be far behind!

Update, May 2016

Unfortunately, as is the case with  so many small, start-up businesses, Gluten Free Treasure in Wisconsin no longer exists.  But, as I am sure you all know, the gluten-free movement has taken off in a big way and there are many alternatives available today.  For those who need this alternative, what a great development!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Le Fromage

Looking for a great selection of French cheeses? Especially intrigued by the idea of raw-milk cheeses? Or just looking to recover a bit of the ambiance of a French fromagerie (cheese shop) after your recent trip to France?

Whole Foods Market, a portion of whose French-cheese selection is shown in the photograph, has a lovely selection. I can admire it for a LONG time! The only difficulty is making the decision(s). You can purchase many in already-packaged portions. And some may be cut-to-order (with pre-tasting encouraged) for you.

I like using the cut-to-order method -- it's such a pleasure to reach over the counter to take the little package, all freshly-wrapped and prepared for me, from the helpful cheesemonger. If I'm headed to a picnic, or just to a picnic lunch for one, opening the paper and displaying the selected slice makes me feel as if I'm part of a lunch in the French countryside.

Yum yum. Or as the French say, miam miam!