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Posts Tagged ‘walnuts’

Fesenjan

When we were in North Carolina earlier this month, our friend Emily took us out to an amazing restaurant that featured an all vegetarian menu. She and her boyfriend Aaron highly recommended the fesenjan – a thick Persian stew made from walnuts and pomegranate juice. My experiences with Persian food has, admittedly, been limited to the few times in college when another close friend of mine and Emily’s, Gitta, had opportunity to express her Persian heritage.  She did so by getting her hands on ingredients enough to make actual food (not ramen, or spaghetti, or cereal, or any of the other economical items we were so accustomed to eating) in any of the meager kitchens in the places we called home during our days at Oberlin. Persian food is not a well represented cuisine on Maui, so Dan and I decided to order a bowl of fesenjan knowing that it may be a while before we again have the opportunity to do so. After it arrived to much lip smacking and oohing and ahhing, we finally came up for air and declared it to be delicious.

The next day as I continued to talk about how good it was (I can’t help it – a good meal can create conversation material for me for days, though it might be unfortunately limited to exclamations about how delicious it was) Emily challenged me to replicate the dish in my own kitchen. I can appreciate a good challenge.

Back on Maui, I research fesenjan and learned that it is often paired with chicken or duck. I had a difficult time finding a version online that did not contain meat. I could easily have omitted the meat from any of the recipes I found but I decided to be a bit more adventurous. Though the fesenjan I had in North Carolina did not contain any faux meat, I decided to add seitan to mine. I used this recipe for guidance as I adapted it to suit my tastes, and I used the simple seitan recipe from Veganomicon. Instead of simmering the seitan in broth I added the raw dough directed to the fesenjan pot and let it cook in the juices of the stew. I was so, so pleased with how this turned out – it was delicious, and it tasted even better the next day for lunch. We enjoyed ours over brown rice. Dan declared it to taste just like the restaurant version, though, admittedly, having only tried it once I am not sure we can be taken as expert opinions on this one. We really loved this, and if anyone out there knows a thing or two about fesenjan I would really enjoy hearing your opinion as to the “authenticity” of my version.

I highly recommend this dish for any holiday menu you may be creating. The flavors of pomegranate, walnuts, nutmeg, and cinnamon are perfect for this time of year. Be sure to not skimp on cooking time – the fesenjan starts out thin but, as the walnuts release their oils during the cooking process, it will thicken up.

Enjoy!

Fesenjan

1/8 cup olive oil
2 small onions, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 ½ cups walnuts, finely ground
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
2 cups pomegranate juice
1 tbsp agave
½ tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 generous pinch saffron, crushed
4 tbsp lime juice

1 batch seitan dough

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onions and sauté until golden brown.

2. Add the garlic, cinnamon, and nutmeg and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the walnuts, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, agave, salt, pepper, and saffron. Bring to a low boil and simmer for 30 minutes. In the meantime, make the seitan dough.

3. Divide the seitan dough into small “nugget” size pieces and add the pieces to the pot. Simmer for another 30 minutes.

4. Stir in the lime juice and simmer for an additional 60 minutes.

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This is one recipe two different ways. And yes, it is yet another recipe featuring the banana-cranberry duo. What can I say? I live in Hawai’i – that means I almost always have bananas sitting on my kitchen counter. I also still have those bags of cranberries lingering in my freezer, which are a constant reminder of my gluttonous hording every time I open the freezer door. Consider these cranberry recipes my penance, an attempt to atone for my rapacious behaviors. Happily, cranberries add a lovely burst of tart to what could otherwise become overly sweet concoctions.
I used this particular recipe to first make muffins and to then make a loaf of bread. I adjusted the recipe slightly from the muffins to the loaf, including the addition of chocolate chips to the loaf (mmmMMMmmmmm … you can’t go wrong with chocolate, bananas, cranberries, and walnuts ….) Before we get started with the recipe, however, I think that I should take a step back for a moment and explain some of my ingredient choices, which are certainly recurring items in my baked goods.
Vegan baking is decidedly different from the traditional form of baking in that it excludes that universal binder: eggs. Replacing other dairy items – milk, butter, and even cheese is easy given the abundance and wide availability of soy, nut, rice, and oat milks, soy butter (my favorite being Earth Balance), and soy cheeses such as Tofutti cream cheese. Eggs are the only things for which there is not a direct replacement. Eggs serve two purposes in baking: they bind together ingredients and they add moisture. There are many egg replacement options for vegan baking, including egg replacers such as Ener-G Egg Replacer, apple sauce, bananas, oil, and soy yogurt. I almost always use soy yogurt as I find it adds tremendously good moisture to baked goods (and it helps to avoid what is commonly referred to as “the vegan texture” – baked goods that are dense, dry, and crumbly. I have made it my personal mission to make baked goods that no one even feels the need to qualify as vegan – they are just damn good treats.) When replacing eggs, I use a ¼ cup soy yogurt per egg ratio. Often times I will also use just a little oil to assist with the binding of ingredients in a recipe.
One other ingredient that may leave a vegan chef scratching their head when it comes to replacing it is buttermilk. By adding apple cider vinegar to soymilk you can recreate the effects that buttermilk will have in a recipe. The vinegar acts as a coagulant in the soymilk and thickens it up nicely.
In this recipe I used both whole wheat flour and oat flour. You can buy oat flour at the store, but I just make it myself by processing whole oats in my Magic Bullet or food processor. You can also replace the oat flour with the flour type of your choice or just use all whole what flour.
The muffins served as dessert, breakfast, and a power snack with peanut butter smeared on top. The loaf was brought to a potluck barbecue and performed a blink-of-an eye vanishing act. I brought the loaf to the potluck pre-cut and separated with pieces of wax paper, which made it much easier to enjoy at the party without the hassle of having to cut the loaf.

Banana-Cranberry-Walnut Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

½ cup soymilk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ cup soy yogurt
½ cup sugar
2 bananas, mashed
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup fresh cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease your muffin tin.

2. Mix the soymilk and vinegar and set aside for five minutes.

3. Mix together the soy yogurt and sugar with an electric hand mixer until well blended. Mix in the mashed bananas, soymilk mixture, oil, and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.

4. Sift in the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until just blended. Fold in the walnuts and cranberries.

5. Fill each muffin tin to almost the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn out muffins onto a wire rack, cool, and enjoy!

Banana-Cranberry-Walnut-Chocolate Chip Bread
Makes one loaf (I used an 8 x 4” pan)

½ cup soymilk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ cup soy yogurt
½ cup sugar
3 bananas, mashed
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup oat flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup fresh cranberries

1/2 cup chocolate chips
Oats for sprinkling on top of loaf

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease your bread pan.

2. Mix the soymilk and vinegar and set aside for five minutes.

3. Mix together the soy yogurt and sugar with an electric hand mixer until well blended. Mix in the mashed bananas, soymilk mixture, oil, and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.

4. Sift in the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until just blended. Fold in the walnuts, cranberries, and chocolate chips.

5. Pour batter into the bread tin, smooth the top with a spatula, and sprinkle with oats. Bake for one hour, or until lightly browned. Turn loaf out onto a wire rack, cool, slice, and serve.

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