Pistachio and Pomegranate Meatballs (Kufteh-ye pesteh-o anar)
The red pomegranate, native to Iran and cultivated there for at least 4,000 years, is considered the fruit of heaven. The fruit grows on large bushes or small trees, whose crimson flowers brighten the pale mud walls of villages in Iran, Spain and Italy. Pomegranates, ranging in taste from sweet to sour-sweet, have a special place in cookery from Iran to China. Most recipes that include pomegranate, which is classified as a cold food, also include hot foods like walnuts or ginger for balance. Editor’s note: Red pepper provides the balance of a hot food in this recipe. The meatballs are good for serving a crowd as the recipe can be multiplied and also made ahead and reheated just before serving. Using fish makes it pareve, so suited for either a dairy or meat meal.
- 1 small onion, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
- 1½ cups pistachios or hazelnuts, shelled
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs
- 2 cups chopped fresh parsley
- 1 cup chopped fresh tarragon
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 pounds ground lamb (or ground chicken or turkey thighs; or boned and skinned ground fish fillets)
- 1 egg
- ½ cup oil, for cooking
- ¾ cup pomegranate molasses
- ¼ cup honey or grape molasses
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Sprigs of basil, sprouts, mint
- 1 cup fresh pomegranate arils
- Chopped pistachios
- To make meatballs, pulse all the ingredients, except meat, egg and oil, in a food processor until you have a grainy paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the meat and egg. Lightly knead with your hands for a few minutes (do not over-mix). Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Generously oil a wide, nonreactive baking dish (wide enough to fit 24 meatballs, about 12-by-14 inches) and set aside. Remove the meat mixture from the refrigerator and shape into bite-sized balls (about 1½ tablespoons each). Place the meatballs in the baking dish and brush well with oil. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl combine all the ingredients for the glaze. It is important that you taste the glaze and be sure that it has a good balance between sweet and sour—add more honey if the pomegranate molasses you have used is too sour. Reduce the oven to 400 degrees. Glaze the meatballs and bake for another 5 minutes to infuse them with the flavor of the pomegranate. Adjust seasoning to taste. If too sour add more honey; if too sweet add more pomegranate molasses. Keep warm in the oven until ready to serve. Place the meatballs with sauce in deep serving dish and garnish.
- Pistachio and Pomegranate Meatballs recipe and photo from Joon: Persian Cooking Made Simple, by Najmieh Batmanglij © 2013, 2016 www.mage.com