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Pomegranates add color, tang to Thanksgiving menu

Of all the holidays in this country, none may be as rich with tradition as Thanksgiving.

The turkey stars. Bit players include stuffing, potatoes and buckets of gravy. Everything is seasoned to taste, influenced by the flavorings and stuffings and side dishes served by your parents, their parents and your great-grandparents.

Yet there comes a time when even the most resilient traditions deserve a second look.

We’re not suggesting the turkey step aside. We’re only saying it may be time to consider adding another player to your meal’s ingredient mix: pomegranates.

They’re in season now through January, impart bright flavor wherever they appear and are lovely to look at. We also seem to have a growing appetite for them, eating the seeds (arils) in salads and side dishes as well as sipping the juice and flavoring everything from ice cream to gum with it. Try welcoming pomegranates to your table with a glaze for the turkey or as the tart note in a wild rice side dish.

Roasted Turkey with Pomegranate-Thyme Glaze

12 to 14 pound turkey, thawed, giblets, neck removed

4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

1 small bunch thyme sprigs, plus 2 table spoons chopped fresh thyme

1 onion, quartered

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 large shallots, finely chopped

3 cups pomegranate juice

½ cup sugar

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Season turkey cavity with 3 teaspoons salt and the pepper; fill with thyme sprigs and onion. Loosen skin from breast by pushing fingers gently between skin and meat. Combine 4 teaspoons chopped thyme and the garlic, mixing well. Rub mixture under loosened skin. Turn wing tips under; truss legs with kitchen string. Place turkey on rack in roasting pan. Roast turkey, about 2½ hours; loosely cover with foil if skin browns too quickly.

Meanwhile, prepare glaze. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons chopped thyme, shallots and remaining 1 teaspoon salt; saute 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add juice and sugar; heat to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until syrupy and reduced to about 1 cup, 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Set half of the glaze aside to serve with roasted bird.

Use remaining glaze to lightly baste turkey several times during the last half hour of roasting. Continue roasting turkey until an oven-safe or instant-read thermometer inserted deep in the thigh reads 165 degrees, another 30-45 minutes. Remove turkey from oven; let rest 15-20 minutes before carving. Serve with reserved glaze.

Serves 10 to 12, with leftovers.

Note: Adapted from “The New Way to Cook Light” (Oxmoor House, $34.95). The original recipe uses a turkey breast and cooks it on a barbecue grill. We’ve used a whole bird, incorporated some preparation techniques and oven-roasted the turkey.

Per serving: 463 calories, 14g fat, 4g saturated fat, 257mg cholesterol, 10g carbohydrates, 70g protein, 726mg sodium, no fiber.

Wild Rice with Pomegranate Seeds, Hazelnuts

1½ cups wild rice, rinsed

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup thinly sliced green onions

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 cup pomegranate seeds

about 1 medium pomegranate

1 cup lightly toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Freshly ground pepper

Put wild rice in a large saucepan; cover with water by 1 inch. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender and most grains have popped open, 40-60 minutes. (Add a little more water during cooking if rice gets dry.) Test for tenderness. Pour rice into a strainer; drain well.

In the same saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add green onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cooked rice, orange zest and juice, pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts; fluff with a fork to blend. Season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: Adapted from “Fine Cooking Thanksgiving Cookbook” ($12.95). We subbed pomegranate seeds for the original dried cranberries.

Per serving (for 8 servings): 257 calories, 12g fat, 2g saturated fat, 8mg cholesterol, 33g carbohydrates, 7g protein, 296mg sodium, 5g fiber.