Cooks Corner

Film Heralds Pure Pomegranate Juice: The Easy Way to Super Fruit

Morgan Spurlock's documentary, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, is making the rounds on cable and DVD. We were supposed to hear about it and see it when it was rolled out in a limited number of movie theaters months ago.
That's because the feature-length film is about product placement and sponsorship, and it is the first film ever entirely produced using such funds. Spurlock secured dozens of co-sponsors (mainly products he uses), so a sticker for his movie rollout was everywhere from the packages of organic frozen food entrees to a shampoo that makes both the hair of humans and horses cleaner and more manageable. The filmmaker also wore an advertising-laden jumpsuit, a la a NASCAR driver, when he made talk-show appearances.

Like Super Size Me, the 2004 theatrical documentary that put Spurlock on the map and chronicled him eating nothing but McDonald's food for months while measuring his cholesterol and other health markers, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold takes a serious subject and adds chuckles and the likeable Spurlock as its star. The film's clever marketing scheme didn't work on me. I only heard about it later when reading the listings offered on my cable system's On-Demand choices.

There are lots of tidbits to take away from the film. I was impacted immediately as I paused the movie on my TV in the den, walked to the kitchen to get a drink, and heard from the TV my husband was watching, a tiny camera shop's commercial bragging that it was the New York Giant's "official" camera store. Spurlock had just chronicled how all that usually comes about.

It was from Spurlock's million-dollar sponsor of the under-$2 million film-the one that got their name above the title, "POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold"-that I got my most eye-opening fact and realized how co-marketing should work: to keep us informed.

While having a meeting, within the film, with the leaders of POM Wonderful-the makers of the distinctively shaped bottles of pure pomegranate juice, which also eventually got the biggest logos on Spurlock's advertising suit-Spurlock was told they wanted him to stress that their product is 100 percent pomegranate juice. Some other major-brand competitors that promote pomegranate in their names and on their labels are only one percent of what health researchers have labeled the super fruit.

Spurlock's 30-second commercial (another feature he pre-planned to sell to be right in the middle of the tongue-in-cheek film) did announce that, even showing the other brands, which are blends of apple, grape, berry, and other juices, while they herald on their labels what is actually the slight pomegranate connection.

This was hard for me to stomach. I had felt good about drinking one of those big-brand, yet lower-priced "pomegranate" juices for months. I felt duped. One percent? I was glad POM Wonderful's founder, and then Spurlock, had filled me in during the film. The Super Size Me star had clued me in about super fruit-and also made me much more aware to check the ingredients on all these new major-brand, super fruit juices rather than just being mesmerized by the colorful packaging and other claims.

Since I've been a health and nutrition reporter, and even penned the book Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand Name Guide to a Better Diet and other investigative nutrition tomes years ago, I was aware that the full ingredients of these new products featured an array of juices. However, I assumed that if the juice was called Pomegranate or say, Pomegranate-Blueberry, that it would contain more than one percent of those juices and not perhaps 99 percent of the unpromoted "filler" juices.
As expected, the more expensive, pure pomegranate juice does taste better and richer. While requiring less, it's a more lush and flavorful addition to cooking, a la sauces, dressings and syrups-all of which work equally well on everything from salads, to side dishes, entrees, and desserts. Thanks to Spurlock's creative co-promotion that hit home, I'm investing a bit more in my pomegranate juice-enhanced meal.

Pomegranate Juice Glazed  Short Ribs

4 pounds short ribs, cleaned and trimmed
Salt (preferably kosher salt), to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for cooking
1 chopped carrot
Ω medium sized onion
2 stalks chopped celery
4 cloves garlic
2 sprigs thyme
4 cups store-bought pure pomegranate juice or juice    
only from 8 to 12 large pomegranates
2 cups red wine
Yields 4 servings.

Preheat oven to 375? F. Season short ribs well with salt and pepper. In large pan, sear short ribs on high heat, turning over to cook both sides evenly. Prepare Dutch oven over medium heat with olive oil. Saute carrot, onion, celery, garlic, and thyme; salt to taste. Let cook about 2 minutes, or until tender.

Add pomegranate juice and red wine, bring it to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add short ribs, and then pour enough water over until it covers meat. Add lid to Dutch oven and move to preheated oven.
Cook for 3 hours, or until meat is tender. When thoroughly cooked, remove from oven. Take short ribs out of braising juice; carefully remove bones. Portion each to 5- to 6-ounce servings. Let braising juice cool fully (about 4 hours), and then discard fat. Save braising juice to immediately make glaze. (If not immediate, refrigerate covered.)

To prepare glaze: Preheat oven to 350? F. Strain cooled braising juice, then bring to simmer over medium temperature. Allow to reduce halfway. Place slices of short rib in Dutch oven again. Once glaze is ready, pour over short ribs. Return Dutch oven to preheated oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until meat is thoroughly warm.

To serve: Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of glaze over each serving.

-Chef Julian Medina for

Pomegranate Juice Salad Dressing

1 cup store-bought pure pomegranate juice
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt (preferably kosher), to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 / 3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Yields 6 servings.

In a small saucepan, add juice, increase heat to medium-high and boil until reduced to º cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir as liquid becomes syrupy to prevent burning. Carefully remove from heat and set aside to cool.
When pomegranate dressing is cool, pour it into a medium bowl. Whisk in vinegar and a few dashes of salt and pepper, then slowly whisk in olive oil. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.

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