The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.
I have to confess I didn't use a new recipe specifically for this challenge. I made a dish that I have written about here before and that I was anyway planning to make since we hadn't had it in a while...
Happily though, I think it is perhaps the best dish that I could have made for this challenge. Its richness is drawn from the thick walnut paste and hours of slow cooking that goes into it. If a culinary ode had to be made for nut butters, the Persian Fesenjan, is very well suited to do so! :)
Fesenjan is usually a special occasion stew made with walnut, pomegranate and, usually, chicken. It's high place in the cuisine isn't surprising given the amount of dried fruit, nuts and time that it takes to make it even though the recipe itself is very simple. Traditionally, it is made with pomegranate molasses (Rob-e Anar). The best molasses is ofcourse found in Iran but in the absence of ready access to it, I substituted with a reduction of pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon.
Our acquaintance with this incredible dish began in an Iranian restaurant in India where one had to make a special order for it 24 hours in advance. In conversation with the gentleman who ran the restaurant, I found out that he bring back the special molasses for his recipe back from Iran every time he visits.
The stew is rich (make no mistake, it is gut-stickingl-y so!), tangy, sweet and finger-licking good. It is served with rice and it is all I can do to keep from licking the bowl at the end of the meal. It's an easy recipe and I would urge you to make it someday, to appreciate it's depth of flavor and the smoothness of the stew from the molasses and walnut butter.
For the recipe, please click through to my previous posting on it. I garnished my stew with fresh strawberries, which add a hint of sweetness to the stew. I would also serve it with a side of finely sliced red onions for crunch and flavor.