Ranginak - Persian Date Dessert (Recipe #2)


We are in the midst of خرما پزان - khorma pazan season, a term used by locals in the south of Iran when the temperature reaches its peak of 100+ degrees Fahrenheit combined with an elevated humidity above 60 percent, thus making outdoor activities unbearable. However, it's due to this intense heat that dates become fully ripened/"cooked" while on the tree and ready for harvest. This recipe is an ode to the traditional Khuzestani-style ranginak, a delicious date and walnut dessert. This is an easy recipe that requires just a little bit of patience to stuff the plump pitted dates with lightly toasted walnuts, arrange them onto a platter and slather them with a warm mixture of melted butter and flour infused with cardamom and cinnamon. The sweet taste of ranginak brings back memories of home.

Dates have been a part of the Persian cuisine for hundreds of years. The palm dates grow southward along the Persian Gulf and the warm regions of Ilam, Bushehr, Fars, Khuzestan, Sistan & Baluchestan and Kerman. To most people, pomegranates may be considered the national fruit of Iran but in my opinion dates are the national fruit of Khuzestan! Many years have gone by since I lived there but it's the many images and memories that still run through my mind. I remember Khoramshar's vast fields of date palms, the stacks of tin buckets filled with dates in small shops, barely-ripe or half-ripe bunches of dates spread about on the woven mat and then of course my mother's date dessert.


Dates were a snack for when we got home from school back then and now whether they are fresh, dried, large or small, dates will go perfectly with your hot cup of tea anytime of the day. They are so addictive that you'll be tempted to reach for a date with every sip and let the sweetness of the dates mingle with the aroma and slightly bitter taste of the strong, freshly brewed loose leaf chai. Dates are naturally sweet and substantially tastier than any other sweet fruits and they come in many different varieties and depending on when they are harvested dates may range from unripe to partially ripe or fully ripe.


I wrote my mother's version of this recipe a long time ago which is a bit less time consuming than this version. In that recipe, instead of stuffing the dates one by one, you would combine them together and heat them through before you add the butter and flour mixture since you don't need to one by one stuff the dates with walnuts. My mother's approach to cooking was a no-fuss, no-frills way of cooking. On an ordinary day she had to prepare meals for her large family and cooking was the only thing that she did not like to delegate at all.

Ranginak

Ingredients:
Makes about 24 pieces

1 pound dates, pitted
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup walnuts, halves
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
2-3 tablespoons pistachios, finely crushed

Method:

  1. Toast walnuts in a small dry skillet for 3-5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until fragrant. remove Stuff the toasted walnuts into the cavity of the dates.
  2. In medium sized skillet toast the flour for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the edges turn a light golden brown. 
  3. Add the butter and cook for 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and sugar, stir well. Cook for 10 minutes over medium-low heat.
  4. Spread 1/2 of the batter on the bottom of the serving platter and arrange the stuffed dates in a single layer on the dish.
  5. Spread the remaining batter over the dates, gently press down. Garnish with pistachios. Let cool for a couple of hours.
Serve with hot tea.

Enjoy!

Estamboli Polow - Persian Tomato Rice with Potatoes


This recipe is perfect all year round since most pantries are always stocked with fresh tomatoes and canned tomato products. However, I waited for the weather to warm up and for the peak tomato season to arrive to hopefully cook with vine-ripened tomatoes and not the dull and tasteless tomatoes that are picked green. This recipe is loosely based on my grandmother's recipe who was known for her delicious cooking. For a more tart استامبولی پلو - estamboli polow recipe, I searched the vegetable markets for a good torsh (tangy) tomato but to no avail. Among all the different varieties of tomatoes that were available I settled on the beefsteak tomatoes due to their great flavor. I prefer outdoor cooking in the hot summer months and try to minimize my standing in the kitchen as much as I can but this tomato rice is a perfect summer dish that goes well with grilled chicken, fish or vegetables.



There are many recipes for estamboli polow from plain tomato rice to a rice complete with meat and green beans, depending on what part of the country you are from and how this was prepared in your home. For us, growing up in Khuzestan, estamboli meant کته تماته/گوجه فرنگی - kateh-ye tamate which is slow-cooked rice in tomato puree with the addition of small cubed potatoes using the long and narrow type of potato called estamboli in Iran. For a simpler estamboli you can even make it without adding the cubed potatoes. If you prefer a less acidic dish you can skip the tomato paste. Ultimately, it depends on your taste, diet, and food restrictions.



Estamboli Polow

Ingredients:
Serves 4

2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed well and drained
7 ripe medium tomatoes, blanched and peeled
6 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, diced
1-2 tablespoons organic tomato paste (for added color and a bit of an extra sour flavor) *optional
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
A good pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt
Vegetable oil
Butter
Water

Method:

  1. In a pot of boiling water blanch the tomatoes for 5 minutes or until the skin comes off. Let cool, remove the skin, core the tomatoes and puree using a food processor. Yields about four cups.
  2. In a medium bowl wash the rice thoroughly until completely clean, drain completely. 
  3. In a mixing bowl combine the well-drained rice with the tomato puree, mix well and let it soak for 20-30 minutes before cooking the rice. Do not drain.
  4. In a large pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat, add the onions, cook until golden. 
  5. Add the potatoes, cook for about 5-7 minutes or until golden on all sides. add turmeric and a pinch of salt. Stir well.
  6. Push the potatoes to the side and add the tomato paste in the center of the pan and cook for about 5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently using a wooden spoon until it changes color. 
  7. Remove the pan away from the heat source, add the rice and tomato mixture to the pot, add 1 cup of water, 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of red pepper, stir well.
  8. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of butter or oil. Stir. Reduce the heat, cover the lid with a paper towel or a clean dish cloth, close the lid tightly and cook on low heat for 40 minutes. Over cooking and adding too much water makes the rice too mushy.
Serve with plain yogurt or  mast o khiar, sabzi khordan with a bunch of fresh mint, and salad shirazi.

Enjoy!

Ab-Haveej Bastani - Persian Carrot Juice and Saffron Ice Cream Float


Summertime is officially upon us and a carrot juice ice cream float is the perfect way to cool down on a hot day. Carrot juice is refreshing, healthy and a great source of vitamin A all on its own. I initially made this recipe with plain vanilla ice cream but then decided to change it up for the next batch and make it with scoops of saffron ice cream instead. The addition of a little bit of saffron and a hint of rosewater greatly enhances the flavor and aroma of this treat. Carrots may have been around for hundreds of years but this recipe is relatively modern. I'm not certain about the exact origin of this recipe but it seems to me that this is a different take on the European cafe glace (coffee with ice cream float) that became popular in the 1960's in Iran. I remember on one of our trips to my grandmother's house in Tehran, my sister took me to the upscale Chattanooga restaurant and that's where I had my first cafe glace. On the other hand, it's also quite possible that ab haveej bastani recipe was created by some ingenious Iranian chef in the past. It's been thought that by tapping into the collective consciousness people from different parts of the world may come up with the same results at the same time!


In our home carrot juice was served regularly and we all had to drink it whether we liked it or not and each time we were reminded that carrots are good for us and that they would improve our vision. Our juicer was archaic and pretty much a nightmare to clean. However, that wouldn't stop my mother from juicing almost anything frequently.


زردک - Zardak meaning "the little yellow one" (wild carrots) go back about 5,000 years in Iran, Afghanistan and the neighboring lands. Zardak (yellow carrots) are sill cultivated mostly in the region of Isfahan in Iran but they are not as common and popular as haveej farangi (western carrots). Carrots are a staple in our home all year long and are on my list of foods to always keep in the fridge and luckily they are readily available in markets year round. The in season carrots, however, are more flavorful, tender and sweet. Carrots are a  versatile vegetable that complement many recipes and are delicious when eaten raw, tossed into a summertime saladsalad oliviehsoup e jo, pickled or made into a delicious carrot halva. They are also great eaten alone or with a dip.



Carrot Juice and Saffron Ice Cream Float

Ingredients:
Serves 2

10 large carrots (preferably organic), washed and tops removed
Vanilla ice cream, (16 ounces)
1/3 teaspoon crushed saffron dissolved in 3 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 tablespoon crushed pistachios

Method:

  1. Leave the ice cream out to soften. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ice cream, liquid saffron, rosewater and mix well. Return ice cream back to freezer for 3-4 hours or until firm.
  2. Place your serving glasses in freezer to chill for 5 minutes.
  3. Juice the carrots. Add 1 or 2 scoops of saffron ice cream to each glass, pour the carrot juice over the ice cream, sprinkle with crushed pistachios and serve immediately with spoons and straws.
Enjoy!

Torshi Liteh - Persian Pickled Eggplant and Vegetables with Sibzamini Torshi (Sunchokes)


ترشی - Torshi (pickle) is a very common side dish in Persian cuisine served alongside rice and khoresh, kebobs and other traditional dishes. I have posted several of my favorite pickle recipes so far such as pickled eggplant and pickled vegetables among others.  لیته - Liteh is a combination of pickled eggplant with a few other vegetables and herbs. For this recipe I'm thrilled to have finally found  سیب زمینی ترشی - sibzamini torshi (pickling potato), also known as  یارالماسی - yaralmasy in Iran. Sibzamini torshi, which is called sunchokes/Jerusalem chokes, is a member of the sunflower family and is not related to artichokes nor is it from Jerusalem. For further information please check out the following link on sunchokes.


A few years ago, I asked my younger brother who lives in Iran to send me a picture of the sibzamini torshi that's cultivated in Iran. I didn't want to forget what they looked like. It wasn't until recently that after leaving my dentist's office, I walked into the Whole Foods market across the street and there among the neat and organized fresh vegetables was a small box of sunchokes. They looked a lot like ginger roots and they came in different shapes and sizes. I was so excited to have finally found what I was looking for and I figured they would make a nice addition to torshi liteh by adding
a nutty flavor and a bit of a crunch.


 If you are unable to find sunchokes in any vegetable markets just leave it out since liteh is traditionally made without it. For this recipe you can use grilled eggplant instead of having it simmered in vinegar.. If you use grilled eggplant, remove the skin, slice and combine with all the other ingredients. For the herbs, you can use fresh herbs if you prefer. I used dried herbs since I didn't have enough time after washing to lay them out to dry completely.


Torshi Liteh

Ingredients:

5 medium eggplants, stemmed, sliced lengthwise (I didn't remove the skin, you can if you prefer)
4-5 sunchokes, peeled, cubed
2 large carrots, peeled, cubed
2 celery stalks, diced small
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 medium green bell pepper, cleaned, cubed
5-7 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons dried tarragon
2 tablespoons dried mint
2 tablespoons dried savory
2 tablespoons dried dill
2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tablespoon crushed golpar (angelica)
1 tablespoon siah daneh (nigella seeds)
1 tablespoon crushed tokhm-e geshniz (coriander seeds)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 small whole dried red pepper, crushed (or more to taste)
Salt
White vinegar
Water

Method:

  1. Pour 1 cup of vinegar and a cup of water into a non-reactive saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, add the turmeric, eggplant and 1 teaspoon of salt, then reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Remove the eggplant and place in a colander to drain.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggplant, sunchokes, carrots, celery, cauliflower, bell pepper, garlic, herb mix, spices and 3 teaspoons salt. Mix well.
  4. Pack the torshi into the clean and dried jars, pressing down, pour the vinegar over them up to about 1 inch from the top. Close the jars tightly and pickle for 10-12 days.
Enjoy!



Haft Seen Photos - Nowruz 2014



Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous Nowruz - Persian New Year. After a few days of preparation and Nowruz related activities I finally got a chance to gather all of my haft seen photos and share some of them with you. For me, there's such a joy in photographing a haft seen table, especially with loved ones included. For more information about Nowruz and the haft seen you might want to check out this article Persian New Year's Table Celebrates Nature's Rebirth Deliciously on NPR's Blog.

Sabzeh

Seeb

Senjed

Somagh

Samanoo

Serkeh

Seer

Sekkeh

Tokhm-e Morgh Rangi

Mahi Ghermez



Also, here are some haft seen  photos from previous years:

Haft Seen - 2013

Haft Seen - 2012

Haft Seen - 2010 


!نوروزتان خجسته و پیروز باد - Happy Nowruz!