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The book:  The New Persian Kitchen, by Louisa Shafia (10 Speed, $24.99)

The recipe:  Lamb Kebabs in Pomegranate-Walnut Marinade

Why I tried it: That familiar combination of pomegranates and walnuts had already won us all over in fesenjan (or fesenjoon), the classic fowl dish of Persia.  But I’d never tried it in a marinade context, a lamb context, or a grill context.  Why not?  I thought.

Why I loved it:  The first taste was love – complete, unadulterated, swooning infatuation.  “How can lamb taste so much like pork?!”  I practically shouted. And so it was, the meat as sweet and succulent as pork but with that irresistible edge of crisp lamb fat.  The walnuts give a body and a base to the sweetness of the pomegranate molasses.  In the recipe copy below,  I changed the yield from “Serves 6″ to “Serves 4″.  I bet you’ll still be fighting over the last skewer even if you’re only 4.

Estimated preparation time:  Only 30-40 minutes of active time, really, but there’s an overnight marinade plus heating the grill or coals for the grill.

Click here for my complete list of 2013 cookbook recommendations.   You can also find hundreds of great cookbook recommendations on my app, Cookbook Finder (available for both iPhone/iPad and Android devices).

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lamb kebabs

Lamb kebabs in pomegranate-walnut marinade
Kebab-e torsh

Serves 4

2 pounds lamb tenderloin or boneless shank or neck, cut into 11/2-inch chunks
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra chopped for garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the meat in a large casserole dish. In a food processor, grind the walnuts, pomegranate molasses, garlic, and olive 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.

If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in salty water for a couple of hours before grilling. Thread 3 or 4 pieces of meat onto each skewer 1/4 inch apart, leaving 2 inches of space at the end. Discard the marinade. Brush or wipe extra marinade from the skewers. Leave the meat out while you heat the grill so it can come up to room temperature (no more than 45 minutes total).

Prepare a hot grill.  Lightly oil the grill and grill the kebabs for 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally. 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.

Reprinted with permission from The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.   Food Photography: Sara Remington © 2013.

I’m just going to go ahead and say it: this is, hands-down, the best cookbook I’ve tested all year. It’s got vibrant, new-to-us recipes that are written with clarity and attention. It’s got good design and great pictures. It’s got charming voice. But ultimately – beyond what we see on the page – what makes this book so good is the way it shapes up on the plate – the way the flavors abduct your senses and the way a whole list of new ingredients insinuate themselves into permanent residence in your pantry.

Click here to read today’s review of The New Persian Kitchen in the Boston Globe.  (Hit the paywall?  Use this PDF link.)

On  CookShelf, the cookbook-rating app this week, you’ll find more data points and analysis of this book and over 200 more of the latest cookbooks.  Treat yourself to a copy of the app for cookbook fanatics – it’s available for both  iPhone/iPad and Android devices and updated  most Wednesdays.

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