Pomegranate and Pistachio Braise By Najmieh Batmanglij

6 servings.

1½ cups (1/2 pound) raw pistachio kernels
4 tablespoons oil, butter, or ghee*
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds chicken legs, cut up
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes*
4 cups pure pomegranate juice
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron dis­solved in 1 tablespoon rose water or hot water

Arils of 1 fresh pomegranate
1/2 cup raw pistachio kernels


To toast the pistachios: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spread the nuts in a sheet pan and bake for 3 minutes. Set aside. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until very hot, and sauté the onions. Remove from Dutch oven with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add 2 more tablespoons oil to the Dutch oven and brown the chicken. Add the butternut squash and sauté for a few minutes.
3. In a food processor, finely grind the sautéed onions with the toasted pistachios, add only 1 cup pomegranate juice, the pomegranate molasses, salt, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and saffron-rose water, and mix well to create a creamy paste. Add the creamy pistachio paste and remaining pomegranate juice to the chicken in the Dutch oven, stirring gently. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent the nuts from burning. The braise should be sweet and sour and have the consistency of heavy cream. Adjust to taste by adding pomegranate molasses for sourness. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with more pomegranate juice. Transfer the braise from the Dutch oven to a deep, ovenproof casserole. Cover and place in a warm oven until ready to serve with saffron-steamed rice. Just prior to serving, sprinkle with fresh pomegranate arils and pistachio kernels.

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fun facts

Pistachios, when eaten with high-carbohydrate foods, may result in lower than expected blood sugar levels, an important factor in reducing risk of diabetes.

According to a Penn State University study, it is suggested that pistachios reduce the body's biological response to stress.

One serving of pistachios has as much potassium (300mg, 8%) as an orange (250mg, 7%).

Pistachios are high in phytosterols which may lower cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease. In animal studies phytosterols have been shown to potentially have anti-cancer properties.

One serving of pistachios is 49 nuts, more than any other tree nut.

Forty-nine pistachios serve up to 20 percent of your Daily Value of B6, about the same as half an avocado.

You can obtain more dietary fiber from a serving of pistachios (3g) than a 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli, and the same amount of dietary fiber as an orange or an apple — approximately 10 percent of the Daily Value.

Just a single serving of pistachios provides you with the same amount of protein in a one-ounce serving of soybeans and can serve as a protein alternative to meat, poultry or beans according to the USDA Food Guide Pyramid.

Pistachios are a naturally cholesterol-free snack and contain just 1.5 grams of saturated fat.

Celebrate the greatness of nuts! October 22 is National Nut Day and February 26 is National Pistachio Day!