Food & Drink | November 2020

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Porches and Pomegranates

BWhen we moved into our house 15 years ago, we were the only people in our neighborhood without trees in the front yard. We were in Woodway, where everyone has trees. One house down the street has at least a dozen trees in the yard. Our immediate neighbors? They have big, beautiful trees that provide lovely, cooling shade for their yards, porches and houses.

About 12 years ago, we finally made the investment and bought a couple of trees, one for the front yard and one for the back. In the middle of the front yard, we planted a small Chinese pistache — which does not produce pistachios, by the way — and it has grown tall and wide and shades almost the entire front porch from the harsh evening sun. Especially during this time of year, we spend as much time on our porch as possible.

I have my favorite chair, and that’s where I’m sitting as I write this. I make good use of this chair when I’m grading papers for my classes at Baylor, and I spend time on the porch reading whenever I can. On a trip to Canton, Abby bought a side table, which is actually a tire wrapped in strands of rope. That’s where we place our snacks and glasses when we have cocktails on the porch.

Our porch is also where the photo for this column is staged each month. We have a wood and wicker table that we bought at Laverty’s Antiques & Furnishings which serves as the base of the photo shoot, and we swap out the surface under the plate. We have some wooden pieces we use along with several cutting boards. For this month’s photo, the plate is resting on a door from an armoire.

At the same time we planted the Chinese pistache in the front yard, thebackyard got an upgrade with a pomegranate tree. The backyard had one tree in it, a big old … something. I’m not sure what it is, but it looks like it’s been near the end of its life for years now, and during windstorms, it sometimes loses a big branch or two. It still produces new leaves each spring though and provides plenty of shade for one corner of the back of the house, so we’ll let it stay until we can’t anymore.

But the pomegranate tree. We had hoped after it matured for a year or two that it would just be laden with fruit. Ripe pomegranates are about the size of a baseball and are just as heavy. And inside a mature pomegranate are hundreds of small, juicy seeds, or arils. To get to the seeds, don’t simply cut a pomegranate in half. Instead, cut off the crown, the top of the fruit, and then cut through the rind along the ridges in the flesh, but don’t cut deep enough to disturb the seeds. Then, holding the pomegranate over a large bowl filled halfway with water, use your fingers to pry apart the sections. As you open the pomegranate, some seeds will fall into the bowl. Gently remove the seeds from each section and drop them into the water. The seeds will sink, and the connecting membrane will float to the top. When you’ve released all the seeds from each section, discard the membrane and pour the water into a strainer.

Pomegranate seeds can be tossed in with almost any salad for a sweet and tart addition. Abby created a salad with pears, blue cheese, sugared pecans and pomegranate seeds that’s one of our fall staples. Or you can use the seeds in one of the other recipes below. If you have an abundance of pomegranates, you can make your own pomegranate juice. Simply place the seeds in a blender and pulse a few times. Then strain the juice into a pitcher, using a wooden spoon to press down on the seeds so they release all their juice. Pomegranate juice is also readily available at the grocery store. Fresh pomegranates are usually in stores about this time of year as well, or you can buy small containers of just the seeds, though they are costly because extracting the seeds is a labor-intensive process.

Oh. Our hopes for an abundance of fruit from our backyard tree? We’ve harvested exactly four lovely, ripe, tasty pomegranates in the past 12 years.

The Recipes

Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Relish

For the tenderloin:

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 package pork tenderloin, about 2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • For the relish:

  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (See note)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (or kosher salt)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or more to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To make the marinade, combine the pomegranate juice, honey, garlic, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and salt in a large zip-close plastic bag. Shake gently to combine. Add the tenderloins and toss them around to coat with marinade. Place the bag in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight.

To make the relish, toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat until they become aromatic and begin to darken slightly. Set aside to cool.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the pecans, pomegranate seeds, cilantro, molasses, olive oil, salt, garlic and pepper. Toss together and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes enough relish for about 4-6 servings.

To cook the tenderloin, heat oven to 275 F. Remove pork from the marinade; discard the liquid. Pour olive oil into a skillet and place the skillet over high heat until it’s hot and begins to smoke. Add the tenderloins, one at a time, depending on the size of the skillet, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until it’s golden-brown. Flip the tenderloin and sear the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove to a sheet pan and place in oven until it’s cooked to an internal temperature of 150-160 F, about 15-20 minutes. Let pork rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve with the relish.

Makes about 6-8 servings.

Editor’s note: Pomegranate molasses is not readily available in local grocery stores. To make your own, pour 1 cup of pomegranate juice into a small saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice. Bring to a boil and let cook until the liquid is thick and syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool.

Makes about 1/3 cup pomegranate molasses.

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Fall Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette

For the vinaigrette dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • For the salad:

  • 1 head red or green leaf lettuce
  • 1 cup sugared pecans
  • 1 red pear, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, syrup or honey, and salt and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine. Makes about 8 servings.

In a serving bowl, combine the lettuce, pecans, pear, cheese and pomegranate seeds. Top with the vinaigrette and serve.

Makes about 8 servings.

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Bourbon Pomegranate Cocktail

  • 1/4 ounce pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 ounce pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Orange twist, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add pomegranate molasses, pomegranate juice, orange juice, bourbon and bitters. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the orange peel to release the oils, then drop into the drink and serve.

Makes 1 drink.

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Pomegranate Cheese Ball

  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pomegranate seeds

Place the goat cheese, cream cheese, parsley, chives, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and salt and pepper in a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth. Remove and form into a 3- or 4-inch ball, and roll in the pomegranate seeds to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve with bagel chips or crackers.

Makes about 8 servings.
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Thanksgiving Sangria

  • 3 cups pomegranate juice
  • 5 cinnamon sticks, about 3 inches long
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 piece (4 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced; divided
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 Bartlett pear, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 cup spiced rum
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) sparkling apple cider

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, bring pomegranate juice, cinnamon, allspice and 1/3 of the ginger to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher, reserving cinnamon sticks. Add wine, pear, pomegranate seeds, rum, cinnamon sticks and remaining ginger. Stir to combine. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

To serve, fill a pitcher or punch bowl with ice and pour sangria over. Top with cider.

Makes about 8 servings.
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