Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Khoresh-e-Fesenjan - Persian Pomegranate Stew (Go Ahead Honey it's GF!)

**edited 12/28/09
[according to my google analytics page, this is my most popular recipe, and is searched for all over the world. so- i've decided to update it a bit with new pictures and tips and to submit it for January's Go Ahead Honey it's Gluten Free! theme of "Stews from Around the World." hope you enjoy!]

to continue my posting on 'food from my childhood' and things that remind me of home, i decided to post probably my favorite dish from childhood up until today- a persian stew made with pomegranate paste, called khoresh-e-fesenjan, or simply, fesenjan. i really must say, it is definitely not the most appetizing thing to look at, but the flavor is where it's at... a rich, hearty, and healthy stew; it is generally served over rice, but i don't see why it can't be over a potato or quinoa (i've had it over quinoa a number of times) or something like that. alone it's a bit strong and acidic, so would be a bit much to eat totally alone, but of course it's up to you.

the actual preparation is quite simple, but the flavor will really depend on your pomegranate paste. i have used a combination of pomegranate pastes (also called molasses). when using the Sadaf or Asmar brands (produced in Lebanon), I produced a lighter brown color. I prefer the combination of different pastes, with Cortas being my favorite because they can definitely differ in flavor. Cortas is more tart than others like Asmar's, so adjust the sweetness according to your taste. I also like the Golchin brand as well. In the pictures below I used a combination of Cortas and Asmar's (my favorite combo) which gave it the deep chocolate brown color and nice texture. note my "other options" at the end of the recipe- you can make it vegetarian and play around with the recipe a bit to your liking.

one other note- i use grated butternut squash in this recipe. my mom started adding it in for a couple of reasons- it's healthier, a natural sweetener, and it helps thicken the stew while it cooks. you don't really taste it at all, and it kind of melts away while it cooks. i love adding it in. i've also added in fresh baby spinach leaves as well on occasion for another vegetable option that also does not change the flavor.

Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Stew

2 pounds chicken breast, cubed
1 Tbsp + 1.5 Tbsp grapeseed or other mild flavored oil
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano
2 onions, chopped
1.5 cups walnuts
, finely ground (measure before grinding)
3/4 cup pomegranate paste
2 cups chicken broth and/or water
1 cup grated or shredded butternut squash
2 Tbsp honey, coconut nectar, or coconut sugar to taste**


-Brown your chicken in 1 Tbsp oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper,
and some oregano. These spices are different than the ones listed above.
-Set chicken aside and heat the remaining oil in the same pot.
-Add chopped onions and sauté until soft.
-Add ground walnuts and continue mixing until light brown.
-Add pomegranate paste and let simmer a few minutes.
-Add your broth or water, the spices, and the butternut. Bring
to simmer.
-Stir the chicken back in, bring to a boil, then lower to simmer for an hour or so. Taste and season again if needed, and add agave if too sour.

**depending on the sweetness of your pom paste, you might want to add a sweetener. i ended up adding 2 Tbsp to mine because it was pretty sour, but we still like it fairly tart. you should adjust it to your preferred flavor.

a few other options-

Meat: i use chicken breast in my fesenjan. you can use a whole chicken chopped up, or just your favorite parts. many persians like to make small meatballs, brown them and then add them in.

Vegetarian: you can take the meat out and instead add some fried eggplant in- the flavor is great. another veggie options is to instead of grated butternut, add cubed butternut squash, brown them, and add where it says to add the meat.

Nuts: walnuts are traditional, but you can always try mixing walnuts, cashews, almonds, etc. for a different type of flavor if you want.

The pictures below demonstrate the difference between pomegranate pastes:
the 1st was cooked with only Sadaf brand, and the second with the Cortas and Asmar combination.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

More GF Travels - The GF Cruise

it's been a crazy crazy month that has gone by quickly without blogging! following a series of family illnesses, running around, and a lovely week of vacation, i'm finally ready to catch up on a few posts i've had sitting around.

but first about that vacation... :) we took a three day cruise with royal caribbean recently, and it was our first cruise experience. i wasn't sure what the food situation was going to be, but i checked on their website and was pleased to find they had email addresses for those with Celiac and food allergies. although i can't use them, they also noted that they provide lactaid milk and soy milk if you request it.

so anyways, i am happy to say that they did a fantastic job of catering to my multiple food intolerance requests. by the end i realized a number of things i could have done to make it easier for myself, so i'm going to give my recs below.

but here is what they did do-- at each meal they provided me with three slices of GF bread. this was a surprise. they said they bake it each day, but it was a bit cold when they brought it out. i actually don't eat a lot of bread, but i felt guilty not eating it because they were so happy to provide it :)

our waiter in the main dining room AND the head waiter would come numerous times throughout the meal to check on me and see what else i needed. each night they took my order for the next day to ensure that it could be accomodated. they also worked with the kitchen to modify any meal selections that i had for the following day based on the menu and my dietary requirements.

it was a little trickier eating from the buffet, but mostly because i had to track down a chef and ask them what i could eat. but once i did that, pretty smooth sailing.

so here are my recommendations for gf/food allergy/intolerance cruising:

1. plan in advance- email the cruiseline in advance so that they can prepare

2. when you arrive on the ship, go speak with the chef in the dining room to make your arrangements for your first meal.

3. pick where you're going to eat for each meal the day before- it's a pain, but they need advance notice in order to accommodate you.

4. bring a few of your own snacks/desserts along as well so that you're not stuck eating fruit every meal. don't get me wrong, i love fruit, but depending on the length of your cruise, this could get tiring. a lot of the fruit on our cruise wasn't ripe (pineapple, melons, etc) so it's nice to have other snack options.

5. ask a lot of questions and double check that they have the right intolerances for you, because it's easy to forget. apparently at a table close by to me a woman had soy and gluten issues, so the head waiter kept confusing me with her and forgot i couldn't have dairy as well.

6. kind of obvious, but thank the staff numerous times and tip them well- it's a great service considering that traveling with food restrictions can be one stressful event and they're making it possible.

7. enjoy your time off from cooking! :)

i would love to hear from anyone else who's gone on any other cruise lines and how they were treated, so please share!

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