POM Party: Dinner is Served

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:

Pomegranate Mojitos

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

Ingredients

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

Preparation

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.

POM Party: Drinks and Apps

This post is part of a series of recaps of my POM Wonderful Dinner Party. Catching up? See all the posts here: POM Party.

My party was about to kick off and I had a few friends helping out with lime slicing, candle lighting, and mojito muddling. We took a moment to treat ourselves to a little pomegranate liqueur before the doorbell started ringing.

While I prepped things in the kitchen, guests mingled and enjoyed pomegranate mojitos. Many of the guests did not know each other before the party, so introductions were made and they discovered that they had  a lot in common.

Including a love of mojitos.

Can you spot a familiar blogger’s beau in the photo above?

Hint: he is enjoying a pomegranate mojito…

That’s right, it’s Isaac! Brittany and Isaac from Eating Bird Food joined us for dinner. I have been reading her fantastic blog for about a year and a half AND we are neighbors, yet I just met her for the first time when I invited her and Isaac to my dinner party. Thanks Brittany for joining us and taking some beautiful photos of the event!

From my post in the kitchen, I heard the noise level in the other room rising. I thought to myself, these POM mojitos are getting dangerous, I mean, awesome! I also realized that I needed to get some food passed around pretty quickly, or else I might have a dinner guest swinging from the chandelier before we even get to the salad course.

For our first course, I served tostones with a pomegranate salsa. Tostones are fried plantains and they are popular in Cuban cuisine. I extended the Cuban theme throughout the evening, setting the mood with the festive sounds of salsa music playing in the bacground, loosening up my jubilant guests with sweet, tart, and cool POM mojitos, and giving them a taste of the cuisine to come with small bites of tostones and spicy pomegranate salsa.

I had to laugh when I brought the bowl of salsa out to the table and as I walked away heard two enthusiastic women shout, “Stop! No one can touch it until I get a picture!” Oh, bloggers. . .

The tostones were at once starchy, salty, and sweet. They paired well with the tart and tangy salsa. The soft bite of the fried plantain with the crunchy and surprising pop of the pomegranate seed was all kinds of fun for your mouth.

As the plate of tostones slowly emptied, my lovely guests started eating the salsa with forks. Garlic, onion, and saffron wafted from the kitchen into the living room, and my friends started to eye the dining room tables, looking for their placecards while continuing to joke and laugh with one another. They came with appetites and the smells from the stove and the inviting tablescape lured them into my second course.

I think these lush shades of red were a gorgeous complement to the star of the evening.

In case you ever wondered. . .

Here’s how you seat eleven people for a four course dinner party in a one bedroom apartment.

Now that we’re all seated, I’ll share with you my recipes for the drinks and appetizers, featuring POM Wonderful pomegranates.

Pomegranate Mojito

Ingredients

12 fresh mint leaves

1/2 lime, cut into wedges, plus more for garnish

2 tbsp. simple syrup (1 tbsp cane sugar dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water and chilled)

1.5 oz light rum

2 oz POM 100% pomegranate juice

4 oz club soda

Preparation

Put the mint leaves and lime slices in the bottom of a pint glass and pour simple syrup on top.

With a muddler or a large spoon, crush the lime and mint into the simple syrup to release their flavors.

Fill the cup with ice.

Pour light rum and pomegranate juice over ice and stir to mix.

Fill to the top with soda and garnish with a slice of lime.

Tostones

I originally posted my recipe here, but I have copied it below for your convenience.

Ingredients

3 to 4 large unripe (green) plantains

sea salt to taste

2 cups vegetable or olive oil for frying

Preparation

With a sharp small knife cut ends from each plantain and cut a lengthwise slit through skin. Cut plantains crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces and, beginning at slit, pry skin from pieces. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet heat 1/2 inch oil over moderate heat until just hot enough to sizzle when a plantain piece is added. Fry plantains in batches, without crowding, until tender and just golden, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. With tongs transfer plantains as fried to paper towels to drain.

Remove skillet from heat and reserve oil. With the bottom of a heavy saucepan or a wide solid metal spatula flatten plantains to 1/4 inch thick (about 3 inches in diameter). Into a bowl of warm salted water dip flattened plantains, 1 at a time, and drain them well on paper towels.

Heat reserved oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and fry flattened plantains in batches, without crowding, until golden, about 3 minutes. With tongs transfer tostones as fried to paper towels to drain and season with salt if desired. Serve tostones immediately.

Pomegranate Salsa

Messy kitchen shot. . . eek!

Ingredients

1 medium tomato, diced

1/4 large red onion, diced

1 small bunch cilantro (about 1/2 cup, chopped)

1 cup pomegranate arils

1 jalapeñ0, seeded and finely chopped

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Preparation

Combine the tomato, onion, cilantro, pomegranate, and jalapeño in a medium sized bowl. Be careful cutting the pepper; the capsaicin can linger on your fingers for days which makes it very uncomfortable to touch your eyes or mouth. I almost always wear gloves when cutting hot peppers.

Add the lime juice and olive oil and stir to combine. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tostones. Leftovers can be served with chips, or if you’re like my dinner guests, eaten right out of the bowl with forks.

POM Party: The Aftermath

Did you know that November is National Pomegranate Month?

Last night I hosted my POM Wonderful dinner party, and I am happy to report it was a big success. I and ten of my friends enjoyed pomegranate-infused food, delicious POM mojitos, and great conversation. I even met one of my favorite food bloggers, Brittany from Eating Bird Food. She posted a great recap of the event over on EBF.

The celebration will continue throughout this week as I post daily recipes of all the food featured in my four course menu, along with event photos and fun facts about POM. I, for one, am very excited to share all that I have learned this week!

sweet apron, right?

Before I sort through the photos and the juice-splattered recipes, I still have to deal with the party aftermath.

A few pounds of arils…

A neat row of clean dishes. . .

A giant stack of dirty dishes. . .

And a beautiful fall day to distract me!

Stay tuned for a whole week of pomegranate fun!

To kick things off, a simple recipe. Sometimes it’s fun to have dessert first.

Pomegranate Whipped Cream

For a crowd. . . serves 16!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons POM 100% pomegranate juice

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whip the cream and sugar with an electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Mix in vanilla extract. While mixing, add pomegranate juice slowly. Be sure not to add too much juice or the cream will become too thin. I have found that 2 tablespoons works well with this amount of cream.

Enjoy on top of cake, pie, and hot chocolate!

The Little Dinner Party That Could

I love a challenge. I really do. Which is why, when the opportunity to throw a dinner party sponsored by POM Wonderful landed in my inbox, I jumped at the chance. I submitted a menu and party plan to the folks at POM a few weeks ago, and now I am deep in the plan and prep mode, with just two days left until I host my very own POM Party!

However, I have hit some bumps in the road throughout this process. My little dinner party, like the little engine that could, has caused me to stop, breathe, and say “I think I can…” on more than one occasion.

It all started when I became a host. I was selected by POM as one of 100 party hosts to compete in the challenge. I was super excited and sent back all the required information, only to find out that I had responded just a few hours too late to receive my party package in time to throw a party. After a little negotiation with POM, the good people there found a way to get me my party package in time to compete!

For the next week, I planned recipes, invited guests, and designed the decor. Then I got nervous when my party package didn’t arrive at my work address as requested. The deadline to receive packages passed, and I had no pomegranates. After taking a deep breath, I reasoned that perhaps shipping fresh fruit from California to Virginia might take an extra day. I resumed planning and then got SLAMMED with a major head cold earlier this week.

So there I was with a dozen recipes, no pomegranates or party materials, and serious nasal congestion. I tried to cheer myself up by shopping for decorations and ended up with these odd little clusters of fake fruit, including miniature faux pomegranates. They are either adorable or they are cheesy. I’m not sure; the Sudafed chose them.

I could not smell or taste anything, so poor Kyle has been a victim of my test kitchen this week. Tonight I presented him with three piles of baby spinach leaves, each dressed in a slightly different homemade pomegranate vinaigrette, and asked him to choose the best one. I tried to pitch in by substituting an experimental pomegranate-based cocktail for my Nyquil one night earlier this week. It knocked me out just the same, but was significantly inferior as a cough suppressant. Kyle said it tasted good though, so it might be a GO for the party.

Today I received my pomegranate party package, but only after I nervously tracked the shipment and discovered that it was delivered to the warehouse connected to my office last week. I sauntered out to the warehouse to claim my Californian fruit, and was greeted by the warehouse manager: “I have your package, but there is a problem with one of the boxes.” I thought, you have got to be kidding me. We walked to the corner of the warehouse to a small pile of three boxes. Two were from POM Wonderful. Another was in a box with my company logo on the front.

“I accidentally ran over the one with the forklift. These things were inside of it. Three of them were damaged and those little seeds went everywhere!”

He had never seen a pomegranate before. I had to laugh when I envisoned how he must have reacted when he backed over this cardboard box and it started bleeding dark red seeds. I was not worried about the three damaged pomegranates; I was just happy to finally have my party package.

The whole scenario caused such a stir at my office and it prompted endless questions from my coworkers, so I took one of the bruised pomegranates from the box and held an impromptu session on how to enjoy a pomegranate, right there in the break room. I figured it would be a good rehearsal for this weekend. I did not have a large bowl or mesh strainer so I improvised the following method. I will post my preferred method next week, but sometimes this is all you’ve got to work with.

Slice off the top of the pomegranate.

Remove the top completely.

Gently score the outer skin in four places, dividing the fruit into quarters.

Separate the four sections by pulling them apart.

Gently separate the bright red arils from the creamy colored pith. Place the arils in a bowl and discard the peels.

Claim your reward!

We passed the seeds around the office and they were a big hit. I am starting to feel a little better, so I hope I will be healthy in time for the party. When I got home today, I opened the two other boxes from POM. One was filled with POM swag and the other was filled with. . .

Twenty more pomegranates! Oh my!

I think I can, I think I can. . .