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Food Find of the month: Pomegranate

After cutting off the top of the pomegranate, use a sharp knife to make a cut through the fruit's skin, being careful to not cut into the juice-filled seeds.1 / 5
Stab the center of the fruit with the knife.2 / 5
Then turn the knife to "crack" the pomegranate into halves.3 / 5
Splitting the pomegranate, rather than slicing it, helps avoid breaking the juice-filled seeds.4 / 5
Holding the pomegranate cut side down over a large bowl, use a sturdy wooden spoon to hit the back of the pomegranate and knock the seeds into the bowl.5 / 5

Valentine's Day is just more than a week away, so it's no surprise that chocolate-covered strawberries are showing up in grocery stores, restaurants and bakeries.

But recently, another red fruit also has been taking a dip in the chocolate pool: pomegranate.

Red Wing Confectionery began carrying dark chocolate-covered pomegranates about a year ago. The candies are available all year -- not just in February, confectionery owner Kathy Boos said.

"Those have become really good sellers in our store," she said.

The chocolate-covered pomegranate pieces are made by enrobing a dried pomegranate seed in dark chocolate. Setting the candy apart is its relatively healthy nutrition facts, said Boos, who is a former dietitian. Pomegranates are high in antioxidants.

"When you add the 72 percent dark chocolate (which is also high in antioxidants), that's an added benefit," Boos said. "They have a lower calorie content than some of the other candies."

But the sweet fruit isn't just for candy. Pomegranates can make appearances in a number of drinks, sauces, salads, dips and meat dishes.

Many of the recipes below simply call for pomegranate juice, which can now readily be found in just about every grocery store.

A few of the recipes also call for fresh pomegranate. Getting the juice-filled seeds out of the pomegranate's hard shell can be tricky. To begin, use a serrated bread knife or large chef's knife to cut the top off the fruit.

Then, make a shallow cut from the top to the bottom of the fruit, slicing through only the shell and being careful not to cut into the seeds. Make a similar cut on the opposite side of the fruit.

Next, stand the fruit cut-side up on a cutting board. Stab the tip of the knife into the top of the fruit. Twist to "crack" the pomegranate into halves.

Finally, hold one half of the fruit cut-side down over a large bowl. Use a sturdy wooden spoon to hit the back of the pomegranate and knock the seeds into the bowl.

Don't be afraid of damaging the pomegranate; it does take quite a bit of force to dislodge the seeds. Repeat with the second half.

Be careful as you go; pomegranate juice stains, and is nearly impossible to get out. But, the sweet, healthy fruit is worth all the work.

Mulled Pom-Apple Cider

Food Network Kitchens

4 cups pomegranate juice

3 cups cider

6 dried pears

6 dried apples

2 to 3 strips orange zest

5 cardamom pods

1 cinnamon stick

5 allspice berries

1 star anise

Brandy, rum, vodka or port

Put the pomegranate juice and cider in a large non-reactive pot along with the dried fruits, orange zest, and spices. Warm gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 minutes. Take care not to let the mixture boil. Serve in clear mugs or glasses with spices and dried fruit, and add a splash of your favorite liquor.

Spinach Salad with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Copyright 2006, Robin Miller

1/2 cup pomegranate juice

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt and ground black pepper

6 cups baby spinach leaves

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup walnut pieces

In a small container with lid, combine pomegranate juice, vinegar, oil and Dijon. Seal and shake to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Place spinach on a serving platter and top with cranberries and walnuts. Pour vinaigrette over spinach and serve.

Pomegranate and Roasted Pepper Salsa

Alex Garcia,

3 pomegranates, peeled and seeded

6 red peppers

1 medium red onion, very small diced

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 limes, juiced

Salt and pepper

Cut pomegranate in quarters and remove seeds. Extract the juice from the pomegranate seeds by placing the seeds on a strainer or bowl and pressing down with a ladle or mallet.

Roast the red peppers, place in a bowl, cover with plastic for 8 minutes, and then peel, seed, and dice the roasted red pepper into very small pieces.

In a mixing bowl, combine the pomegranate juice, diced roasted red pepper, diced red onion, chopped mint, olive oil, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with cold-water Eastern or Atlantic oysters, preferably either Malpecque or Bluepoint, on the half shell.

Pomegranate Pilaf

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1 cup basmati or jasmine rice

1 1/2 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup chopped unsalted pistachios or almonds

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (about 1/2 pomegranate)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add rice; cook, stirring 1 minute to coat. Add chicken stock; bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice has absorbed all liquid, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, and fluff with a fork. Stir in apricots, nuts, pomegranate seeds, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.