easy persian rice • k a t e h • کته

recipes, Uncategorized

there are a couple methods for making persian-style rice, and the easier/simpler method is called kateh. the resulting rice is typically more sticky than that of other cooking methods, and the tahdig (highly-coveted, thick rice crust at the bottom of the pot) doesn’t always come out as thick and crunchy. regardless, it still has the amazing aroma that comes with basmati rice, and it’s a simple addition to any persian dish!

when i was younger, i’d always ask my mom to let me make the kateh when she would make it for dinner or sunday afternoon meal. with her guidance and attention to timing, it always, always turned out great–tahdig included. i used to think i was the master of making kateh, but now that i have to make it on my own, i realize that this was not the case! after a couple nearly-failed attempts (read: too mushy, too salty, no tahdig, etc.), i’ve finally mastered the texture and taste associated with a good kateh, and the only left for me to do is get a good non-stick pot so my tahdig will actually come out (this is key!!)

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having had to explain to my roommate recently why we wrap the pot lid with a towel (it’s to collect the steam towards the end of the cooking), and what tahdig is (the best part of persian food, hands down), i figured it’s a good idea to do a little post on this!

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recipe (serves 3):

ingredients:

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable/canola oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon saffron dissolved in 1-2 tablespoon of hot water (optional)

instructions:

  1. add rice to a non-stick pot and rinse 3-4 times, or until water runs clear
  2. add measured water to pot (alternatively, add enough water to cover rice by ½ inch), and salt, to taste–test the water, it should taste salty, but not too salty! allow rice to soak for at least 45 minutes before turning on heat
  3. turn stove on medium/high heat, and let rice absorb water (without lid)
  4. when the rice has absorbed most of the water (NOT ALL!) add the oil and gently stir the pot, allowing oil to seep to the bottom
  5. cover the pot lid tightly with a clean, thick cloth or dish towel, and place on pot
  6. allow rice to cook for 40-50 minutes on low-medium heat
  7. (optional) when rice has cooked, take a couple spoonfuls and place in a bowl, pour saffron mixture over rice and fluff with a fork until the rice has turned a bright yellow/orange color. this is used for garnishing the rice
  8. either place a dish over the pot and flip for a cake-looking rice, or spoon out the rice gently and remove the tahdig (if present) separately. spoon saffron rice over, serve with kabobs or stews and enjoy!

xx.

kabob d i g i • کباب دیگی

recipes, Uncategorized

while persian cuisine is so diverse, and full of many, many amazing dishes, chelo kabob remains the favorite of many. with so many different kinds of kabob–koobideh (ground beef), barg (filet or tenderloin), and joojeh (chicken) to name a couple–it’s hard to choose a favorite! however, when you don’t have access to a grill, like me, your choice of kabob becomes simple: kabob digi (pan kabob).

while i don’t discriminate when it comes to kabob, kabob digi has always been a favorite of mine. because cooking persian food can be so time consuming, we didn’t always eat it for weekday dinners when i was growing up. so, whenever my mom would come home from work and say we were having kabob digi, it felt like a treat!

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now that i live in my own apartment, sans grill, i look to kabob digi as a good recipe for the weekend when i’m craving some chelo kabob. it’s pretty easy to make, and only takes about 30 minutes! the good thing is, if you’re cooking for one person, there is allllllways leftovers!

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recipe (serves 4):

ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef (you can use lamb, or a combo if you want!)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • ½ tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large tomato (i use beefsteak tomatoes)
  • 2-4 tablespoons vegetable/canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

instructions:

  1. grate or process onion, and drain any liquid. you can use a cheesecloth, squeezing out all the extra liquid from the onion. place onion in a mixing bowl
  2. add ground meat to the bowl with the onion
  3. add salt, pepper, and turmeric
  4. mix onion, meat, and spices by hand until completely combined. consistency should almost be like a paste
  5. roll into balls and flatten to make an oval shape. the size is completely up to you–i usually make smaller ones–but the patties should not be too thick!
  6. cut the tomato into thick slices, then cut each slice in half
  7. place tomato slices over olive oil in a pan and sauté carefully over a medium heat. these do not need to cook long (5-7 minutes), and remove from heat well before the tomatoes become mushy
  8. heat vegetable/canola oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat
  9. add the patties to the oil and allow the first side to be seared
  10. flip the patties and continue to cook on medium heat for another 10 minutes, or until they are cooked through
  11. turn off heat, and allow kabobs to sit for a couple minutes before plating
  12. serve tomatoes and kabobs with basmati rice, and enjoy!

 

xx.

grilled trout of shomal • g h e z e l a l a

travel, Uncategorized

as part of my travels with family to iran last summer, we spent a good portion of our time in the northern, mountainous region of the country, situated by the caspian sea. typically referred to as shomal, this region of the country boasts beautiful views of both mountains and the sea, and is known for its amazing foods.

a lot of my favorite dishes from this region include mirza ghasemi (made with smoked or grilled eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, turmeric and egg), baghali ghatogh (made with broad beans, dill, egg, turmeric, and garlic), and mahi kababi (grilled fish, typically rainbow trout).

we spent a lot of our days in shomal taking quick trips visiting towns along the caspian sea coast, or the mountainous towns that are situated 1500m above sea level. each town had its own charm and my grandfather had his go-to restaurant along each route. one restaurant we visited was particularly interesting. a father-son operation in a rural distric of shomal known as do hezar, the restaurant (whose name i never learned) sits at the top of the mountain (roughly 1500 – 2000m above sea level) alongside the winding main road. let’s put it this way, you will never, ever get tired of the view you have from your table.

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not only is this place in a beautiful area, but it’s a quiet restaurant (we were the only people there at that hour of the afternoon) that is known for it’s grilled rainbow trout (ghezel ala). i’ve never been a huge fish fanatic, so the fact that i nearly inhaled an entire one of these grilled trouts on my own just goes to show how amazing it tasted.

The owner, an acquaintance of my grandfather, does all the grilling of the fish himself, dubbing the dish his “specialty.” the trick to the amazing taste is the two-part grilling process: the first step is to put the entire fish (on a skewer, skin intact) over high flames until the fat under the skin melts and the skin comes off. the next step is to remove the rest of the skin, put salt, pepper, and olive oil on the fish, and return to the grill. the result is the most flaky, well-seasoned trout you will ever have. seriously. after the grilling, the grilling master debones the fish for you, right at the table (see video).

the trout is served with kateh (a traditional style of cooking basmati rice in shomal), mirza ghassemi, and rob-e aloocheh which is a chutney made of {very} sour plums that goes on the fish–and it’s so amazing, i wish i could have brought some back with me!

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i could really use a spread like this right now!

xx.

 

kookoo s a b z i • کوکو سبزی

recipes

one of my favorite parts of norooz is the outdoor celebration on the last day, seezdah bedar. not only do you get to enjoy the beautiful spring weather with friends and family, but the smell of kabobs cooking over charcoal, lima/fava bean rice (baghali polo), and kookoo sabzi are so intoxicating that they become the stars of the festivities.

like an herb frittata or soufflé, kookoo sabzi is a typical dish at this time of year. aside from the cleaning and chopping of all the herbs required for the dish, it is a simple (and fully vegetarian) recipe to follow. cut into squares and eat alone, or spread some strained yogurt on a piece of lavaash bread and top it with a piece of kookoo, radishes, and enjoy!

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a couple of tips i learned from my mom while i was making the kookoo sabzi for seezdah bedar today, the key to a good kookoo is “hot oil, and enough oil!” making the kookoo in a pan requires patience; the first side has to cook for at least 20-30 minutes on low heat (you will turn the heat down after you pour the kookoo mixture into the hot oil), and then you let it sit and cool before flipping the whole thing over to cook the other side for another 10 minutes. {recipe below}

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my mother’s kookoo sabzi recipe:

ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cups chopped persian leeks (tareh, or scallions–just the green part!)
  • 1 cup chopped dill
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup barberries, rinsed
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of cold water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • enough vegetable oil to coat a frying pan up to ½ cm thick

instructions:

  1. add chopped herbs (best to use a food processor!) to a large mixing bowl
  2. add barberries, walnuts, baking powder mixture, turmeric, salt, pepper, and flour to herbs, fold together
  3. beats eggs in a separate bowl, then pour into herb mixture
  4. heat vegetable oil in a frying pan with tall sides–make sure your pan isn’t too large or too small, the mixture should fill about 1-1.5 inches
  5. test hotness of oil by dropping a dot of the mixture–you’re looking for it to immediately puff-up and sizzle
  6. mix the herb mixture really well one last time, in the bowl, to make sure the eggs are completely combined, then pour–carefully–into the hot oil
  7. shake the pan slightly to even out the mixture, put a lid on the pan, and turn down the heat to low/medium
  8. after about 25 minutes, or when the liquid on the top of the kookoo has dissipated, turn off the heat and remove the pan
  9. after 10 minutes, carefully flip the kookoo over–best to flip it into a plate, or another pan, and return to the original pan
  10. turn the heat back on medium/high and cook second side for 10 minutes, or until browned. NOTE: if you think that there’s no oil in the pan, heat up a couple tablespoons of oil separately, and pour the hot oil along the sides of the pan
  11. turn off the heat, and remove pan from stove–allow the kookoo to cool completely
  12. transfer the kookoo from the pan to a cuttling board lined with paper towels to absorb extra oil, allow to cool further
  13. cut into squares, or slices, serve, and enjoy!

 

xx.

s h i r i n i • keshmeshi • شیرینی کشمشی

Uncategorized

one of my favorite persian sweets, especially around norooz, is shirini keshmeshi. just picture: rosewater, saffron, and raisins floating in a light, crisp cookie. pass the tea, please!

not only do these taste amazing, but they are so easy to make–and one batch makes roughly 80 – 90 cookies!

keshmeshi

recipe (adapted from here, i add saffron to my recipe!):

ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon rosewater (golab)
  • ⅓ teaspoon saffron (persian saffron, if possible) dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1¾ cup sugar
  • 2⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups raisins

instructions:

  1. Mix melted butter, rosewater, vanilla, saffron, and sugar in a large mixing bowl until combined.
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined.
  3. Fold in raisins.
  4. Fold in the flour in sections–make sure each section is well combined before you add the next.
  5. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap, and chill the dough in the fridge for at least 20-30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
  7. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper–important to use parchment paper, foil will cause the cookies to burn on the bottom FAST!
  8. Using a two teaspoons, drop teaspoon sized amounts of dough onto the sheet–leave an inch in between each cookie as they tend to spread!
  9. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookie have a golden color to them.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from baking sheet.
  11. Serve with hot tea, and enjoy! Store leftovers (if any!) in an air-tight container at room temperature.

spring into • n o r o o z

norooz, Uncategorized

the first day of spring is a joyous day all around the world–a sign that the harsh, cold winter season is over. the days leading up to the start of spring are generally filled with the exciting blooming of flowers and beautiful weather. for iranians (and all others who celebrate), the first day of spring is also the first day of a new year.

norooz (ئوروز, literally meaning new day) is the persian new year celebration, typically falling on the 20th or 21st of March, and lasting 13 days. this has always been my favorite holiday (sorry christmas!), and though i’ve never been able to actually celebrate it in iran, having my (very large) persian family around to celebrate the new year with every year makes it very special.

 

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part of the tradition of norooz is to set up the haftsin–a display of various items, each representing things you hope for in the new year. there are seven must-have items, all beginning with the farsi letter “sin” or “s”: seeb (apples), symbolizing beauty; sabzeh (wheat sprouts), symbolizing rebirth; serkeh (vinegar), symbolizing old age and patience; samanu (wheat germ pudding), symbolizing wealth; senjed (dried oleaster), symbolizing love;  seer (garlic), symbolizing health; and somagh (sumac), symbolizing the sunrise.

additionally, items like mirrors, candles, dyed eggs, flowers (hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, etc.), book of hafez poetry, goldfish, and many other items are placed on the haftsin, making it one of the coolest things i’ve ever seen.

since today is the 13th day of the new year 1395, what we call seezdah bedar, i figured it was appropriate to introduce norooz to those who are unfamiliar with it, and to those who know and celebrate this wonderful time of the year: saleh no mobarak!

stay tuned for recipes of all the sweets i baked for norooz this year!

xx.