Mast-o-Laboo - Persian Beet & Yogurt Dip



There are many types of street food vendors here in NY. They sell fruits, soft pretzels, hot dogs, toasted chestnuts and so on. We took a stroll down Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center, looking at the holiday decorations and lighting. My daughters bought some roasted peanuts from a vendor on the street. It reminded me of my growing up in Iran and the time that my mother would buy me fresh whole salted walnuts, grilled corn (balal) and warm and juicy cooked beetroot (laboo). Is it just my nostalgia that the food we ate seems to have tasted much better back then?

Beets are an interesting root vegetable, they add so much color to your life! They color everything that they come in contact with including your hands and nails. I wonder if beets were used as make-up to color the cheeks and lips before modern times.


Cooked beetroot (choghondar) could be served sliced in salads, sliced or quartered with a dash of sugar, or mixed in with yogurt. The green part of it could also be used in the vegetable and been stew (ash). They add a delicious flavor to the stew, however, it is usually disposed of. That must be the reason behind the Iranian saying used when someone feels neglected, unappreciated or overlooked in decision making situations: "Am I a beetroot leaf here?"  (pas man inja barg-e choghondaram?) ماست و لبو/ بورانی لبو  Mast o Laboo/ Borani Laboo is a simple yet delicious side dish.

Mast-o- Laboo/Borani Laboo- Persian Beet & Yogurt Dip

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

3 small-size beets
2 cups plain yogurt
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt
Water

Method:

  1. Place the beets in a pan, cover with water, cook over medium heat for about an hour or until they softens.
  2. Remove the pan from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Remove the skin, cut into small bite-size pieces or coarsely grate the beets using a food processor or a hand grater.
  4. Combine the sugar, yogurt, beets and a dash of salt. Mix well. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Serve cold.



Enjoy!

Shir Berenj - Persian Milk & Rice Pudding



شیربرنج Shir Berenj is a creamy, sweet and rosewater scented rice pudding. In our language Persian/Farsi,  "shir" means milk and "berenj" means rice. Simmering rice and milk and simmering until well-cooked with the right consistency is what this pudding is all about. The recipe that I'm offering here is the one that my mother used to make frequently. Using short grain rice is preferred for this dish. As for the milk, since we usually drink 1% milk that's what I used in cooking this pudding too. However, using whole milk is recommended since it would enhance the flavor and make the pudding more creamy.


Eshgh (Love)
Shir Berenj - Persian Milk & Rice Pudding

Ingredients:
Serves 4

1 cup rice
3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rose water
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
Water

Toppings:
Cinnamon, honey, grape molasses or jam

Method:
  1. Rinse rice with cool water and soak in water, preferably overnight or at least for eight hours. Drain. 
  2. In a non-stick pot place rice and 2 cup of water on medium-low heat, bring to a gentle boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the water is fully absorbed. Then gradually add milk, stirring frequently to avoid getting a crusty bottom. This is a dish that we don't want to form a tah-dig at the bottom! 
  3. Once milk is absorbed by all the rice grains which usually takes about 40 minutes, add sugar, cardamom and rosewater. Stir well and cook for another 20-30 minutes. Make sure you are cooking on the lowest heat until it thickens.
  4. When rice is well-cooked remove the pot from heat. 
  5. Transfer into a serving platter, single serving bowls or plates. Let it cool. 
  6. Garnish with cinnamon.
Shir berenj is usually served with drizzled honey on top, jam or grape molasses (shireh angoor). You can cut the amount of sugar in half if you are using any of the toppings. It entirely depends on your personal taste.
Enjoy!

Persian Yalda Celebration: Celebrating The Longest Night of the Year!


 شب یلدا Shab-e Yalda (Night of Yalda) refers to the longest night of the year, the beginning of winter and the triumph of light over darkness. Monday, December 21, is the winter solstice (yalda) which  has been celebrated in our culture for hundreds of years. On the eve of yalda, families and friends gather together, stay up till midnight, tell stories, reminisce and read poetry while sipping hot tea and eating sweet watermelon, pomegranate and an assortment of nuts and seeds.





It's a night that we take out the poetry book of Hafez and recite from it. Those who are familiar with Hafiz's poetry know that  there's not a single translation that can capture its true meaning and essence. With that said, here's a translation of a verse by Hafez, one of the greatest Persian poets of all time.


O pious of the heart, I am lost in a love so great
O pain the hidden secrets will become open debate.
Shipwrecked we just float, O favorable wind arise,
may we one more gaze upon that familiar trait.
Passage of time and the stars, are but what we fantasize
for compassion and kindness, it's never too late.
In the circle of wine and roses, nightingale's song is prize
with the aroma and the wine your senses satiate.
O Thou compassionate one, life giver and the wise
one day bestow thy grace upon this mendicant's state.
For peace of this world and the next, understand what I advise
magnanimity the lot of friends, and wise foes try to relate.
In the land of repute, our passage they will dispute
if this will not suit, don't stay mute, and transmute distastes of fate.
When destitute and in need, let your love and passion breed
life's alchemy, essence and seed, unimagined wealth shall create.
If unruly with pride, with a candle's zeal your flame will rise
Beloved turns stone to lave, and molten wax manipulate.
The Grail contains but wine, if only you realize
then the Kingdom of the world, at your but prostrate.
The good and wise magi, forgivers of lives and lies
bearer bring good news, drunkards' wine consecrate.
With this wine stained robe, Hafiz would never disguise
o untainted pure master, exempt us from this fate.

Poem by Hafez
~ Translation by Shahriar Shahriari

I can't help but think about all those Iranians that kept these festivities alive throughout the centuries amidst the sometimes harsh and unfavorable circumstances. I owe every one of them a heartfelt thank you and gratitude. They have kept the hope alive and passed it on year after year. I hope to join in with all the Iranians, if not in person but in spirit, and celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Happy Yalda, Yalda Mobarak!

Fesenjoon - Pomegranate Walnut & Chicken Stew


خورش فسنجون Khoresh-e Fesenjoon is one of the most delicious Persian dishes. Biting into a tender piece of a well cooked sweet and sour chicken covered with tangy pomegranate and finely ground walnut sauce is to experience a piece of Persian culture, its food and heritage. In researching pomegranates, its history and its use in our culture, I've learned that it dates back to 3300 BC, here. Fesenjoon is another example of Persian ingenuity in creating a well-balanced and healthy meal. I find the combination of all the ingredients in fesenjoon to be simply genius!

Using fresh ingredients in Persian cooking is key. For many of us who live outside of Iran, finding the required and right ingredients is sometimes a challenge, one that we must learn to adapt to by using substitutes when needed. However, for this dish I believe all the needed ingredients are readily available here in the north east. One thing that I should mention is to use fresh walnuts, if possible. If you buy them readily packed in a bag like I do, at least check to see that the walnut colors are light and not dark. Dark colored and old walnuts taste bitter. Soaking walnuts for a few minutes in water or at least rinsing them before cooking improves the taste. Another key factor is using the right pomegranate concentrate/syrup. It should be of a thick consistency and not watery or mixed in with a sweetener. Don't use pomegranate juice instead.


Fesenjoon doesn't require too many ingredients or prep time. It's a simple dish and it cooks fast. However, if you want to achieve that authentic and ancient recipe what it needs is patience. Khoresh-e fesenjoon has to be cooked on a low temperature/simmer setting for all the tastes to blend in and the walnut oil to be released gradually onto the stew.

Sometimes, I may get a little carried away with my food decorations. I have to say that this dish doesn't need any props. When served with some aromatic white rice, the aroma, the look and above all the taste will speak for itself. Here's a recipe link for Fesenjoon with Meatballs.


Fesenjoon - Pomegranate Walnut and Chicken Stew

Ingredients:
Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed, cut in small chunks
1 large onion, peeled, finely chopped
2 cups shelled walnuts, finely chopped
1 cup pomegranate molasses, plus more if needed
1/4 cup sugar, plus more if needed
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Dash of cinnamon 
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

Method:
  1. You may chop the walnuts as finely as possible or pulse them a few times in a food processor.
  2. In a small pan add two tablespoons of oil and saute walnuts until lightly toasted for a minute or two over medium heat, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the pomegranate molasses and 2 cups of water, mix well, cover the pan with lid slightly ajar and simmer for 30- 40 minutes on low heat. 
  4. In a large heavy pot, saute the onions in 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until golden brown, add turmeric and stir well. 
  5. Place the chicken pieces into the pot and cook until golden brown on all sides, add salt, pepper and a small dash of cinnamon. I usually add 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the beginning which later on can be adjusted and a dash of pepper. This is not a hot dish.
  6. Pour the pomegranate walnut mixture into the pot, mix well, add additional water if needed, chicken pieces need to be covered in liquid, bring back to a boil. Then lower the heat, cover and simmer for two hours. The slow cooked chicken, walnuts and pomegranate sauce will be rich and creamy.
  7. Add 1 tablespoon of at at a time, mix it well without shredding the chicken. Taste and add more sugar if you like it more sweet. Khoresh fesenjoon is a well-balanced, sweet and sour (malas) dish. I, personally, like it more on the sour side. But that's just me. The majority of people that I know like it more sweet than sour.
  8. If fesenjoon is too watery and not of a thick consistency leave the cover a little ajar, to let the steam and moisture out and simmer more until it thickens. Fesenjoon should not be watery.  
Serve hot with aromatic basmati rice. If there are any leftovers, freeze them! Leftovers taste good too.

Enjoy!

Khoresh-e Beh - Quince Stew


I like autumn mostly for its beautiful color changing foliage, crisp weather and also for its seasonal fruits such as pomegranate, persimmon and quince. Quince is one of  my favorite fall fruits. Of course, quince is basically used in cooking and making مربای به quince jam and is one of those kinds of fruits that all  parts of it is edible. It also has a warm and happy color too. I'm so tempted to take a quince with me to the paint store in my neighborhood and have them find the exact matching color. In the spring I am thinking of painting my kitchen quince yellow if there is such a color.


Anyhow, for this dish after washing and patting it dry, you can just slice it into wedges and there is no need to peel the skin off. In Iran the seeds are also used for treating coughs and chest pains by brewing them for few minutes.

Quince seeds and rock candy drink

خورش به Khoresh-e beh is a very tasty dish and very pleasing to the eye also This dish is a combination of meat (beef or lamb), yellow split peas, tomato sauce, and quince.


Khoresh-e Beh - Quince Stew

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

2 pounds meat (lamb or beef), washed and cubed
4  medium-size quince, washed, cored and sliced (could be cubed too), slice right before cooking.
1 cup yellow split peas, picked over and rinsed
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 -3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon liquid saffron
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 dried lemons (limoo amani) or juice of a lime
2 tablespoons sugar
A dash of cinnamon
2 cups of water
Vegetable oil


Method:
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add chopped onion and cook until golden brown, add turmeric powder and stir.
  3. Place the meat in the pot and brown on all sides. 
  4. Add the tomato paste and cook for five minutes. Stir.
  5. Add the peas to the pot and give it a gentle stir, cook for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add cinnamon, saffron, dried lemons salt and pepper.
  7. Pour water in the pot, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and cook on a medium to low heat for an hour.
  8. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and cook the slices of quince for 7-10 minutes over medium heat.
  9. Sprinkle sugar over quince slices and stir well till sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside.
  10. In an ovenproof casserole dish, pour in the meat mixture, adjust the seasoning and gently layer the cooked quince slices on top. 
  11. Cook in the 350 degrees Fahrenheit preheated oven for 50 minutes. 
Serve with rice.

* I garnished the stew with some slices of a small and ripe khormaloo (persimmon).

Enjoy!

Kashk-e Bademjan - Persian Eggplant & Whey Dip


Today is my first blogoversary! Food blogging has been a journey as well as a healing process for me while I've been chopping onions, frying eggplants, pickling garlic, steaming rice and grounding threads of saffron and the whole lot of other things that cooking entails. I had started this blog exactly a year ago as a tribute to my late mother who had passed away six months prior due to an illness.

This was my  tribute to her amazing culinary capabilities, her knowledge and the understanding of all the ingredients used in Persian cooking. She loved serving up delicious food with a  welcoming attitude and the constant desire to feed and include everyone. Little did I know that through it all I would become a more passionate and enthusiastic foodie myself. I have grown to appreciate food more than ever. It is no longer about preparing meals for my loving family but becoming curious about food and nutrition and exploring other ethnic cuisines from around the world. From the very young age of eight or nine when my mother taught me how to saute onions, an essential in Iranian cooking, my love affair with food began. My mother loved talking about food as much as she enjoyed preparing and eating it. She'd tell you the benefits of every ingredient as she would feed you. She was not shy about giving strangers tips on how to cure their ailments by using herbs and spices. We'd grown up hearing stories about how she had helped cure our  next door neighbor's liver problems by sending over some sumac(somagh) to take as a medicine. Or, telling someone else that they should drink a glass of warm yogurt drink (doogh-e garm) before going to bed to help them with their insomnia!

The first few months of blogging was more about documenting what I had learned and remembered. I was frantically posting without enjoying it much. It was more of a chore I felt had to be done; that it would somehow make my mom happy to know that her legacy would be passed on. To my astonishment, I have grown to enjoy and love to write about my recipes, read other amazing food blogs and marvel at their food photography.What had started as a homage  to my beloved mom has healed me through my writing about the kinds of food she'd serve us ever so graciously and lovingly.
 

کشک بادمجان Kashke-e Bademjan is the quintessential Persian appetizer. It may be not be considered a main dish, however I feel once you serve kashk-e bademjan you don't need much of any thing else on the table. Except, some warm lavash (flat bread), a fork and a tall glass of cool water. If you haven't tasted it yet, try it. You'll be surprised how tasty this combination of eggplants, whey (kashk), caramelized onion and garlic can be. So simple and yet so tasty. This is also a perfect dish for those that say Persian cooking is too time consuming.

Dried Whey (Kashk)
Kashk-e Bademjan

Ingredients:
Serves 4

2 large eggplants
2 large onions, peeled, finely sliced
7 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried mint
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon liquid saffron
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup oil, use olive oil for this dish
1 cup liquid kashk (whey), which is a byproduct of curdled milk (buttermilk), can be found at Iranian or Middle Eastern grocery stores.
Method:
  1. With a knife make some cuts in the eggplants to let the steam out  before putting them in the oven. 
  2.  Place the eggplants in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit preheated oven. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. 
  3. Then remove the skin, squeeze out some of the liquid and bitterness, and chop up the eggplants into small pieces.
  4. In a skillet heat oil and saute onions until they become golden brown, add turmeric and stir. Add the garlic and mint, saute for an additional 5 minutes. Set some of it aside for garnish.
  5. To the skillet add the eggplants, saffron, salt, and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes. 
  6. Pour the kashk ( liquid whey ) over the eggplants and mix well. Keep the skillet on low heat for about 2-3 minutes for the flavors to come together and for the mixture to blend well. 
  7. Adjust the seasoning and serve on a platter, pour extra kashk on the dish if you prefer. 
  8. Garnish with fried garlic, onion, and mint mixture that you had set aside. 
Serve with warm bread.

Enjoy!

Shirin Polow - Persian Sweet Rice



شیرین پلو  Shirin polow - Persian sweet rice is a traditional special-occasion rice dish which is usually served with chicken and goes well with turkey too. This delicious sweet rice is perfect for Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is all about getting together with the people you love and care about. Spending time together, telling stories, laughing, giving thanks and of course eating delicious food and mouth-watering sweets. Like many Iranians I do add my own Persian cooking touches to the Thanksgiving menu. I feel the meal is not complete if there's no Persian-style rice to go with it!


Shirin Polow - Persian Sweet Rice

Ingredients:
 Serves 4-6

2 cups long grain white basmati rice
2 cup carrots, peeled and shredded
1 cup orange skin, slivered
1 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup sugar (may be adjusted to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 3 tablespoons of hot water
Dash of cinnamon
Salt
Oil
Water

 Method:
  1. Rinse 3 large oranges and using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin and cut into thin stripes. Rinse well under cold water. Place the slivered orange peels into a small pot, add a cup of cold water, boil for 3-5 minutes over medium-high heat, drain and repeat the process two more times. 
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the shredded carrots and saute for about 5-7 minutes, add the slivered almonds, then add the sliced orange peels. Continue sauteing for an additional  5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, a dash of cinnamon, pour 1/2 cup of water, gently stir, cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl wash the rice with cool water a few times. Soak the rice in 8 cups of water, add 2-3 tablespoons salt and set aside for at least a couple of hours.
  5. In a large non stick pot, bring 8 cups of water to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Drain the rice and pour into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil for about 10 minutes or until the grains are long, soft on the outside and hard in the center. Drain the rice in a colander and rinse the par-boiled rice with cool water.
  6. Wash the pot and return to heat, add 3 tablespoons of oil, with a large spatula place 1/3 of the rice into the pot, add a layer of the carrot mixture, building it into a pyramid shape away from the sides of the pot. In order to release the steam make 4-5 holes in the rice with the bottom of the spatula.
  7. Cook the rice for about 7-10 minutes over medium-high heat or until rice is steaming, pour 2 tablespoons of oil, 1/4 cup of water and the liquid saffron, lower the heat, cover and steam the rice for another 50 minutes.
Transfer the rice to a serving plate, garnish and serve warm.

Enjoy!

Chicken Soup & Other Persian Home Remedies



With the flu season upon us, I thought it is the best time to write about the home remedies for the common cold. There are many herbal solutions for many different kinds of ailments in our culture that date backs to many centuries ago. However, today, I'll mention a few things we use in case of sniffling, coughing, sore throat, etc. These cold solutions have been generally passed down from generations to generations. I am certain that every culture has its own home medicines and methods for treating the common cold. سوپ مرغ Chicken soup happens to be a universal recipe that soothes the chest and throat and is easy on the stomach as well as soothing your soul. Is it really effective or not? I am not 100 percent sure but the love that goes into preparing this dish and serving it makes you feel warm all over. Here is what we usually do in our home in addition to paying a visit to the doctor and taking the required prescribed medication.
 

 

  1. Drink چای tea or hot water with fresh squeezed lime/lemon juice and some honey. 
  2. Eat cooked شلغم shalgham (turnip). Cook 4-5 small turnips in a cup of water for 15- 20 minutes on medium-low heat. Don't over cook them. Serve warm, add a dash of salt before you eat if you happen to not like the taste of cooked turnips.
  3. Eat your fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits such as grapefruits, oranges, and tangerines are a good source of vitamin C. There is a citrus fruit in Iran known as لیموشیرین limoo shirin (sweet lemon) which is mostly used for treating the cold symptoms. You may find it in most Iranian/Persian grocery stores when in season.
  4. Gargle salted water which alleviates soar throat.
  5. Drink lots of fluids.
  6. Make a simple chicken soup.
  7. Rest and sleep.
Soup-e Morgh - Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

4-5 pieces of chicken, (drumsticks, thighs or wings), remove skin
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 medium-size tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons rice, rinsed
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 cups of water
Juice of 2 limes/lemons

Method:

  1. In a large pot place the chicken and all the other ingredients, except the carrots, parsley and the lime juice. 
  2. Place the pot on medium heat, bring to boil, reduce heat and cook for an hour on low heat. 
  3. After an hour, add the vegetables to the pot, adjust the seasoning and add more water if needed. 
  4. Cook for another 20 minutes, add the lime juice before serving, stir and serve warm.
I think there's a magic when mothers pour some steaming soup into bowl and tell you to eat it up, because it's going to make you feel better in no time! Don't you think so?

Stay warm and keep healthy!

Sobhaneh - Persian Breakfast





صبحانه Breakfast has been called the greatest meal of the day. I couldn't agree more. It only takes a little time early in the morning out of our busy schedule to boil some water in order to brew a fresh cup of loose leaf tea or make a aromatic delicious cup of coffee. Warm up some flat bread (lavash, barbari, sangag or pita) if it's available where you are, Serve feta cheese and/or butter, walnuts, fruit jams or honey. Many like to serve fruits of the season and sliced small cucumbers and firm tomatoes. This is a typical Iranian breakfast. Where the tea is hot and the bread is warm, cheese (paneer) is tasty and of good quality. In that 10-15 minutes sitting at a table, sipping tea, enjoying the company of loved ones, counting your blessings, and gathering the strength to get up and start a day refreshed and ready to go. The above photo is a picture of my favorite kind of breakfast. I should mention that there are many other morning meals that I'll be sharing with you later on.

Enjoy!

Seer Torshi - Pickled Garlic



The other day I stopped at a new grocery store on my way home. I had no plans to make سیرترشی garlic pickles but I was excited to see these clean garlic bulbs without the dusty stems at the end. That meant I didn't have to wash them and risk getting the moisture in between the cloves. All I only needed to do was to remove the loose and dried outer layers as much as possible. I think a jar of pickled garlic makes a delicious display on the kitchen counter, especially if you use white vinegar to be able to see the inside of the jar. But of course we need to put these pickles away in a cool and dark place to ferment. Don't you love the flavor of garlic in most dishes such as yogurt, chicken, fish, lamb, beef and vegetables?

My mother not only used garlic generously in cooking to spice up the food but also she used it for its medicinal purposes to cure our coughs and colds. She would also have her daily dose of garlic to maintain her blood pressure and keep it low. I use a few cloves in recipes that call for garlic and I always have my jars of seer torshi. I usually make a jar with peeled cloves and also a jar with separated but unpeeled cloves too. The older garlic pickles get the better they taste. Garlic becomes soft and sweet and they melt in your mouth like jam.


Seer Torshi - Pickled Garlic

Ingredients:

7-8 garlic bulbs, remove the outer dried skins
2-3 cups vinegar/fill to the rim
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons honey

Method:
  1. Place the bulbs in a completely dry glass jar. 
  2. Add salt and honey to the vinegar in a separate glass bowl. Mix well. 
  3. Pour the mixture over the cloves. Add more vinegar if needed. All the cloves should be covered by vinegar. 
  4. Cover the lid with the plastic wrap and close tight. 
  5. Place in a cool and dark place. They'll be ready to serve after a couple of years so that they can age, and the seven year seer torshis are known for their great appetizing taste.
 Serve seer torshi with your favorite food. I like to serve it along with lamb shanks and Lima beans rice (shevid baghali polow) and eggplant dishes.


Enjoy!

Dopiazeh



I learned to cook this recipe several years ago from one of the mothers at my daughter's Persian school. We were there to pick up our children and our conversations turned to what we were going to make for dinner that night. I said something like "I don't have much time and I don't know what to make." That's when she introduced me to this simple and delicious Shirazi food and gave me the recipe. Luckily, I had all necessary ingredients for making the dish at home. Ever since that day I added دوپیازه dopiazeh to my list of monthly menus. "Piaz" is a Persian word for onion and "do" means two. The name of this dish means two onions which refers to the fact that this recipe calls for two large onions added at two different times during the cooking process.


Dopiazeh

Ingredients:
Serves 4

1 pound ground beef, lamb or turkey
2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium sized potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into small pieces
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
Red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

Method:
  1. In non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium heat, add half of the chopped onions, saute until golden brown. 
  2. Add turmeric, stir well, add the garlic. 
  3. Add the ground beef and saute until brown. Add the tomato paste and cook for another few minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water.
  4. Mix in the chopped potatoes and add salt and pepper to taste. Add a pinch of red pepper.
  5. Heat the remaining oil in a pan over medium heat, add the second batch of the chopped onions, fry until soft and golden. Add the sauteed onions to the beef and potato mixture. Stir well, cover and cook on low heat for 40 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve hot with rice or warm bread and salad shirazi.

Enjoy!

Khorak-e Morgh - Chicken with Green Beans and Carrots



I sometimes fall into the trap of making the same kind of food one too many times. Don’t you think most of us have a set menu of our favorite foods that we tend to stick with a majority of the time? If you give me chicken, the first thing I make is salad olivieh! However, this time I’m resisting the temptation of cooking the same thing over and over and instead made this wonderful chicken dish with green beans, carrots and tomatoes. خوراک مرغ Khorak-e Morgh is an easy and delicious one skillet meal.

Khorak-e Morgh 

Ingredients:
Serves 4

2 pounds skinless chicken, cut into pieces
2 cups of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 large carrots, sliced
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 large potatoes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
A handful of dried plums
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
A dash of  cinnamon
2-3 limoo amani or juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

Method:
  1. In a large saucepan saute onions in 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until translucent, add the garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add turmeric and a pinch of salt, stir well. 
  2. Add the chicken to the pan and fry on both sides. Add salt, pepper and cinnamon. 
  3. Add the tomato sauce and a cup of water, lower the heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes. 
  4. Add the green beans, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and limoo amani or the lemon juice. 
  5. Cover and cook for another 40 minutes over medium to low heat. 
  6. This dish could also be made in the oven. After you cook the chicken in the pan, transfer it to an oven proof dish, add all the vegetables, spices and the tomato sauce, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour until the chicken is well cooked.
  7. Add the prunes near the end of cooking. Taste and adjust the seasoning
Serve with rice or warm bread, fresh herbs and torshi.


Enjoy!

Adas Polow - Rice with Lentils


عدس پلو Adas polow is one of the traditional Iranian dishes that I grew up with. It's a great rice dish to prepare when you don't have a lot of time on your hands yet you want something delicious. Rice with lentils is not usually served in formal gatherings. However, you can make it for your family, close relatives and friends. That's what I do. Adas polow can be served with cooked ground beef. You can serve the cooked ground beef over the rice, on the side of the rice or you can cook it together with rice and lentils in the same pot.



Adas Polow (Rice with Lentils)

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

2 cups rice
1 1/2 cup dried lentils
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 3 tablespoons of hot water
1 small onion, finely chopped
Dash of cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil
Water

Toppings:

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dates

Method:
  1. Pick over the lentils and rinse a couple of times. Place in a pot, add about 2 1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, add 1/4 teaspoon salt, cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft and there is little liquid is left in the pot. Set aside.
  2. Rinse rice with cool water, soak in 3-4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of salt for a couple of hours. 
  3. Saute chopped onions in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium heat until the onions begin to soften, add turmeric powder, stir add the raisins, dates add a dash of cinnamon, saute lightly for only a couple of minutes. Set aside
  4. In a large non-stick pan, bring 4 cups of water to a rapid boil. 
  5. Drain rice and pour into the boiling water. Bring water to back a boil for 10 minutes on medium-high heat. Test to see if the rice is ready. Rice should be firm in the center and soft on the outside. Drain and rinse with cool water.  
  6. Wash the pot and return to heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pot. With a large spatula, place a layer of rice into the pot, place a layer of cooked lentils, then another layer of rice, continue building it into a pyramid shape. Spread the liquid saffron over the rice. In order to release the steam make 2-3 holes in the rice with the bottom of the spatula. 
  7. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on medium-high heat until rice is steaming, lower heat to medium-low and steam the rice for another 45-50 minutes.
Serve rice on a large platter topped with raisins and dates. This dish is best served with mast o khiar and salad shirazi.

Enjoy!

Mast-o-Sabzi - Yogurt with Herbs, Raisins and Walnuts



Today, it really feels like summer. It’s hot, humid and sticky. It’s the kind of weather that makes you not want to step into the kitchen, let alone cook a gourmet meal. Therefore, I’m sticking to a cool, smooth, and healthy yogurt and herbs dish for dinner. The combination of plain yogurt, aromatic and flavorful vegetables, crunchy walnuts and tasty sweet raisins makes a light and delicious meal for hot summer days.

Mast-o-Sabzi - Yogurt with Herbs, Raisins and Walnuts

Ingredients:
Serves 4

2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1 large cucumber; peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried rose petal *optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
  1. In a large bowl combine all ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. 
  2. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.
Serve with warm bread.

Enjoy!

Shevid Baghali Polow - Dill & Lima Beans Rice



Combination of fresh finely chopped dill along with preferably fresh baby Lima beans or Fava beans and aromatic rice make a very delicious meal. I think the person who came up with the idea of throwing these ingredients together must have been a culinary genius of her time. This mixed rice could be served as a vegetarian dish along with some yogurt and cucumber (mast-o-khiar) side dish. شوید باقالی پلو Shevid Baghali Polw (dill and lima beans rice) is usually served with lamb shanks or chicken. I must say that it goes very well with turkey too. I have made it several times as a side dish for Thanksgiving dinner. I like the rice to be covered with fresh and some dried dill to cover every grain of rice. Also, I use equal portions of Lima beans and rice. To me, cooking Persian food is not an exact science. I usually start with having the main ingredients for a dish that I like to make but I tend to kind of add my personal touches and preferences to it along the way. However, if there is bit of change to an original Persian recipe, I’ll make sure to point out and make a note of it in my posts. Many of you know that there may be many variations of a recipe. It depends which part of the country you are from, north or south or how your mom has taught you to cook.


Shevid Baghali Polow - Dill & Lima Beans Rice

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

2 cups rice
2 cups frozen baby lima beans, thawed
2 cups finely chopped fresh dill or 1 1/2 cups dried dill. (I used the combination of 1 1/2 cup fresh dill and 1/2 cup dried)
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
Dash of cinnamon
Salt
Butter or vegetable oil
Water

Method:
  1. In a medium bowl mix dill (fresh or dried), lima beans, a dash of salt, cinnamon and turmeric. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Wash rice with cool water a few times. Soak in 4 cups of water, add 2-3 tablespoons of salt and set aside for a couple of hours. 
  3. In a large non-stick pot that has a tight fitting lid, bring 4 cups of water to a rapid boil. Drain rice and pour into boiling water and boil uncovered for 10 minutes. Test to see if the rice is ready. Rice should be firm in the center and soft on the outside. Drain and rinse with cool water. 
  4. Wash the pot and return to heat, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Place a layer of rice into the pot and then  a layer of dill and Lima beans. Then another layer of rice, continue building it into a pyramid shape. 
  5. In order to release the steam make 2-3 holes in the rice with the bottom of the spatula. 
  6. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat until rice is steaming, pour 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 cup of water over the rice. Lower heat and steam the rice for another 45-50 minutes.
Serve on a platter along with lamb shanks or chicken pieces or just by itself as a vegetarian dish. If you find the rice a bit on the dry side drizzle some melted butter over the rice.

Enjoy!

Torshi Bademjan - Quick Pickled Eggplant


I grew up eating torshi with my meal. I make pickles all the time and I have several jars of torshi stored away in a cool place. I adore pickled eggplant as well. My mother was an avid torshi maker. Every time she came here to visit making ترشی بادمجان pickled eggplant was one of the very first things she did. She believed eating torshi with your meal enhance the flavor of food and health benefits. My mother's pickled eggplant recipe is one of my favorite torshi recipes. It's an easy and quick way to make torshi-e bademjan. This torshi does not require a long time to ferment. In fact it is ready to be served in a couple of days.



Torshi Bademjan - Quick Pickled Eggplant

Ingredients:

5 small eggplant, rinse and dry (you don't need to peel them, just make a long cut on the side of each eggplant)
5-7 garlic cloves, peeled, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon turmeric *optional
2-3 tablespoons salt
2-3 small dried red hot peppers
1 teaspoon angelica powder (golpar)
1 teaspoon nigella seeds (siah-daneh)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds (tokhm-e geshneez)
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
White vinegar
Water

Method:

  1. Mix all the dried ingredients together in a small bowl. 
  2. Place 2-3 garlic clove halves in each eggplant with some of the dried herb and spice mixture. 
  3. In a large heavy bottomed pot, combine 2 cups of vinegar and 1 cup of water over a medium-low heat.
  4. Place the eggplant in the pot, sprinkle the remaining spices over the eggplant, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the eggplant is fully cooked. 
  5. Let it completely cool before transferring them into clean glass jars. Add more vinegar and salt if needed. 
  6. Store in a cool place. This pickled eggplant will be ready to eat after 2-3 days.
Enjoy!

Herbed Koofteh


I make کوفته  koofteh 3-4 times a year, perhaps once every season, and every time I serve it I tell myself that I should make it more often but I don’t follow up on that. However, it is such a joy to gather the ingredients, chopping the onions, making the sauce, preparing the vegetables, mixing them all together, making small balls and finally letting them cook slowly. The aroma of fresh herbs, tomato sauce and green peppers fill the room and that is just the beginning of making this delicious and fragrant one dish meal. This koofteh is made with rice, meat and several kinds of herbs.

I must say that my mother would make the same koofteh without the use of tomato sauce and green peppers. One day I added a little tomato paste to the liquid in the pan to give it some color, I liked the enhanced taste and color so much so that now I don’t make koofteh without it. Also, in the authentic Persian koofteh, there are no green bell peppers either but that started as an experiment too. One day I added pieces of green pepper to the sauce and the final product was a mouth watering, colorful and aromatic meal. I usually add the green peppers toward the end so they can keep their beautiful colors and stay a little bit on the firm side. If you are new to Iranian food I strongly recommend making this dish. It makes about 15-20 koofteh balls.


Herbed Koofteh

Ingredients:

1 pound ground meat (beef, lamb or turkey)
1 cup rice, rinsed well
1/2 cup yellow split peas, rinsed
2 eggs
2 medium-sized onions (one finely diced for frying and one grated to be used in the rice/meat mixture)
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
A few sprigs of fresh mint, tarragon and basil, washed and finely chopped
2 medium-sized green peppers *optional
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon liquid saffron
Vegetable oil

For the Sauce:

1 can of tomato sauce (16 ounces)
1 can of crushed tomatoes (16 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

For filling:

Chopped walnut, raisins, barberries (zereshk) or prunes


Method:

  1. Place the rice and the yellow split peas together in a medium-size pot, add 3 cups of water, a tablespoon of oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, cover and cook 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Remove from heat, drain and set aside to cool. 
  3. In a large pan saute onions in 3 tablespoons of oil until golden brown, add garlic and turmeric. Stir well and saute for another couple of minutes. 
  4. Pour both cans of tomato sauce into the pot, add salt and pepper and also pour in 2-3 cups of water. Cover and simmer on low heat while you make the meat mixture.
  5. In a large bowl combine rice and peas mixture, meat, grated onion, eggs, herbs, salt, pepper, turmeric and saffron and mix thoroughly yet gently. All the ingredients should be well distributed. 
  6. Using a scoop take about 1/3 of a cup of the mixture, round it into a ball, poke a hole in it to stuff the fillings in, close the gap and one by one, slowly place into the gently boiling sauce. 
  7. Place an upside down colander on the pot to let the steam out. 
  8. Cook on medium to low heat for an hour. Adjust seasoning and add more water if needed. 
Serve with yogurt, pickles (torshi) and warm bread.

Enjoy!