mirza g h a s e m i • میرزا قاسمی

recipes, Uncategorized

okay first, hi again! it’s been a while since i’ve updated albaloo with recipes, but i have a ton of recipes to make up for that!

this post is about one of my favorite dishes from northern iran. essentially a dip, mirza ghasemi is this incredibly aromatic and savory combination of eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, and egg. an amazing vegetarian dish, mirza ghasemi can be served with rice, persian breads (lavaash, barbari, sangak–you name it!), or as i accidentally experimented with, pizza crusts! honestly, it tastes so good that eating it by itself is so satisfying too.

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the hardest part about making this dish is probably preparing the eggplant, which is typically roasted or grilled. i sometimes take the easy way out and use a jar of the Sera brand roasted eggplant, which equates to about 3 large eggplants! other than that, it’s all about patience and a lot of stirring–the consistency of mirza ghasemi is pretty thick and it’s because all the moisture from the tomatoes and eggplants evaporates as it slowly cooks.

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note: if you choose to use pre-roasted eggplants like the Sera jars, you can start following this recipe at step 3!

recipe (serves 6)

ingredients:

  • 4 large eggplants
  • 6 large tomatoes, peeled and diced (you can substitute canned tomatoes or tomato paste if you’re pressed on time!)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • ⅛ tsp saffron, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
  • 2-3 tbsp vegetable/canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • salt, to taste

instructions:

  1. poke each side of the eggplants with a fork and grill until the skin is completely charred, and the eggplant is cooked (soft)
  2. once the eggplants have cooled, scoop flesh away from peel and chop the eggplants into rough pieces
  3. heat oil in a large pan and add chopped eggplant; cook over medium, stirring frequently, until the eggplant becomes creamy in texture and much of the moisture has evaporated
  4. add turmeric to the eggplant, stirring for about a minute, then remove the pan from the heat
  5. in a separate large pan, cook the peeled/diced tomatoes until the moisture has evaporated
  6. add minced garlic and sauté, careful not to burn the garlic
  7. add the eggplant to the tomatoes and garlic, stirring frequently until combined
  8. add the dissolved saffron, then cook the mixture for another 5 to 10 minutes until thick (similar to mashed potatoes)
  9. in another pan, scramble two eggs, making sure to break up the pieces well
  10. add eggs to eggplant/tomato mixture, combine, and enjoy!

xx.

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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.

view

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.

 

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.

 

f i r s t • post

Uncategorized

i’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking, but i’ve never had the guts to try this with persian cuisine–i was pretty sure my cooking would never live up to that of my mom or grandmother. i was pleasantly surprised, however, when the first few persian dishes i attempted tasted reaaaally good.

then i realized i need to keep track of these recipes, copy down my grandmother’s old ones (all written in farsi on slowly deteriorating paper), and make notes of all the tricks my mom uses in her cooking to make everything taste beyond amazing. at the same time, each dish in iranian cuisine plays a role in the culture as a whole, giving way to some amazing stories that should be shared.

so here we are. i’m hoping this blog serves a few purposes: motivate me to continue trying to cook the amazing dishes of my culture, help me preserve old recipes, and to inspire anyone interested in learning more about persian food and culture!

feel free to leave comments, ask questions, etc.

xx.