Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C). Add walnuts to bare baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, being careful not to burn, just toast. Set aside.
In the meantime, if making pomegranate molasses from pomegranate juice, add 1 cup (240 ml) pomegranate juice (adjust amount if adjusting serving size) to small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue cooking for about 30 minutes, or until darkened in color and reduced to roughly 1/4 cup (60 ml // amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size). Reduce heat to medium-low if bubbling too vigorously. Once reduced, turn off heat and set aside.
Heat an extra-large rimmed skillet or pot over medium heat and add water (or oil) and onions. Season with a pinch each salt and pepper and stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until soft and translucent.
Add vegetable broth and bring to a simmer (starting with the lesser amount and adding more later as needed). Add lentils and stir.
Cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are just tender, stirring occasionally. Add more vegetable broth as needed to keep the lentils submerged.
Once the lentils are just tender, add walnut meal, pomegranate molasses (start with the lesser amount and work your way up - store-bought can be more intense in flavor), maple syrup, and spices (see photo). Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low and continue simmering for 10 minutes, or until thickened and fragrant. Stir occasionally.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more maple syrup or pomegranate molasses for sweetness, salt for saltiness, turmeric for earthiness, or cinnamon for warmth. You can also add more vegetable broth at this time if it’s become too thick.
Serve over cooked rice (see notes for instructions) and garnish with pomegranate arils and fresh chopped parsley (optional), or enjoy alone as a hearty stew.
Leftovers keep well covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 1 month, though best when fresh. Reheat on the stovetop until warm, adding vegetable broth to rehydrate as needed.
*If you'd rather use canned lentils, you can sub the written amount for 2 cups cooked, canned lentils. Rinse before adding and reduce cooking time by half since they're already cooked. *Prepare jasmine rice while walnuts are roasting: Bring 1 cup (180 g) rice and 2 cups (480 ml) water to a boil in large saucepan. Then lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until fork tender. Check package to verify instructions, which can vary depending on type of rice. *Our version is not traditional, but is our plant-based take on this Persian dish. You can find a more traditional recipe from Rozina's Persian Kitchen. *A green salad makes an excellent side to this flavorful dish, as does pita. *Nutrition information is a rough estimate for one 3/4-cup serving calculated with pomegranate juice, lesser amount of maple syrup, and without optional serving ingredients (like rice).