Italian majolica is filled with symbols of pomegranates. Ceramic shops throughout Tuscany and Umbria “ceramiche artistiche vendenta” sell vases, urns, jars and pitchers featuring pomegranates paired with flowers, fruits and stylized dragons. Pomegranates are one of the oldest fruits known to man. King Tut took a pomegranate vase into the afterlife with him and the pillars of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem were decorated with pomegranates. Italian painters of the Renaissance frequently used the pomegranate as a symbol of plenitude, hope and spiritual fruitfulness. In Botticelli’s painting of the Virgin and Child with Seven Angels the Holy Child is pictured holding a pomegranate. The pomegranate plays such a prominent role in the painting that it has become known as the Madonna of the Pomegranate.
Throughout world history pomegranates have been used as a source of traditional remedies and modern research supports their role as an antioxidant-rich fruit. Throughout gastro-history the pomegranate has been a favored ingredient in most cultural cuisines including Italy where it is called il melograno. It pairs well with Mediterranean foods including radicchio, the red-lined lettuce of the Veneto that our family loved to sauté simply with olive oil and garlic.
Focus on the pomegranate as a theme for an Italian inspired Mother’s Day dinner. Begin with an Italian tablescape of Umbrian linens and a centerpiece of flowers and pomegranates. Start the meal with a Tintoretto , an aperitivo made with chilled pomegranate juice and sparkling Prosecco. Use the juice to make a radicchio salad and as a glaze for a wood-grilled pork tenderloin and end the meal with Panna Cotta di Melograno (Pomegranate Panna Cotta ).
Pomegranate Radicchio Salad
Trim the radicchio, discard the outer leaves. Wash inner leaves, dry well and coarsely tear into pieces. Combine with a dressing made from the juice of 2 pomegranates (or use POM Juice), 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1 t green peppercorns in brine, rinsed.