Gluten-Free Tuesday: Pomegranates

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[Photograph: shauna | glutenfreegirl on Flickr]

This evening, as I was driving home with my daughter, singing to Sesame Street as we rounded the curve before the harbor, I noticed that the air coming through the window had gone cold. Shivering, I pushed the button and watched it roll up, then shut.

In that moment, I realized it is autumn now.

And thank goodness. We've been traveling in celebration of our cookbook for much of the last month. (That's why you haven't seen me here in awhile.) It has been joyful: food, laughter, gatherings of good people. However, the only downside was that travels coincided with a brutally hot and humid late summer heatwave.

I thought I would never feel the cool weather again.

But we had to turn on the heater our first night home. And today, I realized I can no longer drive with the car windows down.

Autumn. Time for roasted squash and slow-braised meats. Time for mashed potatoes and plans for Thanksgiving. Time for being excited about parsnips again.

Time for pomegranates.

Have you eaten a fresh pomegranate yet? Have you opened one up, scored the pith, then whacked the heck out of the back of it to extract the seeds? Have you made guacamole strewn with pomegranate seeds, or sprinkled them over salads, or folded them into stews at the last moment for a sour-sweet surprise?

I can't wait.

Unlike some of the other foods I have written about here, I ate pomegranates before I went gluten-free. In fact, a pomegranate tree stretched above the cracked awning above our back porch, in the house where I lived throughout elementary school. In the hours after school, I sometimes rollerskated around and around that porch, swerving around the red splotches of fallen pomegranates. We ate a few, but mostly left them for the crows, who left the traces of their feast all over the yard.

However, it was not until I was forced to go gluten-free that I started really eating pomegranates. My motto? "If it doesn't have gluten in it, I'm eating it." Pomegranates intimidated me for years. Their tough skin and thick pith seemed pretty impenetrable. Aside from picking each seed out by hand, I just couldn't understand how to make that labyrinth into something edible.

There's nothing like a little deprivation to make you more resourceful. I found this helpful tip from Brett of In Praise of Sardines (the food blog he kept until he opened Contigo in San Francisco) about how to best extract the pomegranate's seeds. Quickly I began eating a pomegranate several times a week, eating the ruby seeds and working out some aggression over the kitchen sink.

It's a pretty quick leap from tackling fresh pomegranates to making pomegranate molasses. Elise at Simply Recipes has ( an easy way for you to try this at home.) And once you start drizzling pomegranate molasses into fizzy water and tossing it onto roasted tofu, you'll never stop coming up with ways to incorporate this mouth-puckering taste into your meals.

That's the thing about going gluten-free. You can keep with your drab diet, missing what you ate before. Or you can get over your fears of fresh pomegranates and eat with more vibrancy than you ever did before.

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