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COLUMN: Pomegranate: A holiday jewel

Za’atar Chickpeas and Butternut Squash with Halloom
Za’atar Chickpeas and Butternut Squash with Halloom

FOODWISE by Courtney Masey

This ruby-red fruit has a burst of colour and sweet-tart flavour that is sure to bring added appeal to your table no matter what dish it’s included in. Pomegranate is a favourite ingredient and garnish for holiday foods – and nutritionally, it is full of goodness. Pomegranates contain antioxidants and are a good source of vitamin K and folate as well as providing vitamin C and potassium. Half a pomegranate is one serving.

When choosing a pomegranate, look for one that is heavy for its size and has skin that is unblemished and bright in colour. A pomegranate should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and will keep for up to one month, or up to two months if stored in the refrigerator.

The inside of a pomegranate is filled with lots of small seeds, also known arils. These are the edible part of the pomegranate. Pomegranate pairs nicely with many herbs, spices and flavours like cinnamon, cumin, garlic and lime, as well as foods such as apples, blood oranges, pears, yogurt, cheese, chicken and pork.

The arils can be added as a topping on salads, sprinkled on yogurt or pancakes, over oatmeal, cereals and desserts. The juiciness of the arils also makes them great in a salsa, especially one made with pears. Pomegranate arils are great in a marinade or glaze, added to guacamole, sprinkled on top of a cheeseball, added to dips or even added to water to help add some natural flavour. They can also be used to garnish sweet and savoury dishes like the tasty recipe below.

You may find it a challenge to remove the arils from the fruit, but here’s a tip to make the job easier. Start by cutting a quarter inch off the top and then cut the fruit vertically into several pieces. To prevent the juice from the arils from spraying onto your clothes or around the kitchen, place the pieces of pomegranate into a bowl of cold water and pop the seeds out of each section with your hands. The arils will sink to the bottom of the bowl and can be drained into a strainer and stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to two weeks. The arils can also be frozen for several months.

If you don’t have time to deseed a fresh pomegranate, check out the new frozen PC Pomegranate Arils that you can now pick up in a convenient resealable bag, just like any other frozen fruit or vegetable! Keep a bag on hand for any recipes that could benefit from a sprinkling of vibrant colour and taste.

If pomegranate wasn’t already on your shopping list yet for the upcoming holiday season, I hope it will be now! This savoury dish is one of many great ways to enjoy its fantastic flavour.


Za’atar Chickpeas and Butternut Squash with Halloom



1 small (about 1kg) butternut squash, peeled, trimmed, halved lengthwise and seeded

3 cups (750ml) frozen PC Blue Menu Chickpeas

½ pkg (250g pkg) PC Halloom Semi-Soft Unripened Cheese, sliced into ¼-inch (5mm) thick pieces

2 tbsp (25ml) olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp (15ml) PC Black Label Za’atar spice blend

½ tsp (2ml) each salt and pepper

¼ cup (50ml) pomegranate seeds

¼ cup (50ml) torn fresh mint


½ cup (125ml) PC Plain 1% M.F. Yogurt

2 tbsp (25ml) chopped fresh mint

4 tsp (20ml) tahini

1 tbsp (15ml) fresh lemon juice



1. Place squash halves, cut sides down, in 8-inch (2 L) square glass baking dish; add enough water to come 1/4 inch (5 mm) up side. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave until fork-tender but not falling apart, 9 to 10 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to cutting board; cut into large chunks (about 3-inch/8 cm long x 2-inch/5 cm wide x 1-inch/2.5 cm thick). Set aside.


2. Meanwhile, bring large saucepan of water to a boil. Add frozen chickpeas; bring to a simmer. Cook until tender, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain; pat dry. Set aside.


3. Prepare sauce: Stir together yogurt, mint, tahini and lemon juice in small bowl. Set aside.


4. Place halloom in cold large nonstick skillet; heat on medium. Cook, turning once, until golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to cutting board; cut into quarters. Set aside.


5. Heat 1 tbsp oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add chickpeas; cook, stirring often, until crispy and golden, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add onion. Cook, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, za'atar and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper; cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape into large bowl. Set aside.


6. Heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper; cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add chickpea mixture; stir gently to combine and heat through. Transfer to large serving platter. Top with halloom; drizzle with sauce. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and mint.


Serves: 4


Per serving: 480 calories, fat 21 g (7 g of which is saturated), sodium 710 mg, carbohydrate 60 g, fibre 12 g, sugars 14 g. protein 21 g


Recipe source:


Have a nutrition question? Want to book a free appointment or educational store tour for yourself or your community group or business? Contact me by phone at (902) 921-0700 or by email at


Courtney Masey is a Registered Dietitian with Atlantic Superstore in New Glasgow.

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