Shab-e Yalda (Winter Solstice) 2016 and a Recipe for Apple and Pear Faloodeh


Yalda, the ancient Persian festival of winter solstice is celebrated on the eve of the longest night of the year which also marks the beginning of the winter season in the northern hemisphere. Shab-e yalda (yalda night) festival dates back several thousands of years ago to the birth of Mithra, the light of the world and the god of justice and victory. It's a wonderful night when family and friends gather together to celebrate, laugh, eat, drink, and read the poetry of Hafez and tell stories late into the night. For me, besides the memorable yalda nights of my childhood which involved delicious food, ruby red seeded pomegranates, small round watermelons, ajil, sweets and tea, it's remembering how adamant my mother was to instill the appreciation for shab-e yalda and all other Iranian celebrations in me.



I came across this faloodeh recipe a few years ago. I was so intrigued by its simplicity and availability of the ingredients that I made it right away, took a photo, and posted it on my Facebook page. Ever since then I have had this recipe on my mind and I wanted to post this fresh fruit based faloodeh/paloodeh on my blog. I like the combination of fresh apple and pear flavors in this Iranian-style faloodeh/paloodeh. The term faloodeh also refers to the Iranian frozen rice noodle dessert that is served with sour cherry syrup.


There are many different types of apples and pears. They vary in color, texture, and taste and since everyone has their own favorites, you may choose whichever type of apple or pear that you prefer for this recipe. This recipe was adapted from the British Museum website a long time ago and the direct link seems to be broken. Here's the link to the Apple and Pear Sherbet post on my Facebook page 5 years ago.


Ingredients:
Serves 4

2 large apples
2 large pears
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon superfine sugar (add more sugar if you prefer it sweeter)
1/2 teaspoon rosewater

Method:

  1. Thoroughly rinse the fruits in cold water, pat dry with a paper towel or cloth and grate them using a handheld grater. If you prefer, you may remove the skin but it's not necessary.
  2. Place the grated apples, pears, lime juice, rosewater and sugar into a bowl. Stir and mix it well.
Scoop the faloodeh into serving bowls/glasses and make sure you serve it right away since apples and pears turn brown quickly. You can spoon it over ice cream, yogurt, or simple cakes or just eat it plain.

*You can turn the apple and pear faloodeh into a drink by simply adding a cup of cold water and 1-2 cups of ice.

Maman and Baba sitting around a korsi on shab-e yalda, circa 1970

Happy Shab-e Yalda!


Kookoo Khorfeh - Purslane Kookoo


Every year from mid spring to late summer I eagerly await the appearance of dark-green خرفه (purslane) sprouts in my backyard, vegetable garden, flower borders and in between the cement cracks. The often under-appreciated and ignored purslane has always been a favorite of mine. You can throw a handful of fresh purslane in almost any dish and make it taste better with its slightly tart and peppery flavor. Purslane has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids as well as fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B, and many more nutritional values.



Purslane (portulaca oleracea) has been labeled as a garden weed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and I gave up looking for it in stores long ago. In Iran, and in many other countries, khorfeh (purslane) happens to be a popular summer green. I'm always looking for different ways to prepare purslane. However, with the little purslane that I end up gathering I can't get too creative! I usually add them to salad shirazi, mast o khiar, sabzi khordan and fruit salads. Tokhm-e khorfeh, purslane's black seeds, are used in Iranian baking and sprinkled on naan berenji and shirini keshmeshi.



On a recent trip to the grocery store I was surprised to find rows of purslane nicely stacked on the shelf. They were imported from Mexico! I bought a few bunches and then decided to make کوکوخرفه kookoo khorfeh - purslane kookoo with parsley, chives and caramelized onion.


Now that summer is almost behind us there are only a few purslane plants out there in the garden and I wanted to write this recipe before the season is officially over. I find it much easier to bake kookoo sabzi in the oven than on the stove-top and it doesn't require turning over the wedges/slices. For this recipe, however, I decided to cook it the traditional way on the stovetop like how my mother used to make almost all her foods. I feel that kookoo cooked on the stove comes out tastier! I understand that many of you like to add a little baking powder to kookoo dishes so feel free to add a teaspoon of baking powder to the mixture if you prefer.


Kookoo Khorfeh - Purslane Kookoo
Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

2 bunches purslane (2 cups chopped) Use the leaves and the thin part of the stems. Discard the thicker ends
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley (1 cup chopped)
1 bunch fresh tareh (chives) or scallions (green parts only) (1 cup chopped)
6 large eggs, beaten
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely diced walnuts *optional
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
A pinch of red pepper *optional
Vegetable oil/olive oil

Method:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and saute the onion slices until translucent, add the turmeric powder, stir. Lower the heat and continue cooking the onions, stirring occasionally until brown. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine the chopped purslane, parsley, chives, caramelized onion, walnuts,  eggs, red pepper and season with salt and black pepper.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, pour in the egg mixture and spread evenly. Cover and cook for 30 minutes on low. Cut the kookoo in 8 equal wedges. Carefully turn over the slices half way through cooking using a fork and a spatula. You can also slice the kookoo after it is fully cooked. 
Serve warm or at room temperature with mast o khiar, salad shirazi, torshi and warm bread.

Enjoy!

Khoresh Chaghaleh Badoom - Green Almond Stew


Iranian cuisine is known for its slow-simmered, flavorful and savory stews that are served with a platter of long grain aromatic saffron rice. One of the most famous stews from Iran is the herb-filled ghormeh sabzi. Another favorite is the sweet and sour walnut and pomegranate khoresh fesenjoon. However, this  خورش چغاله بادام - chaghaleh badoom khoresh is one of the lesser known khoresh recipes. It is unique and should also be cherished at friends and family gatherings like all other brilliant Persian khoresh recipes.


Green almond is an unripe almond with a green fuzzy outer skin picked in early spring before the inner nut fully ripens and the outer shell becomes hard. Chaghaleh badoom is one of the favorite snacks in Iran which is traditionally eaten whole and dipped in a bit of salt. By early spring you will have to be on the lookout for them otherwise they will come and go in the blink of an eye since they have such a short season. I remember my mother reminiscing about picking soft-shelled almonds right off the tree branches on the skirts of  kuh-e Alvand in Hamadan where she grew up.



It is really hard to find spring almonds where I live and I have yet to see them in any regular supermarkets or vegetable stores. I was so excited when I spotted green almonds at my local Persian grocery store. I could almost taste them just by looking at them. In addition to going through a bowl of tart and crunchy chaghale badoom you can slice them into salads or make an Iranian-style tangy herb and green almond stew with a bit of a crunch!


Khoresh Chaghaleh Badoom
Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

1 pound stew meat (lamb or beef), cubed
1 pound green almonds, soaked in cool water for 6-8 hours or overnight, drain, use a paper towel to remove the fuzz (you may also slice the green almonds if you like)
3 cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1-2 tablespoons dried mint (for added aroma and flavor)
1 large onion finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed (you may use verjuice instead)
Vegetable oil

Method:

  1. In a large pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat and saute the chopped onions until soft and golden. Add the turmeric powder, stir well.
  2. Add the meat to the pan, stirring occasionally, cook until brown on all sides. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add 3 cups of water or enough to cover the beef. Bring back to boil, cover, reduce heat, simmer gently for 45 minutes.
  4. Add the green almonds, parsley, fresh mint, dried mint. Add a little water if needed. Cover and cook for another 45 minutes over low heat. Add in the lime juice and continue cooking on low heat for another 10-15 minutes.    
Serve the khoresh warm with polow, mast o khiar and salad shirazi.



Enjoy!