From Nonna's Kitchen: Fesenjoon (Walnut & Pomegranate Stew)
Each trip into my Heirloom Kitchen has become about so much more than the food. Now, learning the cuisines and special dishes from around the world has been incredible. I have been introduced to new flavors, techniques and am constantly surprised at how each woman I cook with can teach me something I have never seen before.
And while, this recipe project has been so rewarding, it’s the women themselves that truly inspire me. Each one has spent her life making difficult decisions to move her family forward and ensure a life where opportunities were boundless. It’s the core of why each and every one of them took the risk of leaving it all behind and heading here, to the USA.
This time, my Heirloom Kitchen stopped in Iran. I met Sharareh Oveissi and I knew from the minute I walked through the door we would be fast friends. Beautiful and warm, she quickly began showing me all that she prepared. A beautiful table called a ‘Haft-Sin’ was set for Nourez, Persian New Year so she could teach me this sacred tradition. Also, she had already made a delicious casserole at home so I was so taken by all the preparation she had done for our meeting.
Nourez is celebrated all over the world. For Iranians, Persians and Zoroastrians all of the items on the table represent hopes for the new year. I love the idea of celebrating the new year by creating a table scape of items that will bring health, happiness, prosperity and all the other wonderful things a new year an offer. Shari told me how as a young mother, she would prepare a beautiful, elaborate table to celebrate. Delicious dishes are prepared and everyone celebrates together as a family.
We spoke quite a bit about her life in Iran, Paris and here in the United States. I admire how Shari came to the US, assimilated and embraced her American life. She raised two extremely successful sons and has a loving daughter in law with two beautiful grandchildren. She spends her days doting on them and is truly happy when she is with them. A loving Maman, I am so honored to have been invited into her Persian kitchen.
Maman Shari’s Fesenjoon –Walnut & Pomegranate Stew
1 lb walnut halves
4 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 lbs chicken thighs and breasts, bone-in, skinless
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup pomegranate molasses or more to taste
saffron water – recipe follows
¼ cup cane sugar, or more to taste
1 pomegranate, seeds removed, for garnish
In a large pot, add vegetable oil and turn heat to medium high. Add onion and sauté. Add turmeric and mix until combined. Continue to cook until lightly brown in color. Add in the chicken pieces and season with salt and pepper. Cook on both sides to brown. Add 1 tablespoon of saffron water and enough tap water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer. Allow to cook for forty minutes.
While chicken is cooking, place walnuts on a baking sheet and cook at 350 degrees for 8 to ten minutes. They should be toasted and aromatic. Cool and then grind to a pulp in a food processor. The walnuts should be a paste like consistency.
Once chicken is cooked through, add walnuts to the pot and stir. Add pomegranate molasses and 1/8 cup of sugar. If you would like the stew a bit more sweet, add additional sugar. The stew should have a sweet/sour taste. Increase heat to medium and cook for an additional twenty minutes to thirty minutes. The stew should be thick.
Place stew on a serving platter and sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top. Serve with rice.
4 tablespoons hot water
2 to 3 pinches of saffron
Allow saffron to steep in the hot water. Water will turn red and saffron will wilt. Use as directed above