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Posts Tagged ‘Walnut’

Fesenjan is a beloved Iranian pomegranate-walnut stew. It can be made with chicken, duck, or without meat. What you see above is a version made with mushrooms and chickpeas, a departure from the classic recipe. Note my greenery "garnish" isn't really edible ;-) This is my fast, 15 minute version of khorest fesenjan.

Yes, you read right. A 15-minute version of beloved Persian koresht fesenjan.

What??????

For the uninitiated, it’s a stew of ground walnuts, pomegrante molasses, and, often, chicken. It has a sweet and sour flavor that might sound weird on paper, but tastes oh-so-good on the palate. It also has a bit of a reputation: a rep as something that takes a good while to cook.

We chatted about this recipe on here before:

But today’s offering is a quickie take on the slow-cooking classic. Over the weekend, a reader, Almaz, and I were chatting on Facebook. She loves the blog and had such kind words of encouragement for me. I was really touched. So I asked her if there was anything in particular she’d like me to post about. She jokingly (I think), said “15 minute fesenjan.” I immediately thought about a slow cooker version, that potentially could have only 15 minutes of hands on time.

Then today, while tinkering around in the kitchen, I realized a truly fast fesenjan, made in 15 minutes from start to finish, IS doable. If you have the following, already ready:

  • Pomegranate PASTE or MOLASSES (pre-thickened, you see!)
  • Ground walnuts.
  • Pre-cooked chicken (if using).
  • Pre-cooked rice (if serving over rice). Or you could use quick cooking rice. (Not as tasty as homemade, but just sayin’)

So here we go. Don’t blink, guys, or else this recipe will be over before you know it:

15-Minute Khoresht Fesenjan (Pomegranate Walnut Stew)

Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Approximately 4-6 servings. ( The nuts make this a very rich dish.)

Ingredients

  • Neutral cooking fat of choice (butter, grapeseed oil, etc)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 cup pre-ground walnuts
  • 1 Tablespoon sumac
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses or pomegranate paste (can find on Amazon)
  • 10 ounces of mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 cup of chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
  • 1 14-16 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed (optional)
  • 1 cup of pre-cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (such as leftover roasted chicken)
  • Honey, sugar, or agave nectar to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Over a low heat, heat oil or butter in a Dutch oven.

2. As fat warms, dice onion.  Add it to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically. (Chopping the onion very small will help it cook through faster).

3. As the onion cooks, slice mushrooms (if using) and drain and rinse chickpeas (if using).

4. Lower the heat, and add walnuts to the onions. Toast walnuts lightly, turning often, for 30-60 seconds, or until you smell a hint of fragrance. Immediately add in spices, and cook for about 30 seconds more. Turn heat off.

5. Add in the pomegranate molasses/paste, stock or water. Stir well, then add in any of the following that you’re using: chicken, mushrooms, chickpeas. Put the heat back on, then increase heat to high until stew boils. Drop the heat down to low.

6. Cook for 5 minutes more, until mushrooms are cooked through and chicken, if using, is warmed through. (You can cook this dish longer if you wish, up to half an hour, but the shorter cooking time works if you’re in a hurry).

7. Adjust seasonings to your taste. If you want it sweeter, add in sweetener of choice, stir, taste. Repeat until you’ve reached your idea sweet-sour ratio.  Serve over rice of choice and enjoy.

That’s IT!

Enjoy it over rice of your choice.

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Khorest Fesenjan, a classic Persian chicken dish with a sauce made of pomegranate and toasted walnut. Photo by Stacey Young.

Hey guys! We recently explored a vegetarian (actually vegan) version of today’s Persian dish, Khoresht Fesejan. Today, here’s the more classic version of this luxurious Persian stew with pomegranate, walnuts, and chicken. Enjoy this dish on top of the delicious rice dish of your choice. Classic chelo rice would work beautifully, or you could try my super easy basmati rice technique. Enjoy this richly flavored, slightly sweet, slightly sour stew.

Khoresht Fesenjan: Persian Pomegranate Walnut Stew

Note: Since pomegranate juice is so popular now and pretty easy to find in supermarkets, you can use that instead of pomegranate syrup. However, pomegranate syrup/molasses is available in some grocery stores, and also in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean stores. A lot of oil will come to the top of the dish. This is normal and nothing to worry about; it is the oil from the walnuts.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, ghee, butter, or neutral cooking oil of choice
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 pound bone-in chicken thighs, legs, and/or breasts, skin removed
1/2 pound walnuts, finely ground (shells removed)
4 cups pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup pomegranate syrup/molasses diluted in 2 cups of water
1/4 teaspoon saffron, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of hot water
Salt, to taste
Honey or sugar
Cardamom pod (optional) OR 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
Pinch of allspice (optional)

Directions:

1. Heat the fat in a large pan Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove onions.

2. Salt chicken. Add chicken and brown on both sides, about three minutes per side. Remove from pan, and set aside.

3. Place the ground walnuts in the remaining oil in the frying pan. Cook and stir over low heat 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

4. Return the onion and chicken to the frying pan with the walnuts. Stir in the pomegranate juice or diluted pomegranate syrup. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. (You can simmer longer to deepen the flavor, adding water as necessary so the pan doesn’t dry out).

5. Adjust seasoning to taste. If stew tastes too sour, add a little honey or sugar and simmer a bit longer. Serve over basmati rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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Pomegranate is a base flavor for today's Persian stew, Fesenjan. It gives the stew depth and a bit of a sweet and sour taste. Photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/

The lively, warm, and rich flavors of pomegranate and walnuts seemed like a perfect way to send winter packing. Koresht fesenjan combines those flavors and more. It’s actually a dish I discovered as an adult. I read about it in a book, “Guests of the Sheik,” did some research, and eventually came up with a version of it that’s pretty traditional, but with a couple of my personal tweaks. It’s become a favorite!

In a stroke of dumb stroke of luck: I recently had everything on hand to make this koresht fesenjan except for the meat (typically chicken or duck is used.) Grinding the walnuts is usually the most tedious part of this recipe for me, so I was thrilled that I had some pre-ground walnuts on hand. I wasn’t in the mood to rush out and buy meat, and anyways, I’m always down with a good vegetarian meal. I remembered butternut squash being part of the recipe in a version of this dish byNajmieh Batmanglij.

Madame Najmieh? She’s kind of the Queen of Persian Cooking, by the way. She literally wrote the book on it. Several, actually. So I figure that if butternut squash is good enough for her, it’s good enough for me! And this would be my chance to finally explore a vegan version of this lovely dish, something I’d been meaning to do.

Earthy walnuts give this stew a filling and meaty quality, even though the recipe is meatless. Photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/

So in the butternut squash went, along with some leftover sliced mushrooms I had on hand from another night’s salad. (Yes, the mushrooms were my addition, and I admit I felt nervous as I tossed them in. No need. The stew turned out great and the mushrooms absorbed the other flavors beautifully).

This recipe calls for pomegranate syrup or juice. Since pomegranate juice is so popular now and pretty easy to find in supermarkets, you can use that instead of pomegranate syrup. However, pomegranate syrup/molasses is available in some regular grocery stores, and also in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean stores. Another thing: A lot of oil will come to the top of the dish. This is normal and nothing to worry about; it is the oil from the walnuts. And walnut oil is good fat. Anti-inflammatory and great for the heart and the skin, as a matter of fact.


Khoresht Fesenjan: Persian Pomegranate Walnut Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil or neutral oil of choice

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1/2 pound walnuts, finely ground (shells removed)

1 pound of butternut squash, peeled and cut into large chunks

8-10 ounces of sliced mushrooms (optional)

4 cups pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup pomegranate syrup/molasses diluted in 2 cups of water

1/4 teaspoon saffron, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of hot water

Salt, to taste
Honey, agave, or sugar

Optional Spices: Cardamom pod  OR 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder and/or a pinch of ground allspice

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pan Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes more. Remove onions and mushrooms.

2.  Place the ground walnuts in the remaining oil in the frying pan over low heat. Cook and stir 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. If using optional spices, add now and allow to cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.

3.  Return the onion to the frying pan with the walnuts. Stir in the pomegranate juice or diluted pomegranate syrup. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning to taste. If stew tastes too sour, add a little honey or sugar.

4.  Serve over basmati rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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Double Cabbage Salad travels well and is so satisfyingly crunchy! This pic shows the salad naked, but it travels well when dressed. Love that.

I love salads. Yes, I’m quite aware that some people might not believe me when I say this. That’s understandable. In too many instances, salads are a lame side dish or something to be “gotten through” en route to the main meal.

Let’s take a moment, though, to open our minds to the possibilities. Salads can be so creative, so colorful, and satisfying enough to serve as a meal. Plus, they’re so energizing–full of vegetables and whatever other goodies your imagination can invite to the party. I eat a large salad for lunch several times a week. I do this for many reasons–it’s healthy, filling, and, assuming it’s the right kind of salad, the meal can be made ahead and travel well.

Yes, salads can travel well. Today’s salad, for instance, travels like a real champ. With the right kind of container, you can take the Double Cabbage Salad on the road already dressed. In fact, the cabbages are so sturdy that they hold up well to dressing, and even taste better after having soaked in the dressing for awhile. It’s like a bit of marination on-the-go.

Get creative with the ingredients and toppings for this salad. I love to chop up an avocado right before serving and top the salad with it.

My Yoga amiga Renee inspired this dish. She brought her own cabbage salad to a raw food dinner party some mutual friends threw recently. We all raved at the crunch and amazing taste. Once home, I created my own spin on this salad.

Today’s recipe is deliberately imprecise. Feel free to get creative with the ingredients. I sure do! Every time I make this salad, it’s a bit different. Today, for instance, I was out of celery, so I left it out. But I did have red bell pepper on hand, so I tossed in a few pieces for a sweet flavor and gorgeous color. Ok, here we go with a basic template for a Double Cabbage Salad. Feel free, by the way, to post your ideas on what  you’d add in the comments section.

Double Cabbage Salad With Tahini Lemon Garlic Dressing

Ingredients:
For the Salad:

Equal parts chopped savoy and purple cabbage

1/2 small onion, finely diced

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1/4 cup walnuts (toasting optional)

Few tablespoons chopped herbs of choice (the salad pictured uses cilantro, parsley)

Optional topping ideas: Avocado chunks (right before serving!), tempeh, fava beans or chickpeas.

Salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

1. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired.

2. Dress with dressing of choice. Cover tightly to store.


For the Tahini Lemon Garlic Dressing

1/4 cup tahini sauce (if you don’t have, try a nut butter like almond butter)

Juice of one lemon

2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper to taste

Filtered water to thin dressing if needed.

Directions: Blend all ingredients together in a blender, adding filtered water as needed to thin dressing to desired consistency.  Store dressing or use immediately on top of salad of choice.

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Persians love dried fruit and nuts.Dried fruit and nuts are the basis for most trail mixes. Ergo, thought yours truly, there ought to be a Persian Trail Mix.

The vibrant flavors always taste festive to me, reminding me of socializing with family and friends, snacking as we chatted and sipped chai. It’s kind of the best of East meets West. Take the unhurried pastime of chilling with friends and fam over snacks and tea, and marry it with the nutritious and portable reality of trail mix, and voila! A snack that feels both luxurious and smart.

Plus, trail mix is a healthy and satisfying snack that can be enjoyed on the go. I personally love it. It’s not too sweet, perfectly crunchy, and a bit salty, too.  It’s ridiculously easy to put together. No cooking needed! So onward, to gather ingredients. . .

While in L.A., my friend Nedarah and I hit Larry’s Produce. I find visiting local markets when I’m traveling fascinating. It gives you a bit of insight into where you are, and the culinary culture of that particular place.

Larry's Market SoCal

Larry's Market field trip time!

As for Larry’s, it’s a well-known market run by Persians, and specializing in all manner of Persian goodies, plus other great foodstuffs popular in the Middle East. The prices and quality of their products, by the way, are excellent.

Which brings up an important point: Don’t let the fact that a market is “specialty” food you. Explore. Specialty markets often have hard-to-find items at hard-to-beat prices. And so it was with Larry’s.

A bit about Nedarah. She’s an amazingly talented R&B singer. Don’t let her petite stature full you. This young lady has a big, beautiful voice and a healthy appetite. You’d never guess either just by looking at her. She’s as much of a foodie as I am, if not more so! She’s also an excellent cook and a lot of fun to hang out with.

Dried fruits and nuts at Larry's.

Rows upon rows of dried fruits and nuts at Larry's. Lovely :-) They were cool with Nedarah and I sampling a bit of everything. Yay!

So we hit the market, and I went to town buying fresh fruits and veggies for the rest of my stay with Nedarah and company. For the road, I bought some dried fruits, nuts and seeds for my very own Persian trail mix.

Like any trail mix, there are many variations. This one just happens to have a Persian flair, thanks to the addition of dried cherries, Persian pistachios (the world’s best) and dried mulberries (toot, as they say in both Arabic and Persian).

No measuring is needed for this recipe. I’d say to make the ratio about 3 to 1. As in three parts nuts and seeds to one part sweet dried fruits. Experiment. Find a mix that works for you. Here’s what’s in my mix:

Bria’s Persian Trail Mix

Handful of cashews

Handful of walnut halves or pieces

Handful of dried chickpeas

Handful of toasted squash seeds (sunflower seeds could also work)

Handful of almonds

Small handful of dried cherries

Small handful of plump golden and black raisins

Small handful of dried mulberries

Sprinkling of high-quality pistachios. Leave the shells on for presentation, but make sure to remove shells before eating.

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container or put in a pretty bowl to enjoy with friends and family.

Persian Trail Mix

Persian Trail Mix. So easy to put together. Plus, it's pretty and portable, too.

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The weather is cooling down where I live, and when this happens, I generally prefer that my food have a nice roasty and toasty flavor. Which makes now the perfect time to post the other version of muhamarra dip–the much-loved red bell pepper, walnut, and pomegranate dip popular throughout many countries of the Middle East.

In a previous post we explored the taste of Raw Muhammara by making the dip with all raw ingredients–bell peppers, garlic, walnuts, and so on. The raw version looks something like this:

Raw muhammara dip

Raw Muhammara dip has a lighter color than the cooked version of the dip. Both are beautiful!

For today’s version, you can roast your own bell peppers (not the best idea if you have, as I do, a tendency to walk away from the stove in an effort to multi-task). Or you can grab some jarred roasted bell peppers. Just make sure to rinse them well before using, and leave any brand that includes corn syrup in its ingredient list on the shelf. Here’s the jar I currently have on hand:

Roasted jarred bell peppers.

If roasting bell peppers by hand isn't your thing, pick up a jar at the store. Make sure to rinse well before using.

I’ve also included an optional ingredient that can really boost the smokey flavor of the dip. Personally, I like a smokey flavor in this dip. It reminds me of evenings in front of the fireplace when I was growing up. The ingredient? Liquid smoke. It’s pretty cool. Or should I say, warm? The brand I prefer is, and I quote

all-natural. . .Vegan, contains no animal byproducts, and is gluten free.

How do they make it?

Colgin Liquid Smoke is not a chemical or synthetic flavor – but genuine wood smoke “liquefied.” The wood is placed in large retorts where intense heat is applied, causing the wood to smolder (not burn).

I swear this isn’t a shameless product endorsement. The folks at Colgin haven’t greased my palm for mentioning their product. Here’s what it looks like.

Yummy liquid smoke.

Liquid smoke. All natural, believe it or not! A little of this goes a long way, so one bottle will last quite awhile.

For the record, there are many other great brands of liquid smoke on store shelves. It varies from region to region. Look on the aisle of your local store where spices and extracts are sold.

Now for the recipe.

Muhamarra Dip–Lightly Cooked Version

3-4 Large pre-roasted bell peppers (from a jar), rinsed thoroughly

11/2 Cups walnuts pieces or halves. Unsalted is best.

2-3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed pomegranate juice, or paste or molasses

2-3 garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

1/2 Teaspoon of ground cumin

Pinch of salt (to taste)

Drizzle of olive oil (a Tablespoon or two)

Dash of Liquid Smoke (optional)

Instructions:

Lightly toast the nuts and the whole garlic cloves on the stovetop in a skillet over medium low. Turn the nuts and garlic frequently so they don’t burn on one side. When their color deepens and the nutty fragrance begins to come through, they’re ready. Remove them from heat immediately.

Or, alternatively:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

Spread walnuts and the garlic cloves  in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast until lightly browned and fragrant. (The scent will tell you when they’re ready). To be on the safe side and avoid burning, you can set a timer for 5 minutes and check them, turning them at this time.

Optional step for an extra smokey flavor–mix in the ground cumin and toast for 30 seconds before removing the skillet from the heat or the pan from the oven.

Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth and silky. Adjust seasoning, lemon, and olive oil to taste.  Re-blend if needed. That’s it!

The dip will thicken if refrigerated. Serve with pita bread and/or raw or roasted veggies.

NOTE: You might be tempted to add more liquid to get the ingredients to meld and blend. If you choose to do so, just go very slowly. You can always add more liquid, but it’s hard to get the dip to thicken up if it’s become too watery. Hey now–Don’t toss it if you find it too watery. Give it a chance to thicken up in the fridge. Or use it as a sauce, sandwich spread, and/or salad dressing.

Enjoy!

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