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Persiana

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    Posted: 04 August 2019 at 11:24

I’m going to wrap up this exploration with an assortment of Persian dishes that have two things in common. First, they don’t fit into categories, as all the others, so far, have done. And, second, they’re dishes we’ve tried and enjoyed; and will certainly do so again.

PANIR

(Fresh Cheese)

 

Although I especially enjoy this as a breakfast cheese, it’s good anytime.  I found the use of lime juice as the coagulating agent to be particularly interesting.

     Similar to feta, it’s not quite as crumbly, and lacks the high salt content of that popular cheese.

 

2 quarts whole milk                                                                

½ cup lime juice

2 tbls sea salt (optional)                                                         

1 cup plain yogurt

2 tsp nigella or cumin seeds, or, ¼ cup thyme or mint leaves, chopped

½ tsp sea salt        

1 tbls plain yogurt

 

Line a strainer with three layers of cheesecloth and place it in a large container.

 

Pour the milk into a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the lime juice and salt. Stir once. Add the yogurt and stir again. Boil over medium heat 3-5 minutes until milk turns yellowish and curds appear.

 

Remove pot from heat and let sit 15 minutes. Add the nigella seeds or other flavorings, and immediately pour the milk mixture into the cheesecloth. Allow to drain several minutes. Hold the ends of the cheesecloth bundle and tightly tie together to enclose the cheese.

 

Put the cheese bundle in the center of the strainer and place a heave weight on top of the bundle. Let stand for about 2 hours to get rid of excess moisture and let the cheese set.

 

Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth. It is ready to use at this point. To store, put the cheese in a glass container. Cover it with the strained liquid and add ½ tsp salt and 1 tbls yogurt. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

SHAMI-E-LAPEH

(Persian Split Pea Patties)

 

This highly popular dish is also made, with slight variations of the ingredient amounts, with chickpeas. While both good, I actually prefer the split pea version.

 

1 lb boned leg of lamb or beef or turkey cut in 2” pieces

1 med onion, chopped                                                           

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp turmeric

1 lb split peas, rinsed                                                             

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp ground saffron bloomed in 2 tbls hot water

3 eggs                   

2 cups oil for frying

 

In a medium saucepan, combine the meat, onion, 1 ½ tsp salt, pepper, turmeric, and 2 cups water; cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat and drain (reserve the juice to use later if meat is too dry). Puree the meat in a food processor and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

 

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, combine the split peas with 4 cups water and ½ tsp salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and reserve the juice. In the same food processor, puree the split peas and transfer to the bowl with the meat. Cover and refrigerate 2-24 hours.

 

When the meat mixture is cool, add the baking soda, saffron, and the eggs one by one, and knead for a few minutes until a soft paste is created. If it is too dry, add some reserrved liquid.

 

In a wide skillet, heat ¼ cup of oil over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Place a bowl of warm water next to the skillet. Scoop the meat paste into lumps the size of walnuts. Moisten your hands and flatten each lump into a round shape and press a hole in the middle with your finger. This helps to cook the inside of the patties.

 

Fry the patties on each side about 5 minutes until golden brown. There should be enough oil so the patties are about half submerged. Gently remove patties with a slotted spatula and place in a wide container lined with parchment paper. Continue making patties, separating each layer with parchment paper. Allow to cool. If not using immediately, cover and keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

 

Serve wrapped in leaf lettuce with traditional sweet & sour sauce or quince paste.

 

SWEET & SOUR SAUCE

 

1 onion, chopped 

3 tbls oil

1 tsp turmeric       

1 tsp dried mint

½ cup water         

½ cup vinegar

½ cup grape molasses

 

Fry onion in oil. Add the turmeric and mint. Stir-fry 20 seconds. Add the water, vinegar, and grape molasses. Bring to a boil.

 

Serve hot.

 

KOTAH DOLMEH

 (Fried Dough with Lentils)

 

Most cultures have a dish based a filling of some kind wrapped in dough. These are particularly tasty. And, for those so inclined, provide a vegetarian option.

     Although butter can substitute, they really work better using ghee.

 

For the dough:

                             

2 tsp active dry yeast                                                             

1 cup warm water

2 tsp rose water    

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt               

½ tsp ground cardamom

¼ cup ghee, melted & cooled

 

For the Filling:     

 

1 cup brown lentils                                                                 

3 cups cold water

2 large onions, finely chopped                                              

1/3 cup ghee

Salt                       

2 tbls brown sugar

 

To finish:              

 

Oil for deep frying.

 

Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup warm water. Add remaining water and rose water.

Sift flour, salt and cardamom into a mixing bowl and remove ½ cup of the mixture. Add the yeast liquid to flour and mix to a soft dough. Work in ghee with reserved flour and knead until smooth, about ten minutes.

Cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45-60 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, wash lentils well, place in a pan and add the cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for1-1 ¼ hours, or until water is absorbed and lentils are soft. Mash with a fork.

 

Gently fry onion in ghee until transparent and lightly browned, add lentils and fry 5 minutes. Stir in salt to taste and brown sugar. Cool.

 

Punch down dough and divide into two portions. Roll out each portion thinly to an 18-inch circle. Cut dough into 3-inch rounds and place a generous tsp of lentil paste in center of each round. Moisten edge of dough lightly, fold over, and press firmly to seal. Crip with tines of a fork.

 

Deep fry in batches for 3 minutes, until golden brown and puffed, turning to brown evenly. Drain on paper towels or a rack.

 

GERDU MAST MAHI

(Fish Baked in Yogurt with Walnut & Dill Topping)

 

This has become high on my list of favorite fish dishes. I make it with haddock, mostly, but any firm white fish will do.

 

2 lbs firm white fish filets

 

For the sauce:       

 

½ cup plain yogurt                                                                 

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp sea salt         

1 tsp black pepper

2 tbls lime juice    

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp red pepper flakes                                                           

2 tbls olive oil

2 garlic cloves      

1 inch ginger, peeled

2 spring onions, chopped

 

 

For the topping:   

 

¼ cup plain bread crumbs                                                      

1/4 cup walnuts

½ cup chopped parsley                                                           

1/4 cup chopped dill

2 garlic cloves      

¼ cup olive oil

Zest of one lime   

Juice of one lime

½ tsp sea salt        

¼ tsp black pepper

 

Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a baking dish big enough to fit all the fish filets side by side.

 

In a food processor, mix all ingredients for the yogurt sauce for 5 minutes (to prevent the yogurt from curdling) and spread on top of the fish.

 

In the same food processor combine all the ingredients for the walnut topping and pulse until you have a grainy mixture. Sprinkle evenly on top of the fish.

 

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top.  Serve with plain rice.

 

FISTIKLI KEBAP

(Persian/Turkish Lamb & Pistachio Patties)

 

What we have here is a classic cross-over dish that appears along the Persian/Turkish border. Doesn’t matter which you use as the source, as they are indistinguishable.  There’s also a Turkish variation that uses walnuts, which is equally good.

 

5 ¼ shelled pistachios                                                            

2 large eggs

1 lb 2 oz ground lamb                                                            

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tsp ground cumin                                                                

2 heaped tsp sumac

1 tsp ground coriander                                                           

1 tsp ground oregano

Zest of 1 lime       

3 tbls fine sea salt

Black pepper to taste                                                             

1 tbls oil

 

Blitz 2/3 of the pistachios in a food process until finely ground. Lightly pulse the remaining pistachios, then give them just a little rough chop and put in a large bowl with the finely ground nuts. Add the remaining ingredients except for the oil and mix together well. Really work the mixture, like bead dough, until the texture has broken down and the egg and pistachios are evenly distributed.

 

Preheat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat and preheat the oven at its lowest setting.

Divide the mixture into 10 balls and shape them into flattened patties. Drizzle enough vegetable oil to coat the base of the preheated frying pan and fry several of the patties at a time, without overcrowding the pan, until the undersides form a nice brown crust, which should take about 6 minutes, then flip them over and cook until both sides are done.

 

Transfer the cooked batch to an ovenproof dish and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining patties.

 

This by no means completes my personal exploration of Persian food.  Since starting this project the cuisine has moved to the top of my list; rivaling my fascination with the foods of North Africa.

 

Hopefully, you’ll give some of these recipes a try, and begin your own tour of this amazing contribution to world cuisine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Back in the 1960’s, Shish Kebab became all the rage in America. Seems like there wasn’t a backyard cookout that didn’t include some version of it. 

 Shish Kebab, and its variant spellings, was used generically by many backyard cooks. The base idea was to alternate an animal protein with other ingredients. Onions were always part of the string. But you’d find “shish kebab” that included tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, bell peppers….even green beans. Each cook had his own special marinade and dipping sauce. 

Frankly, I never liked the idea. Fun, perhaps. But, when you string together meat and assorted veggies, the ingredients rarely cook at the same time. So some part of the dish just wasn’t cooked right.

What Shish Kebab did do, however, was open American eyes to food cooked on a stick. While food cooked that way probably goes back to Neolithic times, impaling a hot-dog on the end of a stick was as far as Americans went, until the Shish Kebab fad raged.   

 As the “food revolution” took hold, the Shish Kebab fad prepared us for the discovery that many cultures have versions of kebabs; often many variations in the same culture.  This is especially true of the countries found in the Mid-East and environs. The region Sabrina Ghayour has dubbed “Persiana.”

Kababs (to use the Persian spelling) are indigenous to that region. They are common as street food, and just as likely to be cooked at home and in restaurants.  As we became more familiar, and acceptant, of global foods, we learned how diverse kababs could be, in terms of ingredients and flavors. More to the point: We discovered that in the homelands of kababs, notably Turkey and Persia, there were significant differences between them and the ubiquitous shish kebab. Among the techniques to keep in mind:

1. Do not mix ingredients, except as flavorings. If you want the meat accompanied by other ingredients, use separate skewers for each one. Thus, you might have one skewer with lamb chunks, another that is nothing but small onions, still a third filled with cherry tomatoes. By doing that, you control the cook time on each ingredient.  In addition, this makes a nicer presentation.

2. Eschew those thin, wire-like skewers. They do not hold the products properly, and the food is likely to spin and twist on them, producing some that is not cooked all the way through, and some that is burned, or near to it.

     Throughout Persiana, skewers are flat. This assures that the food doesn’t spin on them when being turned. Depending on the ingredient, skewer width ranges from a quarter inch up to a full inch, with the wider ones usually being used for meat.

     If you’re going to cook kababs at all often, it pays to invest in flat skewers. The longer the better.  Sure, 23” sounds like a lot of metal, particularly when the actual kabab is only five or six inches long.  But you want skewers that are long enough to bridge the sides of your grill.

     There are exceptions to this. Street vendors do use round wooden skewers. But keep in mind they are giving them away with the food, so there is a cost element.  And, when you cook as many of them as they do, you learn how to control the spin factor.

3. Traditional kababs are cooked quickly, over high heat. Rather than being put on a grate, the skewers actually bridge the grill, and sit barely over the level of the coals. Because of this, they are turned frequently until cooked through. That is, if it takes, say, six minutes altogether, the kababs might sit over the heat only a minute (or even less), before being turned, rather than being cooked three minutes per side.

     Although generally true, this is especially important when using ground meats. If you leave them over the heat for half the cooking time, turning them can become a problem, because the meat isn’t set on one side, and tends to fall apart.

 4. All that said, keep in mind that kabab does not mean cooked on a stick, although that is the most common method. Definitionally, kabab refers to food that is cooked with dry heat, and has no liquid added. So, when looking at the foods of Persiana, you will find dishes, called kababs, which are cooked in the oven, or on the range top in a vessel, as well.

5. As a general rule, due to their cooking method, kababs should be served right off the grill. While they can be kept warm, they suffer from it. And, given their quick cooking time, serving them that way should not present a problem. Just have everything else ready to go.

 Despite #4, when we hear the word “kabab” we think of skewered foods.  So that’s what we’ll look at here, confining them to some of those found in Persia.

 Recently, Gracoman had posted a recipe and photo spread on his experience with chicken koobideh kebab. If you haven’t seen it, you should take a look. The recipe, itself, is a good one. Plus it serves as a great tutorial on making kababs using ground meat. You can find it here:

http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/persian-chicken-koobideh-kebab_topic4975.html

For another take on using ground meat for kababs, here is one using lamb:

KABAB E KUBIDEH

(Ground Lamb Kababs)

 

For kabab:            

2 lb twice-ground lamb or beef or half of each

2 tsp sea salt         

2 tsp black pepper

¼ tsp saffron in 1 tbls rose water                                           

2 tbls sumac

½ tsp baking soda

2 med onions, grated

2 garlic cloves, grated                                                            

Zest of one lime

For the baste:       

½ cup salted butter or olive oil                                              

1 tsp lime juice

Alternate baste:  Heat together 1 tbls pomegranate molasses, 1 tsp thyme, ½ tsp salt, and ½ cup olive oil.

  Mix all the kabab ingredients in a bowl, kneading with hands for about 5 minutes. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours, so mixture tightens up.

 a high, hot, charcoal fire.

 meat into equal lumps, about the size of small oranges. With damp hands, shape each into a 5-inch long sausage, and mold onto a wide, flat skewer. Pinch the two ends to firmly attach meat to skewers. Arrange on a baking sheet, separated from each other. Cover and keep in the fridge. 

 the baste, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the lime juice. Keep warm.

Arrange the skewers on the fire 3 inches above the coals. After a few seconds, turn the meat gently to help it attach to the skewers and to prevent it from falling off.  Grill the meat for 3 to 5 minutes, turning frequently. Baste just before removing from the fire. Avoid overcooking!

Slide meat onto lavash or pita just before serving. Sprinkle with sumac and lime juice to taste.

As good as they are, ground-meat kababs are, proportionally, the least common of them. Most are made with chunks of meat, such as:

KABAB E TORSH

(Caspian-Style Sweet & Sour Chicken Kababs)

 

4 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut in 3-inch pieces

 marinade:       

1 large onion, quartered                                                        

1 cup walnuts

1 tbls basil leaves 

1 tbls mint leaves

1 ½ cups pomegranate juice                                                  

2 tbls lime juice

¼ cup olive oil     

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

For glaze:             

1 tbls pomegranate molasses                                                 

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper                                                                

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (op)

1 tsp golpar          

¼ cup oil, butter, or ghee

Put chicken in a non-reactive container.

Combine all marinade ingredients in a food processor and pulse to grind. Pour over the chicken, toss, and marinate for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days in the fridge.

In a saucepan, combine glaze ingredients and keep warm on very low heat until ready to use. Prepare a very hot grill.

Thread 4-5 chicken pieces onto each skewer, leaving at least 2 inches free at the top.  Place the skewers on the grill and cook 1-2 minutes per side, turning frequently. The chicken should be seared on the outside and juicy on the inside. Baste both sides immediately with the glaze.

As noted above, seafood can make incredible kababs. Just be sure and watch your cooking time; even for kababs they cook very quickly. If you can’t find bitter orange juice, you can make a reasonable facsimile by mixing regular orange juice and lime juice in a 3:1 ration. In this case, that works perfectly with ¾ cup OJ, and ¼ cup lime juice.

KABAB E MAHI BA NARENJ

(Fish Kababs with Bitter Orange)

 

thick skinless swordfish or salmon filets, in 2” cubes

For marinade:      

  2 onions, grated                                       

5 garlic cloves, minced

1/2, butter, or ghee                         

1 cup bitter orange juice* or  pomegranage juicev                           

1 tsp grape molasses                                     

1 tsp sea salt                                            

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp p golpar

Rinse fish and pat dry. Put the cubes in a non-reactive container and add all the marinade ingredients. Toss well, cover, and marinate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours in the fridge.

Preheat the grill and slide fish cubes onto skewers. Grill the fish until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Finally, we have a kabab that gets cooked in a pot, as mentioned above. But it still uses skewers, for effect and flavor.  Unfortunately, the skewers used in the actual recipe are branches cut from a fig tree. Good luck with that one! But, because they do serve as portion control, I used small bamboo skewers.

Be sure and use the lowest heat you can. And monitor it as it cooks, because too much heat can cause the onions to burn.

KABAB DIG E SHIRAZI

(Shirazi-Style Pan Cooked Lamb Kabab(

2 lbs boned leg of lamb cut in 2-inch cubes

5-6 fig branches (or wood skewers) short enough to fit your cooking pan

½ cup oil, butter, or ghee

2 medium onions in thin rings

1 tbls sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

Zest of two limes

½ tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbls rose water or hot water

4 garlic cloves, chopped

½ tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

½ tsp grape molasses or sugar

4 kifir lime leaves, crushed (or sub 1 tsp ground dried lime)

2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced

1 tsp ground cardamom

For garnish:

5 fig leaves, washed (or just use lavash or other flat bread)

Juice of one lime

1 cup plain yogurt, drained

Bunch fresh basil

Bunch of spring onions, chopped

Rinse the lamb, drain, and pat dry.  Thread each fig branch or skewer with 5 pieces of lamb and set aside.

Grease a wide, shallow pan with ¼ cup of the oil. Arrange the onions rings in a layer in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few drops of the saffron/rose water.

Put the kababs skewers side-by-side on top of the onion rings and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, the balance of the saffron water, lime zest, garlic, red pepper flakes, rape molasses, cardamom, and lime leaves. Arrange the tomato slices on top, Sprinkle with the rest of the salt and pepper, and drizzle with the rest of the oil.

Cover tightly and cook over low heat for 2 ½-3 hours, or until lamb is tender. Adjust seasoning. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Line a serving platter with fig leaves of bread and arrange skewers on top. Pour the pan juices over the kababs. Sprinkle with the chopped onion and basil, and drizzle with fresh lime juice

But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Truer words were never spoken.
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 July 2019 at 19:44
Excellent thread HF Thumbs Up 
I love the sound of most of these recipes. 
So much to cook, so little time...
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The Persian people love their eggs. The idea of using a poached or steamed egg to create a dish’s own sauce may not have originated in Persia, but the technique goes back to olden times.  Indeed, a Persian housewife doesn’t hesitate to add an egg or three to soups, stews, or other dishes. And a bowl of boiled eggs is likely found on every table.

Indeed, many Persian dishes which can otherwise stand alone are further enhanced with eggs, such as:

NARGESI YE ESFANAJ

(Spinach Narcissus)

 

1 lb fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped

4 tbls oil, butter, or ghee                                                        

2 large onions, sliced thinly

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced                                                  

½ cup mint, chopped               

½ cup parsley, chopped                                                         

1 tsp sea salt

¼ tsp black pepper                                                                 

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

4 eggs                   

¼ cup grated cheese

 Put the spinach in a steamer, over four cups water. Cover and steam over high heat for ten minutes, until spinach wilts.

 In a 10-inch skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil until hot. Brown the onions and garlic. Add the spinach and herbs. Season with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes and sauté 5 minutes over medium heat.

 Spread the spinach mixture evenly in the skillet. Reduce heat to low. With a spoon or other tool make 4 openings in the mixture. Drop ½ teaspoon oil in each opening. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper on top. Cover and cook over low heat, 6-8 minutes, or until eggs have set, but the yolks still runny.

 Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.

 Note: numerous variations of this dish abound, such as using any green leafy vegetable, or carrots and pomegranate as the base.

  Of all egg dishes, however, the most popular are the various forms of Kuku.  Kukus, at base, are beaten eggs binding other ingredients, ranging from herbs, to vegetables, to proteins. Even fish has been used as an ingredient.

 I’ve seen Kuku translated as “stuffed eggs,” and as “omelets.”  Neither does justice to the dish. Stuffed eggs, at least in America, connotes something on the order of Deviled Eggs.  And omelet doesn’t make it either; not if you think of the French rolled, or American folded style of egg. Frittata comes closest, in my mind.

 Kukus are very flexible. They can be served hot, at room temperature, or even cold. Often served in wedges, as an accompaniment or light meal, they are sometimes cut in small squares and served on toothpicks as a party dish.  Frankly, I’d be hard pressed to describe a better summer luncheon that a kuku with a salad and fresh bread.

 Because “egg” is implied in any kuku, the names refer to the primary other ingredients, as we saw with khoreshes.

 Here are just a few of the innumerable kuku variations.

 KUKU YE GOL E KALAM

(Cauliflower Frittata)

 

½ cup butter, ghee, or oil                                                       

1 med onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, sliced                                                             

4 eggs

Small head cauliflower, coarsely chopped

1 ½ tsp sea salt     

¼ tsp black pepper

½ tsp turmeric      

¼ tsp smoked paprika                                                            

¼ tsp cayenne      

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp baking powder                                                             

1 tbls flour

¼ cup parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.

 Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Brown onion, garlic, and cauliflower. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

 Break eggs into a mixing bowl. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cumin, baking powder, flour and parsley. Beat lightly with a fork. Add the onion and cauliflower mixture, gently folding in with a rubber spatula.

Heat 6 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch baking dish in the preheated oven for five minutes. Pour in the egg mixture and bake uncovered, 50-55 minutes, until lightly golden on top and a tester comes out clean.

 Remove from oven and cover with a serving platter. Allow to rest 5 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and invert onto the serving platter.

Cut the kuku into small pieces and serve hot or cold with lavash bread and yogurt.

 KUKU YE SHEVID O BAQALA

(Fava Bean Frittata)


1 lb frozen favas, shelled                                                       

½ cup oil, butter or ghee

2 med onions, sliced                                                              

4 garlic cloves, sliced

4 eggs                   

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp red pepper flakes                                                           

1 tbls flour

½ tsp baking powder                                                             

1 tbls yogurt

2 cups dill, chopped

 Preheat oven to 350F.

 In a wide skillet, heat 2 tbls oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic until golden brown. Add the beans and give them a gentle stir. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

 Break the eggs into a bowl. Add the salt pepper, turmeric, pepper flakes, flour, baking powder and yogurt. Beat lightly with a fork. Add the fava bean mixture and dill, folding gently with a rubber spatula.

Heat 6 tablespoons oil in an 8-inch ovenproof baking dish in the oven for 5 minutes. Pour in the fava bean mixture and bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes until lightly golden on top, and a tester comes out clean.

 Remove from the oven, place on a wet towel, and cover with a serving platter. Allow to rest for 10 minutes (this helps to unmold the kuku more easily). Loosen the edges with a knife and invert onto the serving platter (or serve directly from the dish).

KUKU YE MOHI

(Fish Frittata)


1 lb white fish filets                                                               

Salt

1/3 cup ghee         

1 sm onion, chopped finely

1/2 tsp turmeric    

1 tbls finely chopped cilantro

1 tbls flour            

6 eggs

Black pepper

Remove any skin from fish and dry with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt and let sit 10 minutes.

 Heat ¼ cup ghee in a frying pan and fry fish quickly on each side until cooked through. Remove to a plate and flake fish with a fork, removing any bones. Turn into a bowl.

Fry onions gently in ghee left in pan. When transparent, stir in turmeric and cook 2 minutes. Mix into fish with the cilantro and flour.

 Beat eggs well with a fork and add to fish mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Blend thoroughly.

 Heat remaining ghee in an 8-inch, non-stick cake pan, casserole dish, or Dutch oven and swirl to coat base and sides. Pour in the egg mixture and bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes, until set. Brown top lightly under broiler if needed.

 Unmold onto a serving platter and serve, hot or cold, cut in wedges.

 KUKU YE BADEMJAN

(Eggplant Frittata)


½ lbs eggplant (Asian purple pref.)                                       

½ cup oil, butter, or ghee

2 onions, thinly sliced                                                            

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 cup parsley or mint, chopped                                             

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbls fresh lime juice                                                             

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbls all-purpose flour                                                           

1 tbls plain bread crumbs

1 ½ tsp sea salt     

½ tsp black pepper

4 eggs

 For garnish:          

1 cup yogurt, drained                                                            

1 cup fresh basil

Flat bread

 Peel and thinly slice the eggplants. If using Italian type, salt and drain first. Dry well.

 Pre-heat oven to 400F.

In a wide skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over med heat. Add the onion, garlic, and eggplant. Stir fry until lightly browned.

Break the eggs into a bowl. Add parsley, turmeric, lime juice, baking powder, flour, bread crumps, salt and pepper, and beat lightly with a fork. Add the eggplant mixture and fold gently using a rubber spatula. Do not overmix!

 Pour 6 tablespoons oil in an 8-inch ovenproof baking dish and heat in the oven 5 minutes. Pour in the egg mixture and bake uncovered 20-30 minutes until lightly golden on top and a tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven and serve directly from the baking dish; or place it on a wet towel and cover with a serving platter. Allow to rest 10 minutes. Loosen edges with a knife and invert onto the platter.  Serve with flat bread, yogurt, and fresh herbs.

 

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Here are some additional Persian salads:

GARVURDAGI SALATIASI

( Tomato Salad w/Pomegranate Molasses)

This is a very popular salad in Persia and Turkey, both of which claim it as their own. Once you try it, both the popularity and the claims are understandable.

1 lb 5 oz tomatoes (cherry preferred)                                    

2 long green peppers or one bell, cut in rings or thin slices

1 large red onion, halved and cut in thin half moons

2 tsp sumac plus extra for sprinkling                                    

4 tbls pomegranate molasses

Sea salt                 

Extra virgin olive oil

3 ½ oz walnut pieces for garnish

Halve cherry tomatoes or rough chop whole tomatoes.

 Arrange the tomatoes, pepper rings, and onion on a flat serving plate. In another bowl combine the sumac, molasses, salt, and a drizzle of olive oil and give them a good mix. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the salad. Garnish with the walnuts and a little sprinkling of sumac and serve.

BORANI E BAGALA

(Yogurt and Fava Bean Salad)

Yogurt based salads---we’d more than likely call them dips---are many and varied in Persian cuisine. What varies are the various additions and flavorings.  In this case, fava beans are the main additional ingredient.

     Frankly, even in season, I prefer the frozen kind, because fresh favas are an absolute pain to prep. 

3 lbs fresh fava beans or 1 lb frozen                                      

`1/4 cup oil

1 onion, sliced     

4 garlic cloves, chopped

½ tsp sea salt        

½ tsp black pepper

2 tbls lime juice    

½ cup fresh dill, chopped

1 cup plain yogurt

 Prep favas: if fresh, shuck and remove inner skins. If frozen, remove inner skins.

 Heat the oil in a wide skillet until hot. Add the onion, garlic, fava beans, salt and pepper. Sauté for a few minutes.

Add ½ cup water, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5-10 minutes or until fava beans are tender.

Add the lime juice and dill. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a serving bowl, mix the yogurt and fava mixture and season to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving.

CACIK

(Cucumber Garlic & Dill Yogurt)

 From the eastern Med. to the Pacific Ocean, just about every country has its own version of a cucumber/yogurt salad.  We’re perhaps most familiar with the Greek tzatziki, and the Indian riata. But other versions abound.

     This is another recipe shared by Persia and Turkey, with even the name used by both countries; at least along the border areas. 

1 large cucumber, grated                                                       

2 cups Greek yogurt or regular yogurt well drained

1 plump garlic clove, minced                                                

¾ oz dill, finely chopped

Salt & pepper to taste                                                            

Olive oil for drizzling

Carefully squeeze out and discard excess water from the grated cucumber. Transfer to a Mixing bowl and mix in the yogurt.

Add the garlic and dill, mix well, and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

SALAT E ADAS

(Lentil Salad)

Lentils used as a salad are endemic to the region, ranging from cooked lentils simply dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, to lentils mixed with rice or bulger, to all sorts of other combinations.

     I particular like this one because of the complexity of flavors added by the various veggies.

1 cup brown or French lentils                                                

For Dressing:        

1 cup spring onions, chopped                                                

2 garlic cloves, grated

2 tbls rice vinegar or lime juice                                             

½ cup olive oil

1 tsp sea salt         

½ tsp black pepper

2 tsp ground cumin                                                                

 For Salad:             

2 tbls cilantro, chopped                                                         

1 large carrot, diced

2 Persian cukes or one English, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, diced                                                              

½ yellow bell pepper, diced

½ red onion, diced

 Place lentils in a medium-heavy saucepan. Pour in 4 cups water and cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 30-45 minutes until tender but not mushy.

In a salad bowl, combine all ingredients for the dressing and whisk well.

Add lentils and rest of salad ingredients to the dressing. Toss thoroughly. Serve over a bed of green leaf lettuce with toasted flat bread.

BATINJAN AL RABIB

(Smoked Eggplant Salad)

Here we have a salad that is endemic to the whole region. You’d find it, virtually unchanged, in all the lands of the old empire, in modern Persia, throughout the Arabian Peninsula, parts of India, and into North Africa.

     The names change, but the salad doesn’t. For example, while mostly known by the Arabic name, batinjan al rabib, the same salad, in Turkey, is called patlican, which often has, in the Turkish manner, chopped tomatoes added. By whatever name, however, it’s delicious.

4 large eggplant, about 1 pound each

½ red bell pepper, finely diced

½ green bell pepper, finely diced

4-5 tbls extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Juice of 1 ½ lemons or limes

Salt and pepper to taste

A small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped.

Prick the eggplants with a fork. Over hardwood coals or charcoal, blister the eggplants until charred and blackened and the flesh has softened completely but not turned mushy. Allow them to cool, slice in half and scrape out the flesh with a spoon. Drain any excess liquid, and roughly chop the flesh into small chunks.

Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and mix in the peppers.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil with the garlic, citrus juice, salt and pepper. Stir it well until the ingredients are well blended. I actually mix the ingredients in a small jar, and shake it well to blend them evenly.

Pour the dressing over the eggplant, add the parsley, and mix together.



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The chickpea salad is totally common in all the Mediterranean countries and is absolutely Delicious and amazingly nutritious too. 

In Spain, it is made the same way more or less. 

I  also like the olive salad however, I would use fresh pomegranates as we are huge producers, and also  definitely leave out the Molasses and use a ecological light honey. 

Great récipes once again. 

Have a lovely summer !!
 

Volamos a Mediterraneo, un paraiso que conquista su gente u su cocina.
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We often run into a problem, when dealing with global culinary matters, in that we try---perhaps without even realizing it---to force food descriptions into the familiar Western mode of courses and categories.

 Thus, we tend to think of a meal as an appetizer, followed by a soup or a salad, followed by a main dish (or dishes) accompanied by appropriate side dishes, followed by a sweet or dessert. 

Non-Western meals often do not follow  this progression, nor do the individual dishes fit into our familiar rubrics.  Sure, soup is soup the world around.  But what, exactly is a salad? And what place does it take in the meal? Is a salad, a dip, and a spread the same thing? And, if not, how do they differ?  Similarly, is there a difference between a braise, a ragout, and a stew? And, while we’re at it, just what differentiates a stew from a soup? Same goes for main course egg dishes.  If we say “omelet,” for instance, a certain image comes to mind.  But is a French-style tri-folded omelet the same as a frittata? Not hardly.

The point is, we often use those, and similar food concepts, to suggest what a “foreign” dish is, and where it fits in terms of service.  Certainly, unless we steep ourselves in the language and mores of the culture, that’s about the best we can do.

I bring this up because we’re about to depart from food categories as we normally think of them; either because, as above, it’s a close as we can come, or because the concept is much broader than we usually use it.   

 With that in mind, this is a good place, I feel, to talk about Persian food service, to help put the rest of this exploration into perspective.

 Although modern Iranians, particularly those living in urban areas, now dine at tables, and use the same sorts of dishes and flatware as we do, this is not the traditional way.  Historically, Persians ate on the floor, not off of tables.

 Keep in mind that the floors would be covered by those gorgeous Persian carpets. In the first place, they’d have to be protected from spills and drips. And, in the second place, carpets, as such, do not make a very good platform for supporting service dishes.

 To resolve those issues, coverings---called sofreh---would be used. First the carpet would be blanketed by a leather sofreh.  This prevented damage to the carpet, and provided the stable base needed.  In turn, the leather sofreh would be covered by a cloth one.  Originally those were always woven of cotton, but other materials are used nowadays as well.

 The cloth sofrehs were often highly decorated, not only with designs, but with poems, prayers, and quotes from the Q’uran.  Modern Iranians still use sofrehs as table coverings.

The food, itself, was served family style, with all of it laid out on the sofreh at one time. In addition to everything else, there would always be bread, bowls of melon and other fruits, and plates of raw herbs and greens.

 Diners would help themselves to whatever they liked, using their right hands only. Often a piece of bread was used to clasp the food.  But, just as often, just the bare fingers would serve. 

 Day-to-day Persian life is ruled by “taarof,” a complex system of etiquette and politeness, which shows up at meals more than anywhere else. I’m not going to detail taarof. If you’re interested, there is plenty of information available on the web. But, if you’re ever invited to a Persian home for a meal, it would behoove you to learn at least the basics of taarof.

 All of which leads us to the next food grouping: Salads.

 Persian salads---of which several would usually appear on the sofreh---are incredibly diverse in terms of ingredients and textures.  They include dishes we’d easily class as salads. But there are others that we’d think of more as dips or spreads. Sometimes salads are casserole-like dishes as well. 

Be that as it may, here is a representative selection.

RADISH, CUCUMBER & RED ONION SALAD

WITH MINT & ORANGE BLOSSOM DRESSING

 I decided to lead with this one because it’s one of those that we would instantly think of as a salad. When we made it, I substituted pistachios for the pine nuts, but either will work.

½ lb radishes, very thinly sliced                                            

1 cucumber           

2 small red onions, halved and thinly sliced in half moons

 2 ½ oz pine nuts, toasted

For the dressing:  

1 tbls runny honey

1 ½ tsp orange blossom water

Juice of one lemon                                                                

4 tbls olive oil

Sea salt                 

Black Pepper

1 ½ oz (approx.) mint leaves, coarsely chopped

Put the radishes in a large bowl. Peel, deseed, and thinly slice cucumber in half-moons. Add to bowl, along with the red onions. Give everything a good mix.

 Make the dressing. In a separate bowl, put the honey, orange blossom water, and lemon juice and stir until the honey has dissolved; then add the olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped mint. Pour the dressing over the salad, coating all the ingredients well, then add the pine nuts. Toss the salad one last time and serve immediately.

SALAD E NOKHOD

(Chickpea Salad)

This surprisingly refreshing salad would be at home just about anywhere in the Mid-East. An interesting side-light, however, is that Persians think of tomatoes as fruit, and often use them that way.

12 oz cooked chickpeas (or start with 1 cup dried)

6 tbls olive oil      

1 tbls cumin seeds

1 onion, chopped 

1 garlic clove, chopped

½-inch ginger root, grated

1 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp red pepper flakes (opt)

Juice of one lime  

1 tbls tomato paste

1 tomato, peeled & diced

2 cups basil or cilantro

Soak dry chickpeas overnight, then cook in boiling water until tender, about 1 ½ hours.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin and toast for a minute. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the pepper flakes, lime juice and tomato paste and sauté another 5 minutes.

Add the chickpeas, fresh tomato, and herbs. Stir well, transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil on top, and serve over a bed of green salad with flat bread.

MAST O MUSIR

(Yogurt and Shallot Dip)

Musir---Persian shallots---are an allium unique to Persia. Sort of a cross between leeks and shallots, they are found nowhere else.  If you can’t find them (they’re available, dried, at Mid-East markets and on-line), use regular shallots, but cut back on the quantity.

1 ½ cups musir (Persian shallots)                                          

4 cups plain yogurt, drained

1 tsp sea salt         

½ tsp black pepper

1 tbls dried mint   

1 tsp dried tarragon

Soak the musir in cold water for 3 hours or up to overnight. Drain, rinse in cold water, pat dry, and chop finely.

 Combine the musir with the yogurt, salt, pepper and mint. Chill in fridge at least 15 minutes before serving.

 SALAD E ZEYTOUN O GERDU

(Caspian Olive Salad)

 A regional salad from the Caspian Sea region, it reflects the Persian penchant for sweet & sour.  If you can’t find pistachio oil (I couldn’t), walnut or almond oil will serve just as well.” 

For dressing:        

½ tsp grape molasses                                                              

½ tsp pomegranate molasses

2 tbls lime juice    

¼ cup pomegranate juice

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes                                                        

1 tsp ground golpar

½ tsp sea salt        

1/8 tsp black pepper

2 tbls pistachio oil

2 tbls olive oil

For salad:             

1 cup walnuts or pistachios, toasted                                      

1 cup pitted green olives, chopped

1 cup pomegranate seeds                                                       

1 English cucumber, peeled & diced

4 spring onions, chopped                                                                   

2 tbls parsley, chopped                                                          

2 tbls mint, chopped

 Prepare dressing by whisking all ingredients. Set aside. Just before serving add the salad ingredients and toss well.

 SHIRAZI SALAD

Arguably the most popular Persian salad, it’s found everywhere in the country, and on the menu at just about every Persian restaurant in the world. 

1 cucumber           

6 vine ripened tomatoes, halved, cored, and diced               

1 red onion, diced  

Olive oil              

Pinch sea salt

Pinch black pepper                                                                 

Juice of one lemon

2 heaped tsp sumac (optional)                                               

7 oz pomegranate seeds (optional)

Combine the cucumber, tomatoes and red onion in a bowl. Toss well.

Add a generous drizzle of olive oil to the mixture, just enough to lubricate it. Season with the salt and black pepper, pour the lemon juice over, and give the ingredients a good mix to distribute the dressing evenly. Sprinkle with sumac and pomegranate seeds if using.

 Refrigerate at least 15 minutes. This salad is best served cold.

 

 

 

 

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As many of you know, in my kitchen a day without soup is a day without sunshine. Which is one of the reasons I was so happy to discover the diversity of Persian soups.

Here are a few more, to show the versatility of ingredients, textures, and flavors found in this important Persian food category:

SUP E PESTEH

(Persian Pistachio Soup)

Nuts are an important part of Persian cuisine. As we most cultures originating in the mountains, walnuts are a major ingredient. But pistachios, almonds, and hazelnuts run them a close second. Indeed, pistachios might play a more important role, overall.

     Notice there is no “osh” in the soup name. This was an obvious foreign influence. At a guess I’d say it came from North Africa or Egypt, originally

1 cup raw, shelled pistachios

2 tbls oil, butter, or ghee

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 leek, chopped

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

½ inch ginger root, grated

1 tbls ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp cayenne

1 tbls rice flour

1 tsp sea salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 tsp grape molasses

½ cup bitter orange juice (or ½ cup OJ mixed with 2 tbls lime juice)

8 cups chicken broth

For garnish:

1 tbls oil

1/3 cup dried barberries (dried sour cherries or cranberries can substitute)

1 tsp grape molasses

2 tbls shelled pistachios

Make the garnish:  Heat the oil in a skillet over low heat. Add the barberries and grape molasses and sauté for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the pistachios and sauté about 20 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.

Make the soup: Grind the pistachios in a food processor until very fine. Set aside.

In a heavy pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, leeks, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander and cayenne.  Sauté for 3 minutes. Add the rice flour and sauté 1 minute. Add the broth, stirring continually, until it comes to a boil.

 Reduce heat. Add pistachios, salt, pepper, and grape molasses. Stir well. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 55 minutes.

Add the bitter orange juice. Taste and adjust seasoning to taste. Transfer soup to a serving bowl, and stir in the garnish. 

Note: Almonds or hazelnuts can substitute for the pistachios.         

OSH E LAKHSHAK

(Persian Flat Noodle and Kashk Soup)

Kashk is a unique ingredient, made by boiling down whey, buttermilk, or yogurt until it reaches a very thick (like library paste) consistency. It is very sour, and, if using it, you might want to add one or two tablespoons grape molasses to cut the sourness. 

     Sour cream or yogurt can substitute.

4 tbls oil, butter, or ghee

2 large onions, sliced thinly

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper      

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbls dried mint

1 tsp dried thyme

6 cups water or stock

¼ lb flat noodles, such a pappardelle or sliced lasagna sheets.  I used broad egg noodles)

1 lb spinach, chopped (I thought this a bit much, and only used a half pound, which worked well)

1 cup kashk

1 tbls dried mint and 2 tbls chopped walnuts for garnish

Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until golden brown. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, mint and thyme, and sauté 20 seconds.

Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add the noodles and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer 5 more minutes.

Reduce heat to low and slowly stir in the kashk, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

Garnish with mint flakes and chopped walnuts.

SUP E JOW

(Persian Cream of Barley Soup)

Another likely import, barley is an important grain in most of the old empire, so figuring the original source becomes problematical at best.

     It’s likely that, traditionally, broth would be made specifically for this soup, and the chicken used in another dish, similar to abgoosht.

10 cups chicken broth

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 carrot, thinly sliced

3 leeks, finely chopped

½ cup barley

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper

For savory:

1 cup kashk, sour cream, or almond milk

2 tbls lime juice

1 tsp grape molasses

Assorted fresh herbs, such as chopped parsley, cilantro, dill, and tarragon.

Add all soup ingredients to the broth in a heavy pot ad brig to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 1 hour. Using an immersion blender, partially puree the soup.

Temper the kashk: In a small bowl, stir together a few spoonsful of soup, he kashk, lime juice, and grape molasses until warmed through. Add it to the soup. Cover and continue simmering for 30 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Just before serving, garnish with the fresh herbs, stirred into the soup. Adjust seasoning to taste.

GUSHTABEH BA KUFTEH

(Persian Tomato and Lime Broth with Lamb Meatballs)

There are a lot of Turkish influences in this soup. But the lime powder makes it Persian for sure, despite the name.

For broth:             

2 tbls oil, butter, or ghee                                                        

1 sm onion, sliced thinly

1 tsp sea salt         

½ tsp ground turmeric                                                            

2 tomatoes, peeled & chopped                                              

4 cups water

1 tsp Persian lime powder                                                     

1 lb golden potatoes, peeled

For meatballs:       

1 med onion, grated                                                               

1 lb ground lamb

1 tsp sea salt         

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp turmeric      

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oil and sauté the onions until golden brown. Add the rest of the broth ingredients, except potatoes, and bring to a boil.

Combine all the meatball ingredients and knead lightly. Shape the paste into hazelnut-sized meatballs, adding them to the pot as you make them. Add the potatoes, cover, and simmer 30-45 minutes until potatoes are tender.

 

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Ok, I’m sure that, unless you’re Persian, you’ve had your fill of rice. So, let’s move on.

Soup is an integral part of Persian cuisine.  As noted above, soup plays such an important role in  Persian cuisine that the Farsi word for cook---aashpar---translates as “soupmaker.”

To be sure, Persian cooks and housewives make soup like everybody else, using whatever happens to be available. That said, however, there are basic soups that would be recognized anywhere in the country.  One source claims there are at least 20 of these, let’s call them seminal, soups.

I have no idea if that figure is correct or not. But, frankly, I wouldn’t doubt it for a minute.  Persians love their soups almost as much as they do rice. 

Persian soup recipes are easy to recognize, as they all include some variation of the Farsi word “ash,” variously spelled ash, ashe, osh, or even esh. Other popular soups, adapted from parts of the old empire, may not. Which is one way of tracking the direction of travel.

This love of soup harkens back to ancient times, when a simple pot of braised meat—called an abgoosht---served as two “courses.”  The liquid was poured off, and this broth eaten first. Then the meat, in the form of a stew or ragout was eaten as a separate dish. Later on, we’ll explore the abgoosht evolution. But for now, just remember, the soup came first.

The following few are included merely to show the diversity of flavors and textures found in Persian soups.  

These first two are presented to show variations on the theme of “national” soups. That is, although differing in ingredient types and amounts, a Persian in one part of the country would recognize the regional version of another.

ESHKENEH

(Onion Soup)

I never met an onion soup I didn’t like. And this is no exception. Note the use of the potatoes. Although the recipe doesn’t specify, it’s designed for six servings. So, I suspect the intention is that a half potato goes into each portion. Leastways, that’s how I served it.

½ cup oil, butter, or ghee

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbls dried fenugreek leaves

1 cup dried sour cherries (or 2 tbls pomegranate molasses)

3 russet potatoes, peeled and halved lengthwise

3 eggs, lightly beaten

4 onions, thinly sliced

½ tsp black pepper

2 tbls flour

8 cups water

1 tbls grape molasses

Drained yogurt and bread for serving.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Sauté the onions until golden brown. Add the salt, pepper, turmeric, flour, and fenugreek. Sauté for one minute.  Add the water, grape molasses, cherries, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 45-50 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Slowly add the eggs, while stirring, and continue stirring for a few minutes.  Alternatively, add whole eggs, one at a time, and let them poach in the soup.

Serve garnished with drained yogurt and bread on the side.

ESHKANEH

(Onion Soup #2)

Note both the differences, and similarities, in this soup with the same name.

5 med onions

1/3 cup oil, butter, or ghee

1/3 cup flour

½ tsp turmeric

½ cup finely chopped walnuts, or 2 cups chopped spinach or 2 cups diced potatoes

5 cups water

½ cup lime juice

Scant ½ cup brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Nano Dok spicing mix (see below)

2-6 eggs

Halve onions and slice thinly. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a heavy soup pot, add about ½ cup of the onions, and fry over medium-high heat until brown and crisp. Remove and set aside for garnish.

Melt balance of the oil over medium heat. Add the remaining onions and fry, gently, until transparent. Stir in the flour, and cook until flour turns golden. Add the walnuts, spinach, or potatoes, and the turmeric, and stir 2 minutes. Add the water and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally. Cover and simmer 20 minutes

Add lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer another 15 minutes. Prepare Nano Dok and add to soup.

Beat 2 eggs lightly and pour slowly into soup, stirring gently, until eggs set in shreds. Alternatively, break eggs one and a time into soup and simmer gently until eggs are set.

Serve in bowls. If using whole eggs, add one to each bowl, then fill with soup.

Garnish with reserved crispy onions.

NANO DOK

(Spicing Mix)

1-3 tbls ghee

1 tsp turmeric

1 ½ tsp dried mint

Heat ghee in a small pan, stir in turmeric, and cook for a few seconds until turmeric colors a golden brown.

Crush mint, add to pan, stir, and remove from heat immediately. Residual heat of the pan will bring out the flavor of the mint.

Control amount of ghee based on amount used to make the soup. The greater the amount used in the soup, the less should be used in the Nano Dok.

ASH E ANAR

Pomegranate Soup

Pomegranate soup is another of those iconic dishes found in numerous variations but all recognizable as having the same roots.  This one has the added bonus of including small meatballs.

3 large onions, 2 rough diced and 1 grated

4 plump garlic cloves, crushed

Scant ½ cup yellow split peas

8 ½ cups water

1 heaping tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper     

1 tsp turmeric

Large bunch parsley, chopped.

3 sm bunches chives, roughly chopped

Sm bunch mint, roughly chopped

1 lb ground lamb, beef, or veal

Scanty ½ cup basmati rice

1 2/3 cups pomegranate juice

3 tbls pomegranate molasses

Generous ½ cup superfine sugar

Olive oil

Preheat a large soup pot over low-medium heat and drizzle in some oil. Add the diced onions and caramelize them. As they start to turn golden, add the garlic and brown gently. Put in the split peas, pour the water over them, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, partially cover the pan, and let simmer 30 minutes.

Add the salt and pepper, turmeric, and herbs, and cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Make the meatballs:  Combine the meat with the grated onion, season generously with salt and pepper. Roll the mixture into little meatballs. Add them to the soup pot, along with the uncooked basmati rice, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.

Add the pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses and sugar, stir the mixture well, half cover the pot, and simmer another 30 minutes.

If desired, garnish with caramelized onion slivers and dried mint. 

DUSH BAREH

(Azerbaijani-Style Dumpling Soup)

This is an amazing soup that demonstrates how culinary influences were a two-way road in the days of the empire.

     There’s no telling for sure, but it’s likely the use of dumplings in this manner came out of Russia, or it’s neighbors, such as Georgia, and moved into the mountain nations from there.

For the dough:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 eggs

2 tbls oil mixed with 2 tbls cold water

For the broth:

6 cups chicken broth or water

2 large tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped or one (14.5 oz) can chopped tomatoes

2 tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

¼ tsp smoked paprika

¼ tsp saffron dissolved in 2 tbls rose water

1 tsp sugar

¼ tsp dried thyme

or the filling:

1 tbls oil, butter, or ghee

½ lb ground lamb or chicken

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp turmeric

2 tsp advieh (Persian spice mix)

1 tsp dried oregano or thyme

For garnish:

½ cup chopped cilantro or chives

1 tbls lime juice or ½ tsp lime powder

1/3 cup drained yogurt

Make the dough:  Put the flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor and  pulse to combine. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs, oil, and water, and gradually add to the flour mixture. Pulse until you have a dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge at least 30 minutes

Make the broth: Combine all the ingredients in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Make the filling:  Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead, by hand, for 1 minute. Set aside.

Assemble the dumplings: Line a sheet pane with parchment paper.  Knead the dough on a cool, floured surface, until soft and pliable, and roll it out very thin. Cut the dough into 3-inch circles. Fill each circle with 2 teaspoons of the filling. Moisten the edges with water, fold each into a crescent shape, seal edges with your fingers, and crimp with a fork. Place them side by side on the sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying, and keep cool until ready to cook.

Carefully transfer dumplings to the simmering broth. Cover and cook over low heat for 1 hour, stirring once or twice to keep dumplings from sticking.

Just before serving, garnish with the cilantro and lime juice, and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with drained yogurt.

                                                                                                                                            

 

 

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They truly are spectacular.

Sure are, Margi, particularly the Jeweled Rice.  Not only is it delicious, it's drop-dead gorgeous as well. And, when you look at the ingredients, it truly reflects the Persian culinary experience.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 June 2019 at 04:37


Yes, the Jewelled Rice and Prawns with Rice, are extraordinarily amazing classics steeped in history dishes of Iran / Persian Gastronomy.

Thank you for posting these two masterpieces.  They truly are spectacular.

Have a lovely Summer Brook. Big smileBig smile


  
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If you’re getting tired or rice, you can just skip over this installment. I wanted to include just a few more examples, to highlight how diverse the Persian handling of rice can be.

MAYGU POLOW  

(Rice with Shrimp and Fresh Herbs)


As might be expected with any seafood, this is a rice dish from the Persian Gulf area.  Note that white fish filets can be substituted for the shrimp, if desired.

     Here, again, I would consider halving the recipe, to make a more reasonable amount.

3 cups basmati rice

8 garlic cloves, sliced

3 cups cilantro, chopped

1 cup dill, chopped

2 cups chopped spring onions

3 tbls dried or ½ cup fresh fenugreek

2 tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper

2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tsp turmeric

2 tbls ground cumin

1 tbls ground coriander

1 tbls golpar

1 cup fried onions

1 cup currants

1 cup oil, melted butter, or ghee

For the shrimp:

3 tbls oil, butter, or ghee

1 lb raw shrimp, butterflied, or 1 lb. white fish filets in 4-inch lengths

1 tsp lime powder or lime zest

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp coriander

½ tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp sea salt

1 tbls cilantro, chopped

Prep the rice.

In a mixing bowl, toss together the garlic, the herbs, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, turmeric, cumin, cardamom, coriander, golpar, fried onions, and currants.  Set aside.

If a tah dig is desired (and why wouldn’t it be?) whisk together ½ cup oil, ¼ cup water, a few drops of saffron water, and two or three spatulas of the rice. Spread this mixture over the bottom of the pot. Then mound alternating layers of rice and the herb and spice mixture to form a pyramid.

Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium high heat.

Mix the remaining ½ cup oil with ½ cup water and pour over the rice. Wrap the pot lid with a dishcloth and cover firmly so steam doesn’t escape.  Cook another 50 minutes over low heat.

Remove from heat and let rest five minutes on a damp surface.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wide skillet until very hot.  Dust the shrimp with the mixture of lime powder, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, salt and cilantro. Sear the shrimp for one minute on each side or until the shrimp change color, then remove from heat.

Uncover pot and gently taking one spatula of rice at a time, mound it on a serving dish using alternating layers of rice and shrimp, without disturbing the crust in the pot.  Finally detach the crust from the bottom of the pot and serve on the side.

JAVAHER POLOW

(Jeweled Rice)

Jeweled Rice is the undisputed queen of all Persian dishes.  Often served at weddings, the various ingredients represent gold, rubies, emeralds, and pearls.

     Frankly, jeweled rice is a pain to make, as there is a lot of time-consuming prep work. But, for a party, you could do a lot worse.

     Note that there is no protein with this dish. If you want to add some, chicken makes a good pairing.

3 cups basmati rice

1 cup dried barberries (dried sour cherries or dried cranberries can sub)

1 cup oil, butter, or ghee

½ cup sliced raw almonds

¼ cup sliced raw pistachios

½ cup golden raisins

1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in ¼ cup orange blossom water

1 cup plus 2 tbls sugar

2-3 large oranges, to make 1 cup slivered peel

2-3 large carrots, to make 2 cups strips

A 4-inch piece cinnamon stick

2 tsp cardamom powder

1 tbls orange blossom water

To prep orange peel: Using a vegetable peeler, remove thick layers of peel from the oranges, including some of the white pith. With a sharp knife, cut those peels into strips.  Bring a saucepan of water to boil, drop in the strips, and cook for one minute. Drain and rinse with cold water.  This removes any bitterness from the orange peel strips.

To prep carrots: Peel the carrots. Divide into 3-inch long sections. Cut into thin planks, then cut the planks into thin strips.

To roast nuts: Preheat oven to 350F. Spread nuts on a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned; 8 minutes for almonds, 5 minutes for pistachios. For dishes like this, I prefer peeled almonds. To do that, bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Add the almonds. Blanch for 1-2 minutes. Cool under running water.  With a sharp squeeze between thumb and index finger, the nutmeat will pop right out of the skin.

If using barberries, remove any stems. Put barberries in a colander, and sit it in a large bowl of cold water. Let sit for 20 minutes, remove colander from bowl, and give barberries a final rinse until cold water.

Hey! I warned you about the prep work!

Wash and drain the rice. Set aside.

Heat one tablespoon oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and pistachios and stir-fry 20 seconds. Add the raisins, give everything a stir, transfer to a bowl and set aside.  In the same skillet, put a tablespoon of oil, 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons sugar, and the barberries. Stir-fry about four minutes over medium heat.  Set aside.

Heat two tablespoons oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and orange peel. Stir-fry two minutes. Add one cup sugar, a drop of saffron-orange blossom water, the cinnamon stick and the cardamom. Stir-fry one minute. Add one cup water, bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat 7-10 minutes until lightly caramelized. Drain, reserving the syrup. Set aside.

Put 10 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt in a large, non-stick pot and bring to a boil. Sprinkle the rice into the pot, add a tablespoon of orange blossom water. Boil 6-10 minutes. Drain into a fine-mesh colander, rinse with cold water.

When making Jeweled Rice for large affairs, such as weddings, Persians usually forego the tah dig. If you want one, follow the usually directions, using oil, water, saffron-orange blossom water, and rice.  Personally, I think it’s worth the extra effort.

Using one spatula full at a time, transfer the rice to the pot, gradually shaping it into a pyramid. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Swirl ½ cup water, the remaining oil, and the syrup reserved from the carrot mixture over the rice. Wrap the lid with a dish towel and cover firmly. Cook 70 minutes longer, over low heat.

Remove pot from heat and let rest, covered, on a damp surface for 3-5 minutes. Without disturbing the bottom crust, take one spatula full at a time of the rice and place it on a serving dish in alternating layers with the carrot mixture, barberries, and the almond/pistachio/raisin mixture, gradually mounding it in the shape of a cone.

Detach the tah dig from the bottom of the pot, and use it to garnish the Jeweled Rice.

Finally, let’s look at the other great grain of Persia; bulgur.  Although rice centric for several hundred years, Persians still consume a fair amount of bulgar. Whether an homage to their past, or just because it’s tasty, bulgar plays an important role in Persian cuisine. Perhaps not as much as it does in Turkey---which has never forgotten its mountain roots, but still, an unusually heavy amount is eaten.

In many cases, bulgur is prepared like rice, as in

DAMI E BALGHUR BA MAASH

(Steamed Bulgar with Mung Beans & Dill)

Note the word “dami,” which is the same as dami style rice; that is, it is steamed with herbs and/or vegetables. In this case, beans are cooked with the grain, and a large amount of fresh herbs is used as a garnish.

     Similar recipes replace the mung beans with small dried yellow fava beans, or even split peas.

½ cup oil, butter, or ghee

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 serrano or similar chilies, seeded and chopped, or ½ tsp red pepper flakes

2 cups coarse bulgar

½ tsp black pepper

2 tsp ground cumin

4-5 cups broth or water

Juice of one lime

2 large onions, thinly sliced

1 inch gingerroot, grated

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp turmeric

1 cup mung beans

1 large tomato, peeled & diced

For garnish:  4 cups chopped dill, or parsley, cilantro, or basil

2 tbls oil, butter, or ghee

Cook the bulgar:  In a wide skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until very hot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Add the ginger, chili, bulgar, salt, pepper, turmeric and cumin, and stir-fry 2 minutes until the bulgar lightly browns. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook the beans: In a large, non-stick pot, combine the mung beans and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, or until beans are almost tender.

Note: Mung beans, like lentils, do not require overnight soaking. If you use split peas or dried favas, however, that step is necessary. Even with pre-soaking, they are likely to require longer cooking times than mung beans.

Add the bulgar mixture to the pot. Add the tomato and lime juice, stir gently, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 20-25 minutes, or until all the broth has been absorbed. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Just before serving, add the fresh herbs and oil, and fluff with a fork.

 



 

 

 

 

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Although the method of making a tah dig is contained in the above recipe, I thought it might be clearer if presented in a more basic version. Which means chelow, the building block of many Persian rice dishes.

There are several ways of making chelow.  Here’s the one I favor It makes a lot of rice, so don’t hesitate to halve the recipe.:

CHELOW

(Saffron Rice with Golden Crust

4 cups basmati rice

10 cups water

2 tbls sea salt

1 tbls ground cardamom

1 tbls rose water

¾ cups oil, butter, or ghee

1 tsp ground saffron bloomed in 4 tbls rose water (or hot water)

2 tbls plain yogurt

1 tsp cumin, nigella, or coriander seeds, lightly crushed (optional)

Wash rice in warm water, swishing it with your hands, five times if using imported basmati, or once if using American rice.

In a 5-quart pot,* bring water to boil over high heat. Add the salt, cardamom and rose water. Sprinkle the washed and drained rice into the pot. Boil briskly over high heat 6-10 minutes, stirring gently to loosen any grains that might stick to the bottom. Rice should feel soft, but not cooked through, if you bite into a grain.  Drain the rice in a strainer and rinse with cold water.

Make the tah dig: In a mixing bowl whisk together ½ cup of oil, ¼ cup water, a little of the saffron water, the yogurt, two or three spatulas of the rice, and the optional seeds.  Spread this mixture over the bottom of the pot, packing it down with your hands to make an even layer.

Using one spatula full at a time, gently place the rice on top of the tah dig layer, gradually shaping the rice into a pyramid or cone. Cover and cook rice 10 minutes over medium heat to form the crust.

Mix the remaining ¼ cup oil with ½ cup water and pour over the rice pyramid. Drizzle the rest of the saffron water over the top.  Wrap the lid with a clean dish towel and cover firmly to prevent steam from escaping.  Cook for 70 minutes more, over low heat, preferably with a heat diffuser.

Remove the pot from the heat.  Allow to cool on a damp surface for 5 minutes without uncovering it.  Unmold the rice onto a platter.

 *Almost every Persian cookbook author recommends a non-stick pot for this. It’s one of the few times I use that type of cookware, and suggest you do the same until developing a feel for tah dig making.  Afterwards you can experiment with uncoated cookware.

Unstated in most recipes is that Persian cooks actually pre-soak rice before even washing it. The rice is mixed with heavily salted, cold water, and set aside for six or more hours---even overnight.  It’s said that American rice need only be soaked three hours to achieve the same purpose.  Frankly, I haven’t made any rice that’s been pre-soaked, so can’t say if it actually makes a difference or not.

Because any rice dish dependent on a tah dig uses the same fundamental approach, I’m not going to repeat the instructions each time.  If the phrase “wash, prep, and drain the rice” appears, it means washing and par-boiling it as above.

As you read Persian rice recipes you’ll get a feeling of deja vous. Because so many of them use similar techniques they start sounding the same.  What varies is the flavors imparted by whatever protein is chosen, and the various fruits, vegetables, and seasonings used. Note that proteins are almost interchangeable. Recipe after recipe will say, “X amount of chicken, lamb, beef, or veal.” So, you pays your money and takes your choice.

You’ll also realize that rice is not usually a side dish. It is the dish, just as paella and jambalaya are rice dishes that are actually the meal. Persian rices just take this idea further.

Even when more plain Jane rice is prepared, the intent is, usually, to serve it covered with a khoresh or other stew-like dish. 

That said, here are a few more Persian rice dishes. I’ve chosen these to show the diversity of ingredients and flavorings, to showcase different techniques, or a combination of the two.

RESHTEHK POLOW

Rice with Toasted Noodles and Dates with Bread Crust

Here we have a dish that highlights the Persian love of both wheat and rice by combining them. If you can’t find toasted noodles, break Angel Hair or similar pasta into 3-inch lengths and toast it in a dry skilled until golden.

 For the meat:

3 tbls oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1 ½ lbs boned leg or lamb, or chicken thighs, cut in 1-inch cubes

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp turmeric

1 tsp advieh (Persian spice mix)

2 tbls lime juice

¼ tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbls rose water

For the rice:

2 cups basmati rice

½ lb toasted Persian noodles cut in 3” lengths

½ cup oil, butter or ghee

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 cup pitted dates, halved

1 cup raisins or currants

Zest of 3 oranges

1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 4 tbls orange-blossom water

2 tsp advieh

For tah dig and bread:

Lavash, cut to fit bottom of cooking pot.

Prepare the meat: Heat the oil in a medium pot, and brown the onions and lamb or chicken. Season with salt, pepper, Cover and simmer 1 ½ hours over low heat until meat is tender. Add the saffron-rose water, cover, and keep warm until ready to serve over the rice.

Wash, prep and drain the rice, adding noodles to the boiling water.

Heat ¼ cup oil in a wide skillet over medium heat and brown the onions. Add the dates, raisins, orange zest, some of the saffron-orange blossom water, and advieh. Stir fry 20 seconds and set aside.

To make the crust: In a mixing bowl, whisk together ¼ cup oil, ½ cup water, and a drop or saffron orange blossom water. Spread this mixture evenly in the pot. Place a layer of lavash bread on top.

Put two spatulas full of the rice and noodle mixture in the pot. Add a spatula of the raisin, orange zest, date mixture. Add a spatula of the meat mixture. Repeat this procedure, forming the layers into the shape of a pyramid.

Cover and cook 10 minutes over medium heat. Mix the remaining oil, ¼ cup water, and saffron orange blossom water, and pour over the rice and noodle pyramid. Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean dishcloth. Cook 50 minutes over low heat.

Remove from heat and allow to cool 5 minutes on a damp surface. Unmold rice onto a platter.

SHIRZAI POLOW YE QALEBI

(Oven-Baked Rice)

In this interesting variation, a mélange of meat, fruit, and veggies is sandwiched between two layers of rice; almost like a giant sandwich.  The result is spectacular, both to look at and to eat. Note the addition of both eggs and yogurt for the double tah dig.                

For the meat:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or leg of lamb cut in 3-inch cubes

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp turmeric

2 tbls lime juice

For the rice:

3 cups basmati rice

2 lbs eggplant, Asian purple preferred

1 cup oil

2 large onions, thinly sliced

1 cup dried barberries

3 tbls sugar

2 tsp toasted cumin seeds

Zest of 2 oranges

1 tsp saffron dissolved in ¼ cup orange blossom water

½ cup butter or ghee at room temperature

3 egg yolks

2 cups plain yogurt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Put the chicken, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric and lime juice in a medium saucepan. Do not add water if using chicken. For lamb, add 1 cup water. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes over low heat (1 ½ hours for lamb). Uncover, raise heat to medium, and cook until all the water has been absorbed.                          

Wash, prep, and drain the rice.

Peel and cut eggplant into 3-inch by ½-inch thick slices. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a wide skillet over medium heat and brown the eggplant slices. Remove eggplant and set aside.  In the same skillet, brown the onions.  In a separate small skillet, put 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons water, 3 tablespoons sugar, the cumin, orange zest, a tablespoon, of the saffron-orange blossom water, and the barberries. Stir fry 4 minutes over medium heat. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, yogurt, remaining saffron-orange blossom water, ¼ cup oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and the rice and fold together.

Preheat oven to 375F. Brush ½ cup butter evenly over the base and sides of the dish.

Spread half the rice mixture evenly in the dish. Arrange meat pieces on top. Spread the barberry mixture over the meat. Arrange the eggplants and onions on top. Cover with remaining rice and pack down using a spatula. Sprinkle 1 tsp cinnamon on top. Cover with a layer of oiled parchment paper and a layer of foil and press down evenly with your hands. Seal tightly and punch several holes on top so steam can escape.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 ½-2 hours or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove dish from oven and allow to cool, covered, for 15 minutes on a damp surface. Uncover, loosen the rice around the edges with the point of a knife, and place a serving platter on top of the dish. Invert the dish with a jolt. Let rest for a moment, then life the dish off the rice. Serve hot.

Note: Makes an incredible amount. Cutting recipe by at least one quarter, or even halving it, makes sense for most meals.

  

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2019 at 07:42

Brook, 

The récipe for the chicken sounds divine as well. 

You should author a book  !
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2019 at 07:40


Brook,

These spice mixes are extraordinary. 

Thank you for posting.   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 May 2019 at 07:39


The Moors also carried their fruit protein influences to Sicilia too and do not forget about mazapane and sherberts or sorbetes which the Sicilians turned into Gelato & Rices in both Spain and Italy !! 




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A member in Europe suggested I do a better job describing the geography of Persia. So, just to clarify:

Draw a horseshoe line from Greece to Libya, around the eastern shore of the Med. Then move eastward from there to the Indus Valley.  This would include all the countries we think of that used to be known as the Near East, plus some of the "Stans," including Kurdistan, Samarkand, and Afghanistan, and parts of northern India.  

Today, only Iran remains of this once great empire.

Persia's culinary influence extends much further than that region, however, because many of the later conquerors, particularly those from the Arabian Peninsula, adapted much of Persian cuisine.  I have, for instance, a recipe from Oman for Shrimp Balls in Tamarind Sauce, which I'm saving for a later installment. Given what you know so far, if I served it to you with no comment, you wouldn't be able to distinguish it from a Persian dish.

By the same token, the Moors carried Persian influences with them, such as introducing the idea of fruit cooked with proteins into Spain.  


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It would be easy to conclude that Persia remains a wheat-centric nation.  After all, Persians consume three times the amount of bread, per capita, as any European country.  Bulgur, too, remains popular.

But the simple fact is, rice remains the staff of life.  Persians eat rice as often as three times a day, in copious amounts. As noted above, some recipes, designed to feed four people, call for as much a 2 ½ pounds of raw rice. More typically, recipes use one cup of raw rice per person being served. 

Rice was introduced to Persia from either China or India, ca. 500 BC. So, there has been plenty of time to develop recipes, cooking techniques, and presentations that turn rice from a plebian grain into an art form. It’s been said there are 100 ways that Persians cook rice.  But that was yesterday! By today, there may have been two or three new rice dishes developed by Persian cooks.

To give you an idea of the diversity, here are just a few of the rice dishes: rice with lentils, with toasted noodles & dates with bread crust, with dried yellow fava beans, with apricots, with  eggplant & pomegranate, with shrimp & fresh herbs. There is sweet rice with candied orange peel, Barberry rice, rice veiled in pastry, and jeweled rice---the undisputed queen of rice dishes.  The list goes on and on.

Almost all of these contain animal proteins---lamb, chicken, beef or even fish. Names of the dishes reflect other main ingredients because the protein is often used more as a flavoring agent than a major ingredient. 

There are four basic ways of preparing Persian rice, identified both how they are cooked, and other ingredients that may go into them. They are:

Kateh. The least complicated method of cooking rice. The grain, water, and salt are cooked until the water is absorbed. Then butter, oil, or ghee is added, the pot is covered, and the rice allowed to cook.

Dami. Dami is actually a variety of kateh. Herbs or vegetables are cooked with the rice. The heat is lowered as soon as the water comes to a boil, the pot covered, and the rice allowed to cook for about ¾ of an hour. Oil, butter, or ghee is poured over the top of the rice, which is recovered and cooked for another 20 minutes. Bulgur is sometimes cooked the same way.

Chelow. Chelow has the same ingredients as dami. But much more attention is paid to the  cooking process, which includes pre-soaking, parboiling, and steaming. This yields a fluffy rice, with each grain separate. The bottom of the pot forms a crust, called a tah dig.  At its worst, a tah dig is similar the succarete found at the bottom of a paella pan. At its best, it is crisp, golden brown, and crunchy. Persian cooks are judged on the quality of their tah dig.  More often than not, chelow is eaten either with a khoresh (braise) poured over or around it; or with kababs. Chelow kabab is the national dish of Persia, and is eaten everywhere. For one version, see: (http://www.foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/persian-chicken-koobideh-kebab_topic4975.html).

Polow. Polow starts off being cooked the same way as chelow. However, any meat, fruit, herbs and vegetables being used are first sautéed or stir-fried together, then arranged in alternating layers with the rice. The whole thing is them steamed.

What marks Persian rice dishes as special are two things: First, the rice is steamed, rather than boiled as in most cultures. This, along with other manipulative techniques results in a light, fluffy rice, with separate grains.

Second is the tah dig.  Although is it sometimes formed just by letting the rice cook, as happens with paella, Persian cooks set out to produce it. Some of the par-boiled rice is mixed with yogurt, eggs, oil, and other ingredients, and spread, in an even layer, on the bottom of the pot. The balance of the rice is that mounded, in the shape of a pyramid, the pot is covered, and the rice steams gently, for as much as 70 minutes, until cooked through and the tah dig crisped.

Iranian rice is not available in the United States. But basmati comes close.  If you use basmati imported from India or Afghanistan, follow the washing instructions given in the recipe. American basmati, at least in theory, needs no washing. But it doesn’t hurt to give it a rinse, to remove some of the excess starch. 

As we look at Persian rice recipes, we can easily see how they influenced both countries that were part of the empire and nearby neighbors.  The difference is the attention paid, by Persians, as opposed to a more casual approach by neighboring countries. 

For instance, I have, for a great many years, made a Lebanese version of lentils and rice. This one includes crispy onions as a topping, but is relatively simple:

MOUJADARA

(Lebanese Style Lentils & Rice with Crispy Onions)

1 generous cup brown or green lentils

¼ cup olive oil     

½ sm onion, finely chopped

½ cup basmati rice                                                                 

Salt & Pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

For onions:           

Vegetable oil        

4 tbls sliced onion

Place the lentils in a deep saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil for 20 minutes, drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a lidded saucepan, add the chopped onion and fry until browned. Add the rice, cooked lentils, salt, pepper and cumin and just enough water to cover. Cover pot, bring to boil, reduce heat and stir occasionally until the ice is cooked, 15 minutes. Place in a serving dish.

For the crispy onions, pour vegetable oil into a deep skillet to the depth of about 2 inches. Heat well and deep fry the sliced onion until brown and crispy. Remove from the skillet and arrange on top of the lentil and rice mixture. 

Serve hot.  

Now compare this to the Persian version. Although you can see the antecedents, it’s a much more complex dish, with multiple layers of flavor, even if you skip the chicken part.

ADAS POLOW

(Persian Rice with Lentils)

For the chicken:

2 tbls oil, butter, or ghee

2 onions, thinly sliced

5 garlic cloves, crushed

3 Cornish Game Hens, about 5 lbs. total, butterflied

1 ½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp advieh (Persian spice mix)*

¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbls rose water

For the rice:

3 cups basmati or other long-grain rice

2 cups lentils

1 ½ tsp sea salt

1 cup oil, butter, or ghee

2 onions, thinly sliced

2 cups raisins

2 cups pitted dates

Zest of 3 oranges

½ tsp black pepper

2 tsp advieh*

1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in ¼ cup orange blossom water

2 tbls plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 450F. Oil a baking dish big enough to hold the game hens in one layer. Spread the onions and garlic in the baking dish, and place the chicken on top. Season with salt, pepper, turmeric, advieh, and lime juice. Cover with parchment paper and bake for 1 ½ hours.  Add the saffron/rose water, cover, and keep warm until ready to serve over the rice or beside it.

Clean and wash the rice five times in warm water.

In a medium saucepan, place the lentils, 6 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside.

In a wide skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil and brown the onions. Add raisins, dates, orange zest, ½ tsp salt, pepper, advieh, and a few drops of the saffron-orange blossom water.  Stir fry for 20 seconds and set aside.

Bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large, non-stick pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot. Boil briskly for 6-10 minutes, gently stirring twice to loosen any grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Drain rice in a large, fine-mesh colander and rise with 2 or 3 cups water.

To make the tah dig: In a mixing bowl, whisk together ½ cup oil, ¼ cup water, some of the saffron-orange blossom water, the yogurt, and 2-3 spatulas or rice, and spread the mixture over the bottom of the pot.

Place 2 spatulas full of rice in the pot. Add a spatula full of lentils and a spatula of the onions, raisins, and dates mixture. Repeat this layering, mounding in the shape of a pyramid.

Cover and cook the rice for 10 minutes over medium heat. Pour the remaining oil, half cup water, and saffron-orange blossom water over the pyramid.  Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean dish towel and cover the pot firmly to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 70 minutes longer, over low heat, preferable with a heat diffuser.

Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes on a damp surface without uncovering. This will help free the crust from the bottom of the pot.

Uncover the pot, take out 2 tablespoons of the saffron-flavored rice, and set aside for garnishing.

Gently take 1 spatula full of rice at a time and place in a serving dish without disturbing the crust. Mound the rice in the shape of a cone. Arrange meat around rice. Decorate with saffron-flavored rice.

Detach the crust from bottom of pot. Unmold onto a small platter and serve on the side with Persian pickles and fresh herbs.

Hey! Nobody said it would be easy. But the results are well worth the effort.

We’ll continue our discussion of Persian rice next 

Whoops! Just realized I had neglected to post the recipe for advieh. 

Advieh is the basic spice mix for Persian food, although most cooks do modify it depending on need. It's available commercially, but is simply to mix your own from readily available ingredients:

ADVIEH

(Persian Spice Mix)

2 tbls ground rose petals

2 tbls ground cinnamon

2 tbls ground cardamom

2 tbls ground cumin

Mix well and store in an airtight container.

Najmieh Batmanglij developed a more complex version---also available on-line from The Persian Basket. If you want to try making your own, however, you'll have to order some of the more exotic ingredients:

NOH ADVIEH

(Persian Nine Spice Mix)

2 tbls ground rose petals

2 tbls ground cinnamon

1 tbls ground golpar

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tbls ground cartdamom

1 tbls ground cumin

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbls ground coriander seed

1 tsp limu-omani (Persian dried lime powder)



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But we hae meat and we can eat
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 May 2019 at 10:38
A great start Brook! Can't wait to read more.
Mike
Life in PitRow - My often neglected, somewhat eccentric, occasionally outstanding blog
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