FESENJAN, FAST-FOOD STYLE

When you buy a container with fresh pomegranate seeds from the store, you need to put it to use before the husband hits said container and inhales them all while watching Broadchurch late at night. I managed to salvage enough seeds to showcase them over a favorite of mine, Fesenjan. Yes, I’ve blogged about it in the past (click here), but this time I used the pressure cooker and really enjoyed the added lusciousness-factor the method provided. If you have a pressure cooker,  or the fashionable instant pot, you can turn this classic into fast-food. Can you imagine so much joy on a weeknight dinner?

FESENJAN
(slightly adapted from A Calculated Whisk)

6 ounces walnut halves, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup pomegranate seeds, for serving
chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Place the toasted walnuts in a food processor and grind them to a coarse powder. Reserve.

On a large skillet or in the pressure cooker (on the instant pot), heat the olive oil and add the chicken pieces seasoned with salt and pepper. Brown them lightly, if necessary in two batches. Reserve.  Add the shallots, saute’ for a couple of minutes, then add the turmeric, cinnamon and cardamon. Stir until fragrant. Pour in the chicken stock. If using a skillet, transfer the mixture to the pressure cooker now.

Add the ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses and honey. Stir to combine, Close the pressure cooker and once full pressure is achieved, cook for 15 minutes. Release the pressure, if the sauce is too thin, cook for a few minutes with the lid open to reduce it.
Serve the chicken with fresh pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves scattered on top.
 
 ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: If you don’t have a pressure cooker (or an Instant Pot) you can obviously adapt it for a regular pan, just cook it on a very low simmer for 45 minutes to one hour. I like the chicken to be super tender.  Pomegranate molasses is a great ingredient to have in your pantry. You can cook down pomegranate juice with sugar to the point of a syrup, and use that instead, but the convenience of opening a bottle is hard to beat. If you’d like to make it from scratch, here is a good method.

Fesenjan goes well over white rice, over Persian rice (see my version here), or cauliflower rice for those who prefer to follow a low-carb route. Leftovers enjoyed inside a corn tortilla are a no-no. If you know a food blogger who admits in public to doing that, stop following her (or him) immediately.

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A SPINACH SALAD TO WRITE HOME ABOUT

I know, spinach salad is not the most exciting item in the culinary world. I admit it. But this one got two very enthusiastic thumbs up from the husband, who prefers to reserve his excitement for things like a juicy T-bone steak, or falling-off-the-bone barbecue ribs. Every component helps the other one shine. Give it a try.

SPINACH SALAD WITH PEARS AND WALNUTS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the salad:
a bunch of spinach leaves, preferably baby spinach
a handful of walnuts, lightly toasted with a touch of salt
one or two Bartlett pears, peeled and thinly sliced
feta cheese, crumbled, amount to taste
pomegranate seeds, sprinkled with abandon

for the dressing:
3 tablespoons grape seed oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
a touch of mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. I actually prefer to add everything but the oil, so that the salt dissolves well into the vinegar. Whisk the oil, make a nice emulsion and reserve.

Add the spinach leaves to a platter, place all other components on top. Add the dressing, toss the leaves very gently to coat.  Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I confess to having a problem with pomegranate seeds. I cannot stop grabbing the cups full of them, sold at Dillon’s.  I know, who needs to buy that when you can get the fruit and whack it yourself? I can tell you one thing, if you could watch me performing the maneuver of getting seeds off the fruit, you would understand why I avoid doing it. Yes, I’ve tried every single “easy and efficient” method published in magazines, books, and websites. Even the one describe as “The Ultimate Trick for Pomegranate Seeds Removal.” Thanks, but no thanks.  But, whatever your method of choice, try this salad, it is really delicious, and elegant enough for company. The juicy pears, the salty feta, the nutty nuts, well… you get the picture.

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ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE

I never imagined I would call a butternut squash dish “festive”, but it’s the word that came to my mind as I savored it. I blame it on the addition of pomegranate seeds. They turn any dish into a celebration, little jewels of the gastronomic world. Plus their slightly sharp taste complements sweets, complements veggies, meats, hard to imagine something that cannot be paired with these red beauties. Remember Fesenjan? Anyway, in this preparation, I roasted butternut squash as I’ve done many times, in coconut oil with paprika. To me, it’s a trio made in heaven. And no, I do not use smoked paprika for this anymore, I now prefer a milder flavor with the squash. Of course, do as your taste buds instruct you to.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH WALNUTS AND TAHINI SAUCE
(inspired by several sources)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut in large cubes
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
walnut halves or large pieces
1/4 cup tahini
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
pepper to taste
water if needed to thin sauce
fresh pomegranate seeds
light drizzle of pomegranate molasses for serving (optional)

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Place the pieces of butternut squash in a large bowl, drizzle with the coconut oil, mixing it very quickly because it solidifies fast. Season with paprika, salt, and a little pepper. Transfer the squash to a baking dish that holds the pieces in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes, then add walnuts, mixing gently with the squash. Roast for about 10 minutes more, until the squash is golden, with edges turning slightly brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the tahini sauce mixing tahini, lemon juice pepper and pepper. If it seems too thick, add water until you reach a nice fluid consistency.

When the squash and walnuts are roasted, transfer to a serving dish, drizzle the tahini sauce all over, and top with fresh pomegranate seeds. If you have pomegranate molasses, consider drizzling a little bit on top, a nice additional contrast of color and flavor.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This could be a great side dish for Thanksgiving, for those trying to move away from the classics, or perhaps in need to increase the variety of vegetarian-friendly sides. Of course, it’s odd to mention Thanksgiving in December, but the color-scheme of this dish makes it hard not to. Come to think of it, roasted sweet potatoes would work wonders too replacing the squash. And dried cranberries could play the role of pomegranate. The tahini dressing is perfect to tie the whole thing together in a very luscious way. We enjoyed this hearty side dish with store-bought roast chicken. Admittedly, this could be considered a sin in the home of a food blogger, but we love the convenience of it, and our store does a pretty decent job preparing it. So, we make our life easy and often bring one home for our dinner.

Plan ahead and reserve some tahini sauce (as well as extra pomegranate seeds) in case you want to call it lunch next day… I did, and it was absolutely delicious, love the contrast of a cool sauce with the warm squash.

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POMEGRANATE WALNUT DELIGHT

This unusual salad will take the center spot in any meal with its intense flavors and contrast of textures. I spotted the recipe around Thanksgiving last year, saved it to my Pinterest cooking board, and finally made it.  Please, don’t drag your feet like I did, make it sooner rather than later. Green olives, walnuts, pomegranate seeds… What a treat!
served111

GREEN OLIVE, WALNUTS & POMEGRANATE SALAD
(adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen,  original recipe at Turquoise)   

3/4 cup shelled walnuts
1/2 cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
3/4  cup pomegranate seeds
1 red Serrano chile, seeded and finely minced
shredded flat-leaf parsley to taste
1 tablespoon walnut oil
splash of pomegranate molasses
juice of ½ lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 350⁰F. Scatter the walnuts onto a jelly-roll pan and roast for 5-10 minutes, until deep golden brown.  Chop the walnuts coarsely and toss in a sieve to remove any remaining skin or dust.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently. Leave to stand for 5 minutes or so before serving to allow flavors to meld. Taste and adjust seasoning. I ended up adding more lemon juice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

closeup
Confession: I tend to be salad-lazy.  I don’t mind making a recipe that involves plenty of steps, be it reducing a sauce, braising for hours, or as you probably know, bake a loaf of bread that took 12 hours to proof.  But, ask me to make a multi-ingredient salad and I am invaded by a sense of pure exhaustion.  Washing the greens, cutting all ingredients, preparing the dressing…  However, this salad never left my mind from the day I saw it at Alexandra’s site, which, by the way, is a site worth subscribing to.  And, did you notice?  No greens to wash. Yeaaaaaah!   😉

Everything works in this recipe. I am a lot more fond of black Kalamata type olives than green, but trust me, they taste unbelievably good here.  Together with the unique heat that only a Serrano pepper delivers, you’ll enjoy the sweet and sour taste of pomegranate molasses, the toasty walnuts, the herby parsley, the lemon, and last but not least the pomegranate seeds!  Like little pine nuts dressed for a gala party…
We love them!

Three words for you: Make this salad.

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LEMON CUSTARDS WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS

This dessert is a lemon-lover’s dream come true. It is also simple to prepare and  perfect to end a substantial dinner, so keep it in mind as an option for your next dinner party.  We served it after a delicious vegetarian lasagna (recipe coming soon).

LEMON CUSTARDS WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS
(slight variation from Emily Luchetti’s Classic Stars Desserts)

3 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/ + 1/3 cups heavy cream
grated zest of 1 lemon
fresh pomegranate seeds
powdered sugar

Whisk the egg yolks, egg, and sugar until blended. Whisk the lemon juice and reserve.

Prepare an ice bath (large bowl or sink with cold water and ice cubes to keep the temperature very cold). Heat the oven to 300 F.

Combine the cream and lemon zest in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat until bubbles start showing on the edges of the pan. Remove from heat. Pour the cream while whisking constantly over the egg/lemon mixture, in a slow stream. Place the bowl on the ice bath and cool it, mixing gently. When it reaches room temperature, strain the cream through a fine sieve, discarding the lemon zest. Pour in 6 individual ramekins (5-ounce size). Place the ramekins in a baking dish, fill it halfway up with very hot water, cover the whole dish with aluminum foil, leaving a corner open.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil, and gently jiggle one of the custards – if it’s set on the edges but still wavy at the center, remove from the oven, take them out of the baking dish, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

When it’s time to serve, place some pomegranate seeds over the custard, sprinkle a little powdered sugar, and….

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: My only modification to the recipe was the addition of pomegranate seeds, and they were a hit, providing a nice contrast of color and texture to the creamy custards. Because pomegranate can be a bit tart, I sprinkled a light coating of powdered sugar just before serving.

To get the seeds out of the fruit, I followed a tip given by Nigella Lawson in one of her shows at the FoodTV Network years ago: cut the pomegranate in half, invert it over a large bowl and hit it several times very hard with a wooden spoon. The seeds will fall inside the bowl, no mess, no fuss. Works great, and releases stress at the same time… 😉

Note to self:  Make these custards again soon.   Very soon.

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