At Last: The POM Party Recap!

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For the past two weeks or so, I've been posting all these pomegranate-based recipes on here (it's been worse on my Facebook page, where I keep taunting my friends with tantalizing photos). The reason is because the good folks at POM Wonderful picked me as one of 100 contest entrants to host a POM Party. They shipped me a crazy-huge amount of pomegranates (about 30-40?), 5 coupons for free POM juice, a cutting mat, super sweet canvas gift bags with lots of fun swag for guests, and this unbelievably wonderful and hilarious apron:

Obviously, this was taken at the end of my day of cooking.

In exchange for all this great stuff, we were asked to throw a party featuring pomegranates. We will be judged equally on incorporation of pomegranates into the menu, in the decor, and how we teach our guests that a pomegranate is really easy to open. Contestants have the chance to win some really fabulous prizes-- so, needless to say, I was motivated to win.

A week prior to the party, I got my craftsy on. You should know that I'm REALLY not craftsy...or artsy. The best thing I'd done to date was the flowers and boutonnieres for my wedding, and I'm shocked that they looked as passable as they did. When I read up on how to use pomegranates in centerpieces and wreaths, the directions were full of confusing concepts that I had no idea how to execute. Floral foam? Floral bowl tape? Dowel rods? 45 degree angles?! The horror!! Surely, I would lose (the contest, my mind) if I attempted any such thing. So, it was back to the drawing board.

Then, inspiration dawned. With logistical help from my artistically inclined brother (who is unhelpfully stationed 863 miles away in NYC), I figured out that it might be possible to block print a pomegranate half onto cloth napkins! I had not block printed anything since middle school art class, and did not even remember that it was called block printing (thus the logistical help from the bro). The idea was a seed (or aril, as it was), and I was tickled to try it. I picked up my fabric ink, a brayer, and some cloth bandannas (which doubled as napkins, 'cause .99/each was a lot cheaper than a real cloth napkin), and got crackin'. Fortunately, the results were fairly freakin' awesome.


How to Make Pomegranate Print Napkins:
To make these, you will need the aforementioned items, plus a surface upon which to spread your ink thinly. I ripped open a cardboard cereal box and laid it flat--this worked great and cost me nothing.

1. But FIRST, you'll want to cut your pomegranate in half and lay it on a thick stack of paper towels (on top of a plate) to drain for an hour or two. Be sure to change the paper towels once or twice halfway through. As you may know, pomegranates have a lot of pent up juice, and that juice will definitely be all over your napkins if you skip this step.

2. Once you're pretty sure your pomegranates are done draining, squirt some of your ink onto the cardboard surface and use your brayer to squeegee it back and forth until it's thin and shiny. The brayer will make a squeaky singy noise on really thin, shiny ink--that's how you know you're ready to start printing. Ink the brayer and then use the brayer to apply ink directly to the pomegranate. This ensures that you get the most ink possible onto all parts of the pomegranate. Really make sure you get the edges of the pomegranate (and the top!) well defined with ink.

3. Before you print, be sure that you put a piece of cardboard under the cloth, directly where you intend to print--this will make it so it doesn't bleed onto the other parts of the fabric or your counter top. Then, with great assuredness that you are a marvel of modern domesticity and artisticness, place the inked pomegranate half onto the cloth. Press down firmly all over the pomegranate (but not so hard that you squish anything), paying special attention to the top and edges. After a minute or so of pressing, gently lift it up.

4. BEHOLD YOUR AWESOME NAPKINS! Let them dry fully. After they're dry (ie no longer shiny), put a piece of paper over the top and iron the design. This is called setting the ink, and makes it much, much less likely that you will have an inky, runny mess when you wash them. Enjoy!

The other piece of advance prep I did was to make place cards out of the 6 Easy Steps to Opening a Pomegranate. I took beautiful photos of each of the steps, used Photoshop to write the steps and the guests names, and framed them in black with Word. I cut a horizontal slit in the stem of a pomegranate and used it as a place card holder for each person. The idea was to familiarize everyone with at least one step, and then discuss how to do it over dinner. THEN, I would have two teams compete to see who could open a pomegranate the fastest. It worked remarkably well!





Here are some pictures of Team Girl and Team Boy opening their pomegranates and doing a totally kickass job:






After the party, I decided to cobble together a video about how I presented the steps to my guests. Would it have been easier if I'd done it before and during the party? Uhhh, yes. But, my hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately, I didn't even know what iMovie was until last week. So, if you're wondering why this video is both unentertaining and of crappy quality, that's why. :)



Yikes.

Eeniwho, let's move on to the rest of the decor!

My other ideas were to use a tall glass cylinder vase, stack it with pomegranates and fill in the empty spaces with these brown tree blossoms you usually see around town, and to fill candle votives with pomegranate seeds and place a tealight on top. The latter worked out really well, as you'll see below. The former, however, was befouled by my inability to find any of the previously abundant tree blossoms. Seriously--last year, they were EVERYWHERE. This year, nowhere to be found. So, Greg (my Creative Director for the POM Party) helped me pick up some pine cones, disassemble some fake leaves I bought, and used all those elements and more to assemble a totally gorgeous fall-pomegranate themed centerpiece.




The table was really lovely, and looked like this:


Jen and Grant arrived and brought us balloons assembled to resemble pomegranate seeds!
On to....THE FOOD!
POM Margaritas
Pomegranate, Gouda and Pear Quesadillas
Avocado & Pomegranate Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette
Vegetarian Chiles en Nogada
Pomegranate Truffles
Salted Pomegranate Caramels
Pomegranate Flan



POM Margaritas
(from POM Wonderful)
-1 3/4 cups chilled pomegranate juice
-Kosher salt
-1 1/2 cups silver tequila
-1 cup triple sec
-2/3 cup fresh lime juice
-ice cubes
-8 lime wheels, for garnish

1. Pour 1/4 cup of the pomegranate juice into a saucer; spread kosher salt in another saucer. Moisten the outer edge of 8 margarita glasses with the pomegranate juice, then coat with the salt.

2. In a pitcher, stir the remaining 1 1/2 cups of pomegranate juice, the tequila, triple sec and lime juice. Working in batches, shake the mixture in a large ice-filled shaker, then strain into the glasses. Garnish each margarita with a lime wheel and serve.

-Serves 8
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Pomegranate, Gouda, and Pear Quesadillas with POM Salsa (from POM Wonderful)
Quesadilla:
-1 cup arils from 1-2 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates
-6 8-inch flour tortillas
-4 oz. smoked Gouda cheese, thinly sliced
-2 large firm pears, thinly sliced
-1 tablespoon granulated sugar
-1 teaspoon vegetable oil

POM Salsa:
-juice from 1 large POM Wonderful Pomegranate* or 1/4 cup POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
-2 cups arils from 2-3 large POM Wonderful Pomegranates
-3-4 teaspoons chopped jalapeno pepper
-1/4 cup finely chopped yellow bell pepper
-4 tablespoon granulated sugar
-1 tablespoon rice vinegar

POM Cream Garnish: (this is my own concoction)
-About 1/8 cup POM juice
-About 6 ounces of light sour cream

Quesadilla:
1. Score 1-2 fresh pomegranates and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate underwater to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the arils from fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.)

2. Place 2 strips of cheese on each tortilla. Using fingers, press 1 teaspoon of arils into cheese. Add 2 slices of pear, sprinkle with sugar. Fold tortilla in half.

3. Add 1/2 teaspoon oil to a nonstick skillet and heat. Place folded tortillas in the pan and brown lightly; turn over and cook until crisp. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon of oil if needed. Cut each tortilla into halves and serve with POM Salsa.

What quesadillas look like before plating, good lighting, and photoshop. :p

This cracks me up. I look so angry, but I was really just concentrating on plating at the table.

POM Salsa:
1. Score 2-3 fresh pomegranates and place in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate under water to free the arils (seed sacs). The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float to the top. Sieve and put the arils in a separate bowl. Reserve 2 cups of the arils from the fruit and set aside. (Refrigerate or freeze remaining arils for another use.)

2. Thoroughly mix to combine all ingredients. (Salsa will keep covered, in the refrigerator, for 2 to 3 days.)

POM Cream Garnish:
This is easy enough--using a fork, mix together, adding POM juice slowly until you achieve the consistency you'd like. I added just enough to tint the color and add a touch of flavor, but did not lose the thicker consistency.

-Makes 12 pieces
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Avocado & Pomegranate Salad with Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette (from About.com)
-5-ounce package baby greens, herb salad, or baby spinach, rinsed and dried
-1 large avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
-Arils (seeds) from 1/2 pomegranate
-Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette (see recipe below)

1. Mound the baby greens in the center of a platter or on individual salad dishes. Arrange avocado slices over the greens, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.


Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette:
-1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
-1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Adjust the salt to taste. Toss with salad greens, drizzle over steamed vegetables, or use as a marinade.

-Serves approximately 3 people
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When I submitted the menu for the POM Party, I chose Chiles en Nogada. You may remember (even though this is a long entry) that this dinner was based vegetarian cuisine. Chiles en Nogada is REALLY NOT vegetarian--it's chock full of meat. Two kinds of meat, in fact! What was I thinking?! So, I really scrambled at the last minute to come up with a combination of ingredients that would hold their own as a chile filling, but would still maintain the essential sweet and savory elements of the dish. In the end, I don't mind saying that I did a damn fine job. This is super filling and super tasty! Highly recommended for any vegetarian looking for a stunning dish to impress their guests.

Vegetarian Chiles en Nogada (by me and various recipe sources, so all measurements are approximate!)
-12 Poblano chiles
-2 pounds sweet potatoes, cubed
-About 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and finely diced
-1 D'Anjou Pear, peeled and finely diced
-1 white onion, finely diced
-1 large clove garlic, minced
-1 pound Roma tomatoes, diced
-4 oz canned pineapple tidbits, juice drained
-1/3-1/2 cup Craisins
-1/2 cup cider vinegar
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-1/2-1 ounce goat cheese (or whatever you have leftover from the sauce)
-About 2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Walnut Sauce:
-1 cup walnuts
-2 ounces almonds
-1/2 cup Crema Mexicana
-4 ounces goat cheese
-3 ounces cream cheese
-Milk, as needed to thin
-Salt, to taste
-White ground pepper, to taste
-Sugar, to taste


Garnishes:
-Flat leaf parsley (1 big bunch should do), chopped
-2 cups pomegranate seeds



1. Preheat a grill or broiler to high heat. Broil the chiles, turning occasionally, until the skin blisters. Place in a paper bag, fold the top over, and let sit for 20+ minutes. Flake off the burnt skin and GENTLY cut down the side of each chile (don't cut through!). Remove the seeds and membranes, but do not remove the top/stem! It helps to rinse gently with cold water.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Put the sweet potatoes in and boil until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the water and mash the potatoes while they're still hot. Set aside.

3. In a food processor, blend all of the ingredients for the Walnut Sauce. The sauce should be thick and nutty. If you want it thinner, add a little milk. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

4. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until just slightly softened. Add apple, pear, and garlic. Cook a bit longer until slightly softened. Add the tomatoes, pineapple, cider vinegar, salt and pepper. Let simmer approximately 5 minutes.

5. Add the sauteed ingredients to the pot of sweet potatoes. Add the craisins. Mix everything well. Add the goat cheese and cream and mash/mix in well to get a creamier texture.

6. Stuff the chiles gently with the mixture--no need to 'close' them. Top with pomegranate seeds, a thick strip of Walnut Sauce, and chopped parsley.... now, you have the Mexican flag on your plate!

-Serves 6 (2 chiles each)

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After so much successful foodstuffs had come out of the kitchen, I was happy and confident to present Pomegranate Flan to my guests. All I can say is that if you haven't made flan before, you probably shouldn't wait until you're throwing a dinner party to try it out. It was a terrible disaster of a flan. The worst part is that I have no idea what went wrong. It *tasted* good, but...well....let's take a look:


The good news is that even though it looked like vomit and my guests were really full, they still wanted to eat it. And they even enjoyed it, as you'll see below:

Grant really likes pomegranates. I did not know that when I invited him.

Pomegranate Flan (from ABC News - Ivy Stark)
-1-1/3 cups water 

-2/3 cup granulated sugar 

-1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses 

-3 extra large eggs 

-3 extra large egg yolks 

-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-2 cups half-and-half 

-1 1/4 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice 

-pomegranate seeds for garnish

1. Heat water, the 2/3 cup sugar, and pomegranate molasses together in a small heavy saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Lower heat to medium-high. Swirl the pan gently until the syrup turns a rich golden brown - about 12 minutes. Pour the caramel into a 10-inch round cake pan or 4-cup custard mold. Swirl it around to coat the mold evenly. When the syrup sets, turn the mold upside down on a piece of aluminum foil or heat proof surface.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

3. Beat eggs and egg yolks with the 1/2 cup sugar until they are well blended. Pour the half and half into the egg mixture, beating continually. Pour the pomegranate juice into the mixture and beat until well combined.

4. Pour the custard through a sieve into the cake pan or mold. Place the mold in an ovenproof pan and pour boiling water halfway up the sides of the pan or mold. Cover the pan or mold with aluminum foil that has been punctured in several places for ventilation.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the flan comes out clean. The flan will be soft and creamy.

6. Remove the mold from the pan of water and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

7. Slice and serve garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds.


-Serves 6

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And, as I posted about previously, I made Pomegranate Truffles and Salted Pomegranate Caramels.

Truffles in all of their glory:



And the amazing-but-soft caramels, and guests enjoying them:





We had a fun, casual, and super delicious Mid-Fall/Mexican-themed meal, thanks to POM Wonderful! Thanks, POM!

13 comments:

cynnerth said...

*standing ovation*

Lisa said...

I like that you're rocking the Badger hockey sweatshirt in the video. p.s. You look super pretty! :)

Wulinarian said...

Neat! The quesadillas looks delicious!

Kimberly Peterson said...

Seriously, POM has never looked sexier. What an AMAZING recap... and yes, I will join in on that *standing ovation*

Trish said...

Wow, what a fabulous dinner party. Your guests were very lucky. I love the quesadillas and caramels. Yum! Great post!

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

Wow!! I've seen POM themed recipes before, but this isn't just a recipe post. It's an event! Everything looks wonderful, but the truffles definitely stole all the thunder!

Rich said...

So, if you're accepting applications to be your friend, I'd be more than happy to fill one out, assuming it's your friends that get invited to these parties? I'll be waiting for the application. Please let me know if you need a friend resume. I have great references.

Victoria said...

What a great party! I LOVE the napkins you made and I think you did a great job all around on decorations! The pomegranate opening contest looks like fun and all the food looked wonderful. Especially love the truffles :)

Simply Life said...

WOW! That is SO creative and very impressive!

Reeni said...

You're a genius - love the napkins and the place cards! The apron is pretty funny too. And what an impressive feast you cooked up! Everything looks so good - especially the candies!

Mary said...

It's nice to see the girls were in good hands:-). This is a wonderful post and I'm impressed by your creativity and stamina. It sounds like a deliciously wonderful party. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

Ellen (La Pure Mama) said...

Those quesadillas? Hello!!! Yum! I want those right now, for sure! :) And the truffles... wow. Great job!

d.n.williamson said...

First time I had a pomegranate I was in 7th grade Language Arts class learning about Greek Mythology. We opened one up last week and ate the seeds over pumpkin pancakes. (Recipe on my blog).

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