This post is part of a series of recaps of my POM Wonderful Dinner Party. Catching up? See all the posts here: POM Party.
For my POM Wonderful dinner party, I served a Cuban inspired menu to eleven lovely guests. Friends, old and new, enjoyed the following:
Tostones with Pomegranate Salsa
Cuban Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette and Arils
Vegetarian Paella with Fresh Vegetables and Pomegranate Seeds
Tres Leches Cake with Pomegranate Whipped Cream
In my last post, I left off after the first course. As I started to move salads to the dining room, my gracious guests formed a bucket brigade of sorts and passed the eleven salads down the line and onto the table. It felt like a big family dinner!
We all took our seats and enjoyed a traditional Cuban salad with a twist. Cuban salads are typically a mixture of lettuce, tomato, onion, and avocado. In addition to these elements, I included pomegranate seeds and dressed the salad with a pomegranate balsamic vinaigrette.
Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette
4 tbsp POM Wonderful 100% pomegranate juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl until blended. Chill for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Whisk again before serving over a bed of fresh greens.
I tossed mine with romaine. sliced grape tomatoes, sliced avocado, pomegranate arils, and thinly sliced red onion. I think this would have been good with a salty cheese like feta or aged parmesan, but in keeping with the Cuban theme, I left this salad cheeseless. It was fresh and light, and the sweet tanginess of the vinaigrette was just right.
Next I served our third course, which I had kept warm in two crockpots for about an hour. This was a great dish for a dinner party of this size and complexity, because I had to do nothing between the second and third courses but clear the salads and plate the paella. You never want your guests waiting too long after the salad. Their palates were prepped and I wanted to get on with the main course as quickly as possible.
As I served the paella, someone from the large table asked me, “where did you find the recipes for this?” I do not remember who it was because I was moving quickly at the time. I apologize now for the flip response. I smiled and replied,
“Recipes? I’m sorry, what are those again?”
I found this question particularly funny because the paella had been thrown together in a fit of chopping, mixing, and tasting (as usual). I have never made the same paella twice. Typically I throw in whatever is on hand and although this one was planned with the best of intentions, the paella just happened. Luckily, I have photos of the whole process, so I will attempt to recreate the recipe through the pictures that my friend Carissa has captured.
Vegetarian Paella with Fresh Vegetables and Pomegranate
Heat some olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add diced onion and green bell pepper. For 12-14 servings, I used 2-3 onions and 4 green bell peppers. Saute until onion is translucent.
In the meantime, prepare 8 cups of medium grain rice. When it was finished cooking, I put mine in a mixing bowl and stuck it on top of the (clean) refrigerator, hence the beer trophies in the background.
On another burner (I know you’re running out, but you will be okay, this is the last one), bring 3/4 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. When it reaches boiling, add 10-12 saffron threads, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes.
WOW that looks like a little more than 12 threads. Really you shouldn’t need any more than that. I must have gotten carried away with the saffron in my haste. When this is done, pour the liquid through a strainer and reserve the liquid while discarding the threads.
By now your onions should be translucent. At this point you are going to add about 4 cups of vegetables to the mix. I chose yellow squash and zucchini. This is about 3 cups of squash, halved and sliced.
Stir in your vegetables and let this simmer for about 6-8 minutes.
To the squash and zucchini, I added the saffron water, 2 cans of vegetable broth, one and a half cans of quartered artichoke hearts, 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, and 3 cloves of garlic, minced.
Let this simmer for 15 minutes over low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Slice two pints of grape tomatoes into halves.
Add the tomatoes to the vegetable mixture. Mix in 8 cups of cooked rice. You are probably going to need another bowl to do this in batches because my guess is you are running out of room in your pot. Because I was using two crockpots, I divided both the rice and the vegetable mixture between the two pots and mixed them together in each pot. Salt and pepper again to taste.
Then add the fresh pomegranate arils! Add as many as you would like; I just added until it looked like it didn’t need anymore. You might have to experiment with it to get it just right.
I served the paella in large bowls with sriracha on the side.This stuff is bottled magic. I know I have said that before about beer. And wine. And olive oil. But this time I really mean it!
People went back for seconds on the paella, so I think it was a hit. The personal favorite of the evening was probably the dessert, which we will get to next time. Stay tuned for tres leches cake, a pomegranate opening demonstration, and some fabulous prizes! I will post the rest of my recap this week.
Believe me, and my dinner guests will attest to this, the tres leches cake with pomegranate whipped cream is worth the wait.