This dish features aromatic ingredients used in Persian cuisine; barberries and tart cherries are both sweet and sour, the defining flavors of Persian foods. Find these ingredients at the ethnic food sellers listed in the Resources section (page 193), or substitute more dried apricots for the barberries and dried cranberries for the cherries. The dried rose petals give this dish its distinct floral taste and stunning appearance. Find them at gourmet and Middle Eastern food stores, or dry your own on a screen. Serve with Green Rice (page 190) and Cucumber Yogurt (page 184).
6 sweet dumpling squash (or substitute acorn squash, or use bell peppers instead)
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked basmati rice or barley
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup barberries
1/2 cup dried, pitted tart cherries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, minced
3 tablespoons dried rose petals, plus more for garnish
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon saffron dissolved in
2 tablespoons hot water
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Neatly slice off the top of each squash and set it aside. Check the bottoms to see if they’re level. If not, slice off enough so that they will stand steadily. Scoop out the seeds and place the squash in an oiled baking dish. Rub them inside and out with olive oil until well coated, and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and add 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, followed by the onion and sauté until lightly browned. Add the garlic, rice, walnuts, barberries, cherries, apricots, and rose petals. Stir well and continue cooking for 5 minutes, adding a little water if the mixture is dry. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Fill each squash with stuffing and replace the tops. Whisk together the orange juice, saffron water, and the remaining oil and pour over the squash. Cover tightly with a dish lid and bake for 25 minutes, basting occasionally with the juice. Uncover, baste, and bake until the squash is golden and tender, about 5 minutes more.
To serve, transfer the squash to a platter and pour the liquid from the baking dish on top. Garnish with rose petals.
From Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, by Louisa Shafia (Ten Speed Press, 2009)