Ladies and Gentlemen, as promised, here it is…a vegetarian version of one of my favorite Persian dishes — Khoresht-e Fesenjan. This dish typically consists primarily of chicken cooked in a pomegranate and walnut sauce, so it wasn’t the easiest thing to make veggie. However, I think the star of Fesenjan is the fragrant sauce, so this dish is still soul-satisfying despite the lack of chicken. And, there’s lots of satisfaction going on with this dish, since it makes 6 hearty servings (or 4 if you get a little piggy like Roger and me). Nooshijan!
Vegetarian Khoresht-e Fesenjan
- 1 large yellow onion (I like using Vidalia)
- 3 cups of walnut halves or pieces
- 1 large butternut squash, cubed (should be about 4 cups when cubed)
- 3/4 cup of pomegranate paste/syrup
- 1 tsp of saffron
- 2 tbsp of advieh
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 cups of warm water
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Toss the butternut with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and place it on a baking sheet. Bake the butternut squash for 30 minutes or until soft and slightly browned.
- Set the squash aside.
- Place the remaining 3 tbsp of vegetable oil in a large saucepan on high heat.
- Slice the entire onion very thinly.
- When the oil is heated up, put the onion in the oil and brown the onions. Make sure to stir every few minutes so the onions don’t stick to the pot. You want the onions to be really good and brown.
- While the onions are cooking, put the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until they are well ground. They should have the appearance of a coarse flour.
- Add 1/4 cup of the pomegranate paste to the walnuts and pulse until well-mixed.
- When the onions are brown, add the butternut squash to the pot and mix.
- Then add the rest of the pomegranate paste, 4 cups of warm water, and the walnut mixture. Stir very well, making sure that the walnuts are well-incorporated with the water and pomegranate paste. At this point, the mixture will be a light chestnut brown color and will be very slightly watery.
- Using a mortar and pestle, grind up the saffron with a pinch of salt (kosher salt works best). Then add the saffron and the advieh to the mixture.
- Bring the mixture to a boil then turn the heat down to low.
- At this point, I would taste a little of the sauce. Does it taste a little too tart for you? If so, add a couple tablespoons of sugar. I personally like my fesenjan a little bit on the tart side so I never add sugar (especially since the butternut squash adds a little extra sweetness), but many people prefer this dish with a touch of added sweetness.
- Cook for about 45 minutes or until the mixture looks very thick and a darker brown.
- Serve over basmati rice.