Pomegranate season begins in September, coinciding with the two-day celebration of Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown on Sept. 18. Many Jews serve pomegranates on the second night of the holiday, when it is customary to eat a fruit not regularly consumed.
Jayne Cohen, author of "Jewish Holiday Cooking," serves the juicy, red pomegranate seeds - which have a tart, almost astringent flavor - drizzled with artisanal honey in clear crystal bowls during Rosh Hashanah "so you can see how beautiful they are."
Cohen also uses the seeds as a garnish and to add "a burst of flavor and a little crunch" to a variety of dishes, everything from fruit compote to brisket to pumpkin soup.
"It adds very interesting nuances to chickens and stews," says Marks, noting that Sephardic Jews traditionally serve chicken with pomegranate at Rosh Hashanah.
If you don't want to take the time to extract the seeds of the pomegranate, the easiest way to infuse pomegranate flavors into cooking is to use pomegranate molasses, also called pomegranate concentrate. The thick, garnet-purple syrup is made by boiling down the fruit's bright red kernels. It packs all the pomegranate's punch but none of its hassles.
Sephardic Jews traditionally serve Swiss chard and spinach for Rosh Hashanah, as the greens symbolize renewal, according to Gil Marks, author of the forthcoming "Encyclopedia of Jewish Food." This recipe is adapted from his book.
1/4 cup lemon juice or red wine vinegar
4 chopped scallions or 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil (to taste)
10 ounces (two 5-ounce containers) baby spinach
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 to 3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced, optional
In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice or vinegar, scallions or onion, salt and pepper. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the oil. Drizzle over the spinach, sprinkle with the nuts and pomegranate seeds, then toss to coat. If desired, garnish with egg slices.