Monday, September 15, 2014

Persian Lamb Kebabs in Pomegranate-Walnut Marinade

Persian Lamb Kebabs in Pomegranate-Walnut Marinade

Serves: 6
Difficulty level: Moderate
Marinade overnight; Vegetarian option given
Persian Lamb Kebabs in Pomegranate-Walnut Marinade
Like many countries, the cuisine of Iran is largely influenced by climate and geography with strong neighboring influences from the Caspian Sea to Turkey in the northwest.  The common thread that connects the diverse regional styles is a shared emphasis on sweet-and-sour and fruity tastes. There is even a special word in the Persian language used, which describes this distinct vinegar-and-honey quality: malas. This sweet-and-sour kebab is from the northern coastal province, Gilan, which lies on the Caspian Sea. The people of this region like their food extra tart.

Pomegranates are perhaps the most iconic of Iran’s native foods. They are believed to have originated in Iran and has been cultivated since ancient times. Today, it is widely grown throughout Mediterranean, Middle East, Africa, India, Central Asia as well as California. Pomegranates show up in Persian cuisine in one of two forms: fresh seeds or a reduction of pomegranate juice known as pomegranate molasses. 
Key ingredient

Today it is easily found in many grocers and natural food stores. Alternatively, if you can find pomegranate juice, you can make your own molasses by reducing the juice in a pan over high heat until its thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Don’t confuse a product labeled “pomegranate syrup”, which is much thinner and sweeter; its meant to use in mixed drinks as opposed to cooking and is made with artificial pomegranate flavoring as opposed to real fruit juice.
  • 2 lbs. lamb tenderloin or boneless shank or neck, cut into 1½-inch chunks
  • 1 C walnuts
  • ¾ C pomegranate molasses
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tb grapeseed oil (or mild olive or vegetable oil)
  • 1 C loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cherry tomatoes, salted – optional
  • Skewers, if wooden, soak in salt water, 1-2 hrs. 
Place lamb in a large casserole dish. In a food processor, grind the walnuts, pomegranate molasses, garlic, and grapeseed oil into a puree.   Add the parsley and pulse into small bits. Pour the marinade over the meat and toss well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Grinding the nuts....
The pureed marinade

If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in salty water for a couple of hours before placing on the grill. If using tomatoes, toss with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Remove the meat from the marinade, brush or wipe extra marinade from the lamb because it can burn and leave charred flakes on the meat. Discard the marinade. Thread 3 to 4 pieces of meat onto each skewer ¼ inch apart, alternate with slices of red onion, and leaving 2 inches of space at the end. Place cherry tomatoes on their own skewer, as they will cook in less time than the meat. Leave the meat out while you heat the grill so it can come up to room temperature (No more than 45 min).

Ready for the grill with the marinade brushed on
Prepare a hot grill.  Lightly oil the grill and grill the kebabs for 6 – 8 minutes, turning occasionally. Just before they are finished, add tomatoes to grill.  Grill until lightly charred.  When done, the meat should be slightly charred on the outside and very pink on the inside. Transfer to a serving platter and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.
You can grill the tomatoes and the kabobs at the same time
For a vegetarian option, replace lamb with 2 lbs. of tempeh, cubed; 2 lbs. of vegetables, such as zucchini, red onions and mushrooms, cubed. Marinate overnight according to the recipe.

As can be seen in the photos – I served the kebabs with the roasted cherry tomatoes, flatbread, tzatiki, couscous and a spectacular Brochelle Syrah. It was a wonderful and memorable meal and one that will be repeated. You will feel the same!

Nooshe jan! (Bon Appetit)


Adapted from “The New Persian Kitchen” by Louisa Shafia

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