Shab-e Yalda 2013 - An Ancient Persian Celebration


On the eve of the longest night (winter solstice), family and friends gather to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness with delicious food, lively music, good conversation, and the traditional poetry reading of Hafez, the great Persian poet.

Please see the following links for previous posts on شب یلدا Shab-e Yalda:
Shab-e Yalda 2012
Celebrating Yalda 2010
Yalda Celebration 2009


چه عجب گر دل من روز ندید     زلف تو صد شب یلدا دارد            ~ فیض  کاشانی 

هنوز با همه دردم امید درمان است   که آخری بود آخر شبان یلدا را    ~ سعدی
  

Enjoy! Happy Shab-e Yalda!

Persian Saffron Butternut Squash Dessert and My 5 Year Blogging Anniversary


Five years ago, on a typical cold day in December, I created my little blog. The whole idea of a Persian food blog- its name and format swept over me like a Fall breeze and snowballed into a heightened sense of urgency and passion and that's when "Turmeric and Saffron" was born. I began my new blog with borani esfenaj, a favorite of mine, followed by other amazing Persian recipes such as ash reshteh, loobia polow, and ghormeh sabzi, in that month alone. All I wanted to do was write my mother's recipes and about my memories of growing up in Iran. Now, five years later, my blog has an archive of more than one hundred and seventy Persian recipes that are not only my mother's but from all over the country. I am utterly surprised and deeply grateful that I have continued blogging this far. I am grateful that through blogging I found solace and was able to hone my cooking skills in the kitchen and through this experience I have developed my own culinary style. I came to appreciate Persian cuisine more than I ever have and I have become a firm believer that the true and authentic Persian cuisine must be preserved and remain as intact as possible. Now, I am an enthusiastic cook who has discovered the joy of photography as well. Throughout this process I have also had the great pleasure of getting to know many wonderful and supportive blog readers and fellow bloggers.


I write so much about my mother and so in order to balance the attention I give to the memories of my parents on this blog I am going to share one of my favorite photos of Baba. The image below is of his bicycle license that was issued in the city of Abadan, Iran more than seventy years ago. I remember him saying that one of the tests required him to ride his bike over a large figure 8 that was drawn on the ground without getting out of line!


To celebrate my fifth year of blogging I chose to make دسر کدو حلوایی - butternut squash dessert, which is great to make while they are still in season. For this dessert you'll need to buy butternut squash with a long neck. I have grown to know this recipe as a dessert from Hamedan which is where my mother was from. However, she lived most of her adult life in Khuzestan and I am not certain which culinary experience was more dominant in her cooking or if both had influenced her equally. While I too have moved away from my birthplace, my roots remain where I was born. I traveled, moved to a different continent, went about my life and started my own family but my roots remain intact and have reached the water level in the dried lands of Khuzestan where it was planted.


For an added flavor and a southern touch you may make this dessert with شیره خرما - date syrup or for a Hamedani-style pumpkin dessert you may use شیره انگور - grape syrup as sweetener instead of using the regular sugar.


Saffron Butternut Squash Dessert

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

1 large butternut squash with long-neck, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick (will yield approximately 15 slices)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar (adjust to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron dissolved in 2-3 tablespoons of hot water
Water

Garnish:

1 tablespoon pistachios, slivered or chopped
2 tablespoons walnut halves or crushed

Method:

  1. In a large frying pan, heat butter and oil, over medium heat. Add the butternut squash slices to the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until just tender.
  2. In a small pot, over medium heat combine sugar and a cup of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes. 
  3. Arrange the butternut squash slices in a large pan, pour the syrup and saffron evenly over them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, leave lid ajar and cook 20-30 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender and all syrup is absorbed.
Serve on the platter and garnish with walnuts and pistachios.

Enjoy!

Moraba-ye Kadoo Halvaie - Persian Pumpkin Jam


I have always wanted to make مربای کدو حلوایی - pumpkin jam but for one reason or another I never got around to it. One reason was knowing that my modified version of this recipe wouldn't turn out as good as my grandmother's. I always knew that I had big shoes to fill when it came to cooking. My paternal grandmother who we called Khanoum Ahvazi (lady from Ahvaz) was known for her delicious jams, pickles and khiar shoor (pickled cucumbers). All her food looked and tasted amazing. Khanoum's pumpkin jam was different from any other ordinary jam; the pumpkin pieces were somewhat transparent, crisp, and slightly crunchy on the outside but soft and perfectly sweet on the inside.


What made the pumpkin pieces become glass-like and crunchy was the use of  آب آهک  calcium oxide. I have been told that it's safe to use in food preparation if the directions are followed carefully. I imagine that my grandmother used her mother's recipe and that's how they all made this delicious pumpkin jam. However, since I am an advocate for non-chemical cooking I didn't want to use calcium oxide or any other kind of chemical in my cooking. Therefore, this recipe is not the exact same as my grandmother's. Not only did I not use the required calcium oxide solution, which was one of the key ingredients in this recipe, I essentially made this jam based solely on the memory that I had of its taste, texture, color and the nostalgic feelings for this childhood favorite. After making four different batches in an effort to get the pumpkin jam just right, I can finally say that I am pleased with the results and that this is also healthier version.


Moraba-ye Kadoo Halvaie - Pumpkin Jam

Ingredients:
Yields: approximately 5 cups

2 1/2 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lime juice
3-4 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons rosewater

Method:

  1. In a small, heavy-bottomed pan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved in water, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the syrup slightly thickens. Set aside.
  2. Put the pumpkin cubes into a large pot, pour the syrup over it and add the lime juice and cardamom.
  3. Bring to a boil for 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, placing the lid slightly open (ajar). Cook for an hour or until they are very soft, gently stirring occasionally.
  4.  Add the rosewater in the last 10-15 minutes. You may want to remove the cardamom pods from the jam after cooking.
  5. Scoop the jam into clean and dry jars and store the jam in a cool dark place or refrigerate.
Enjoy!



Khoresh Sib o Gheysi - Persian Apple Stew with Dried Apricot


It's October and to celebrate the arrival of autumn, the most delicious season, I've decided to make خورش سیب و قیسی - Persian apple stew with dried apricots. This is a vibrant and tasty khoresh - stew that is made with beef, tart apples, tangy sweet dried apricots, lime juice and a warm flavor of cinnamon.


Fall is also the season for returning back to school, learning and gaining knowledge. As someone who has been a Persian language instructor for a number of years, I'd like to say a few words to my dear, young Iranian parents out there. It's so important to teach your children the language of their heritage, to speak Persian at home as much as possible and to teach them the الفبا - alphabet. Learning a new language is not easy. It takes patience and persistence but it's well worth it.


This recipe can be made with lamb or chicken and other fruits such as sour cherries and plums. I used Granny Smith apples because they are firm, tart, juicy and hold up well. You can use any type of apple as long as they are tart, firm and good for cooking.


Those of who follow my blog regularly may have noticed that I seldom use ادویه - advieh, a Persian spice which is a mixture of many spices used both in stews and rice. Since this recipe requires a little bit of warm and earthy seasoning to enhance the flavor I made my own advieh but just enough for one dish only. The necessary ingredients for advieh with the exact measurements are listed below in the recipe.

Persian Apple Stew with Dried Apricot

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

2 pounds boneless stew beef, washed and cubed
5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced
1 cup dried apricots
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 medium ripe tomato, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon crushed rose petals
1/3 teaspoon crushed cardamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves *optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil/vegetable oil
Water

Method:
  1. In a large bowl combine the apple slices and lime juice. Set aside.
  2. In a large stewing pot, add 2-3 tablespoons of oil, on medium-high heat, add the chopped onions, stirring occasionally, saute until soft and golden brown. Add the turmeric powder, stir well and add the minced garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes. Don't leave the pot unattended, garlic burns quickly.
  3. Add the beef cubes and brown on all sides. Add the tomatoes, crushed rose petals, cardamom, and salt and pepper to taste. Add enough hot water to cover all ingredients by 2-3 inches. Bring back to a boil for five minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for an hour or until meat is tender.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan, add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves until apples are just golden and soften a little. Add the flour, stirring well to blend.
  5. Add the apples, apricots and sugar to the stew, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat until the flavors come together. Add a little water if necessary and adjust the seasoning.
Serve warm in a bowl with rice, yogurt and salad.

Recently, I had an interview with the Flavorful World blog. Here's the interview link.


Cooper and the new kid on the block

Enjoy!

Khoresh-e Loobia Sabz - Persian Green Bean Stew with Chicken



 خورش لوبیا سبز - Khoresh-e loobia sabz is a delicious stew cooked slowly in layers of sautéed onion, garlic, chicken breasts, tender green beans, spices and freshly-squeezed lime juice in a tomato sauce served over saffron rice. Green bean stew is one of my all-time favorite summer recipes and I was planning to blog about it early in the summer but I simply did not get around to it till now. However, it makes a great end of the summer meal that is light, nutritious and tasty.


The traditional Persian khoresh-e loobia sabz is usually made with lamb. You can substitute the chicken with lamb or beef cubes if you like. And for the vegetarians, just skip the meat part altogether. The vegetarian green bean stew is equally delicious. There are many different varieties of green beans. I like the slender and flavorful French green beans that are string-less and all you have to do is cut or snap off the ends. For those who would prefer using both a spoon and a fork, as is customary in Iran, then I would cut the beans into smaller bite-size pieces to make it easier to scoop up some fluffy rice along with the tender chicken and green beans.


On a different note, in collaboration with the lovely and talented Sanam joon, the author of My Persian Kitchen, we have decided to come together and address the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials from our blogs which has affected us both repeatedly throughout the years. It's very disappointing and disheartening to see our recipes and photos across Facebook fan pages, on the menu of some catering chef's restaurant in California, used to sell Etsy products, or on an Instagram page that has used many of my photos to promote Persian food. I have been trying to deal with this ongoing problem by contacting each of these people. However, it is quite time consuming and unfortunately not everyone is kind enough to respond or act in a cooperative manner. I love sharing my recipes for everyone to use and to share with others as well. I love to inspire others to cook as I have been inspired by my mother and am continually inspired each day by so many talented food bloggers out there. The concept of the intellectual property and copyright laws on the internet may not be clearly defined and easy to reinforce. However, the common etiquette for using copyrighted material on the internet is to ask for permission first, give credit where credit is due and link back to the author's original post.

Lastly, some great ancient Persian words of wisdom, a mantra to consider and live by each day:
پندار نیک، گفتار نیک ، کردار نیک - Good thoughts, Good words, Good deeds.



Khoresh-e Loobia Sabz - Green Bean Stew

Ingredients:
Serves 6

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
2 pounds green beans, ends removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves
1 can (15-ounce) tomato sauce
1 large ripe red tomato, peeled, seeded, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon red pepper *optional
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil (extra virgin) or vegetable oil
Water

Method:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the chopped onion, saute until soft and light brown.
  2. Add the minced garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add turmeric, stir well.
  3. Add the chicken pieces, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon and crushed red pepper if you like, cook until the chicken is no longer pink.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato sauce, mix well. Add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil for a few minutes. Reduce heat, cover and cook on low heat for 45-50 minutes.
  5. In the meantime in a large frying pan saute the green beans lightly in 2 tablespoons of oil on medium heat.
  6. Add the beans to the pan, pour in the lime juice, add additional hot water if necessary, taste and adjust the seasoning. Cover and cook for another 15-20 minutes on low heat until the chicken pieces and green beans are tender, most water evaporated and the tomato sauce thickened.

Enjoy!

خرفه  - Purslane (Purslane Yogurt)

Dolmeh Barg-e Kalam - Persian Stuffed Cabbage Leaves


دلمه برگ کلم - Dolmeh barg-e kalam (stuffed cabbage leaves) is a variation of the well-known and popular stuffed vegetables genre known as dolma/dolmeh in Iran as well as among neighboring countries and different regions. This recipe was a staple in our home growing up and one of my mother's personal favorites. I had heard my mother's tale many times of how one Nowruz (Persian New year) when she was young, she single-handedly stuffed about 100 cabbage leaves with aromatic herbs, rice, meat and some raisins. And how this dish became her most exquisite and memorable dolmeh-ye kalam for all those family members, distant relatives and friends who were visiting during the Nowruz holiday.

To achieve the best results in preparing Persian meals, besides having the basic culinary skills, you'll need to have a sense of appreciation for the creativity, wisdom, care and labor that goes into most Iranian dishes. Along with cooking skills and enthusiasm, you will need a little patience as well.  Persian food takes time to make but don't let that discourage you. In cooking, every ingredient counts and every step is important. For those who are pressed for time or are not that into cooking, there are many classic Persian meals that are perfect for any time of the day such as: kookoo sibzamini, kookoo sabzi, borani esfenaj, kotlet, noon o panir o gerdoo (bread, cheese and walnuts) or noon o mast (bread and yogurt).


While the tasty dolmeh-ye barg kalam is simmering away in a rich tomato-based sauce on the stove, I think about those before us who prepared meals for their families many centuries ago, cooking food over wood-fires when water could only be reached by means of قنات - qanat, چاه آب - water wells or چشمه springs. Somehow, they managed to preserve and verbally pass on their way of cooking to the next generation to carry on the task of feeding the family. I feel strongly about maintaining the authenticity of our recipes as much as we can and to not let it be forgotten, overlooked or given up by our hectic and hurried life styles.  I leave you with this poem by Saadi Shirazi:

ابر و باد و مه و خورشید و فلک در کارند              تا تو نانی به کف آری و به غفلت نخوری
سعدی شیرازی ~
Clouds, wind, fog, the sun, and the universe are all at work so that you would earn a loaf of bread and not consume it in oblivion.

This dolmeh recipe usually has a sweet-sour flavor. However, depending on your preferences you can adjust the amount of sugar or lemon juice/vinegar to your liking. I don't add any sugar to my dolmeh since I like them more on the sour side. If you like adding raisins to the filling then that adds enough natural sweetness to the dolmeh which is a much healthier choice than sugar. You can add equal parts barberries and raisins to bring about the natural and delicate sweet- sour flavor in this dish. I also need to point out that my mother's original recipe did not include any tomato sauce - that's just my own addition, an ode to tomatoes.

Dolmeh Barg-e Kalam - Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

Ingredients:
Serves 6

1 large cabbage, washed, center core removed

For filling:

2/3 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup long-grain rice, rinse well
1/2 cup yellow split peas, rinse well
1 1/2 cups of chopped fresh herbs (a combination of flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, chives, dill, basil, tarragon, mint) washed, hard stems removed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of cumin
2 tablespoons liquid saffron
1/4 - 1/2 cup raisins *optional
1/4 - 1/2 cup barberries *optional

For the Sauce:

1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Juice of a large lemon/lime or a tablespoon of vinegar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar *optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil/olive oil
Water

Method:

  1. In a large pot, bring 6-8 cups of water to a boil over high heat, add a tablespoon of salt, gently add the head of cabbage into the boiling water, cook for 10 minutes. Drain. Peel each cabbage leaf, cut out the hard rib in each leaf. Set aside. 
  2. In a large skillet, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, add the chopped onion, saute until light golden brown, add the minced garlic and the turmeric powder. Stir and saute for a few more minutes.
  3. Add the ground beef, salt and pepper to taste and brown until well done. Set aside.
  4. In a medium size pot combine the rice and the yellow split peas, add enough water to cover the rice by an inch over the rice line. Add a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of oil, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat , cover with the top a little ajar to let the steam out, cook until the water is fully absorbed. Set aside.
  5.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the meat mixture, rice and peas, chopped herbs, cumin and saffron. Mix well. 
  6. In a large pan, saute the sliced onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until translucent, add a tablespoon of tomato paste, saute for a couple of minutes until it's no longer raw, add salt and pepper to taste. Add three cups of water and bring to a gentle simmer.
  7. In the meantime, place a scoop of the mixture into the center of each cabbage leaf, fold in the bottom, sides and the top of the leaf to complete the wrap.
  8. Arrange the stuffed cabbage with the seam down, next to one another in the pot. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for an hour. In the last 10 minutes of cooking sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar and just a sprinkle of sugar. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
To serve placed the dolmeh on a platter and serve warm with mast-o-khiar and sabzi khordan.

At the beach with family!

Enjoy!

Bademjan Shekam-por - Persian Stuffed Eggplant



بادمجان شکم پر -Bademjan shekam-por is an open-faced fried eggplant stuffed with ground beef and vegetables simmered in a rich and tangy tomato-based sauce and topped with slivered almonds. This tasty eggplant dish is from the north-western region of Azerbaijan, Iran. I'd just like to point out that although the following words have a slightly different spelling and pronunciation, they all mean the same thing: بادمجان، بادمجون، بادنجان بادنجون  - bademjan, bademjoon, badenjan and badenjoon. Eggplants have been part of the Persian cuisine for hundreds of years and due to their versatility, great flavor and silky tender flesh, they have brought about many popular and well-known dishes such as khoresh bademjan, borani bademjan, kashk-e bademjan, mirza ghasemi, and torshi bademjan (pickled eggplant), just to name a few. I am always looking for new Persian eggplant recipes and I'm determined to write about every eggplant recipe I find from homes in every corner of Iran. My favorite eggplant dish, however, is still simply pan-fried unpeeled eggplant slices lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. I personally like the taste of the eggplant skin and normally I wouldn't remove it unless I'm serving guests.


According to the article about Persian Food in the Huffington Post recently, "Persian food is criminally underrepresented in America." I agree with this statement and would add that in my opinion it is often misunderstood as well. One of the misconceptions is that Persian food is not vegetarian friendly which in my opinion is not true. Aside from an array of globally known Persian kabab/kebob dishes, most if not all khoresh - stews can be prepared without meat. There are also many terrific vegetable dishes such as a variety of kookoo/kuku, borani and the hearty ash reshteh. Not to mention that there's always a platter of sabzi khordan - fresh herbs, as an accompaniment to lunch and dinner every day along with salad and torshi - pickled vegetables. Plus we eat fruits like there's no tomorrow!


For a healthier version of a traditional bademjan shekam-por you can bake the eggplants in the oven before stuffing them or just prepare the dish the traditional way by frying the eggplants. Also, in the traditional recipe eggplants are peeled fully or partially by leaving in some stripes. The choice is yours whether to bake or fry, remove the eggplant skin or leave it intact. You may stick to a more traditional recipe or tweak it to your dietary needs and preferences. For a vegetarian variation of this dish you may use rice instead of ground beef. Bademjan shekam-por could be served as a main dish with rice or as a side dish/appetizer.


Bademjan Shekam-por - Persian Stuffed Eggplant

Ingredients:
Serves 4

4 medium-sized eggplants, peeled in stripes using a vegetable peeler
1/2 pound ground meat (lamb or beef)
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled, cubed (small)
1/2 pound fresh green beans,  trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium-sized firm tomatoes, 1 finely diced, 2 sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
A pinch of red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of a lemon
2-3 tablespoons slivered almonds
Olive oil (extra virgin) or vegetable oil
Water

Method:

  1. In a large frying pan heat 3-4 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat, fry the eggplants until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large skillet, add enough oil to cover the bottom over medium-high heat, sauté the chopped onion until translucent. Add the minced garlic, sauté for a couple of minutes and then add the turmeric powder, stir. 
  3. Add the ground beef and brown until well cooked and tender. Add the potatoes, green beans, and chopped tomatoes respectively and sauté each for a few minutes before adding another. Add cumin, red pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté all the ingredients together. Stir well and add 1/2 cup of water.  Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 40 minutes.
  4. Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, gently cut open lengthwise. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt into the eggplant and with a fork gently loosen up the inside a little bit. Generously spoon the mixture into the open eggplant and top with slivered almonds.
  5. In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the tomato paste to the pan and stir well. After a couple of minutes, arrange the tomato slices in single or overlapping layers. Place the stuffed eggplants over the layered tomatoes, add a cup of hot water and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat.
To serve place the stuffed eggplants onto a platter with rice or warm bread and yogurt.

Enjoy!

Father's Day Tribute - !کیک عشق - My Version of Persian Love Cake


A few years ago when I was just starting to blog about the food of my heritage, I came across an image of "Persian Love Cake," a chiffon cake with a few pink rose petals scattered about. My first reaction was: no way, how come I've never heard of this before?! Where was I all that time growing up in Iran when everyone else was eating کیک عشق - cake-e eshgh? After my initial surprise I realized there was no need to worry and that this was a newly created concoction of aromatic and flavorful classic Persian ingredients. I figured since the combination of saffron, rose water, cardamom and lemon zest transforms a simple cake into a magical Persian love cake, then we Iranians have been consuming a whole lot of love for the past several centuries! I may have been taken aback by discovering that there's a Persian love cake, however I wouldn't be surprised if Persian food in general were to be called a love cuisine! Much love goes into mastering the art of simmering stews into glorious deliciousness using fresh seasonal ingredients, putting just the right amount of salt, pepper and a few spices and steaming the rice to a fluffy perfection with a golden crunchy tahdig - crust. I can easily call salad shirazi a love salad, fesenjoon a love khoresh or zereshk polow a love polow and I think, we should call it a love menu!


In addition to my passion for Persian food, which is clearly evident in this very personal blog of mine, I have also developed a passion for Persian poetry over the years. Persian poetry is as fragrant as drops of rose water in the air, colorful as saffron threads and flavorful as cardamoms in their pods. That's what you get when an Iranian food blogger writes about Persian poetry! Among many of the poems that I grew up with there are a few that have made an everlasting impression on me and are my favorites. I am a firm believer that love is the power that connects and holds all the particles together in this world even in the darkest and most challenging times.


روزی که می گرفتند پیمان ز نسل آدم       عشق از میان ذرات در جست وجوی ما بود
~ غمام همدانی   
On the day of making a covenant with Adam's generation, "Love" among all other particles was looking for us.

My next favorite poem is a line from a tale in the book: منطق الطیر - The Conference of the Birds by Attar.  It is about an old woman who wanted to buy یوسف - Joseph when he was being sold to the highest bidder at a market in Egypt, having only a handful of yarns to offer. The old woman knowing that she couldn't afford Joseph replied to the merchant's ridicule:
لیک اینم بس که چه دشمن چه دوست       گوید این زن از خریداران اوست
This is enough for me that everyone, friend or foe, will say this woman was among his bidders.

The next poem or rather a line of a poem is by Hatef Esfahani known for his ghazals (ode) and tarji- band (recurrent verse) style of poetry. However, I would like to take the liberty to say that for me this poem stands alone by itself as the best of the best to describe the mood and the feeling of someone's love and devotion and it has to be read several times over and over to feel the rhythm and the beat embedded in the words. Perhaps, one day I'll come back to this post and write a translation for it but so far I am at a loss for words to capture the essence of it. Therefore, I'll leave it without the English translation. My sincere apologies.
تو کمان کشیده و در کمین که زنی به  تیرم و من غمین      همه ی غمم بود از همین که خدا نکرده خطا کنی 
~هاتف اصفهانی

I haven't written about my father as much as I have written about my mother. One reason could be that I didn't spend much time with him growing up or rather he didn't have much time to spend with us since he was always working so hard and was away from home. I was also long gone by the time he retired. I don't think I ever got a chance to know him completely and it's interesting that all I've learned about Baba's family history, childhood and upbringing was through my mother! Baba was a fairly quiet man who had suffered from many physical ailments throughout his life.
I clearly remember my last long distance phone conservation with Baba right before his passing. I had gotten the terrible news about my father's deteriorating condition. Devastated, I called home and asked to have a few words with him even though I was told he couldn't speak coherently. Still, I needed to hear Baba's voice. I asked my mother to place the phone next to his ear and I started to plead with him to say something, anything, that I just wanted to hear him. His last few words were: work on your heart and polish it into a jam-e jahan nama (a crystal globe that reflects the world). These were Baba's last words, a short message of a self-realized life lesson that spoke volumes and showed me the depth of his love for his child on his last breath and for that alone I am forever indebted to him.


For this recipe I had a couple of options, the first one was the chiffon cake with rose water icing and candied rose petals. The second option was a simple almond cake. I chose the second version simply  because it tastes more like the kind of sweets I grew up with, no-frills and downright delicious. I've tweaked the recipe a little bit. Please see my Pinterest link for more Persian Love Cake recipes.



Ingredients
Serves 8

3 cups almond meal
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup strained yogurt
2 tablespoons rosewater
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon dried rose petals (crushed) *optional

Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl combine almond meal, sugar, butter and salt. Mix thoroughly by hands.
  2. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9- inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Divide mixture in half and press half of the mixture evenly into the bottom of the greased pan.
  3. Beat the eggs lightly and add to the remaining almond meal sugar mixture. Add yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, cardamom and rose water and using a wooden spoon mix all ingredients together until well blended.  
  4. Pour the creamy mixture over the prepared base in the pan and using a small spatula smooth out the surface. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios, sliced almonds and rose petals on top or however you want to decorate. It's your love cake!
  5. Set the cake on the middle-rack of the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until center is set.
  6. Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan.
Transfer the Persian love cake onto a serving platter, slice and serve with a dollop of strained yogurt, some fresh sliced fruits and a hot cup of chai.

Enjoy! Happy Father's Day!
My Baba and I


Kookoo-ye Marchoobeh - Persian-Style Asparagus Frittata with Fresh Herbs, Walnuts and Barberries


کوکوی مارچوبه (Asparagus kookoo) recipe came about as a result of a recent trip to my local vegetable market where I noticed bundles of fresh green asparagus neatly tied and arranged on the shelves. I enjoy the taste of fresh asparagus either steamed or grilled plain with just a little bit of coarse salt. However, as I reached to pick a bundle up, it dawned on me that I had never cooked a Persian-style asparagus meal and among seemingly endless options I have decided to make a new version of kookoo/kuku incorporating asparagus.


Growing up in Iran, I remember hearing my mother talk about marchoobeh (asparagus) but I don't remember eating or even seeing any asparagus back then. Perhaps asparagus wasn't very popular or vastly cultivated and therefore it was not available among the wide range of vegetables then.


To enjoy the in-season asparagus I have combined fresh herbs, chopped walnuts and barberries with eggs and I'm very happy with the results. For this recipe, I have added a touch of cayenne and cumin to bring just the right amount of flavor to the egg and asparagus combination. I must point out though that the traditional kookoo/kuku sabzi, like most dishes in the Persian cuisine, is not spicy at all.  I also did not chop the vegetables as finely as I normally would for the traditional kookoo. For those unable to find barberries you can substitute it with dried cranberries instead.


Kookoo-ye Marchoobeh - Asparagus Frittata

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

1 pound fresh asparagus (about 20 medium sized stalks), ends snapped and cut into 2-inch pieces
8 large eggs
1 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 cup chopped fresh scallion (green parts only)
A few sprigs fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried barberries (can be found in most Persian grocery stores), picked over and rinsed well
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of cayenne pepper (or to taste) *optional
A generous pinch of cumin *optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil (extra virgin) or vegetable oil

Method:
  1. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the asparagus pieces lightly for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the asparagus.
  2. In the meantime, combine the chopped herbs, walnuts, barberries and the spices together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs until yolks and whites are completely blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour the egg over the herbs and walnut mixture in the large bowl and blend well.
  5. Add the egg and herb mixture over the sauteed asparagus in the skillet. With a spatula flatten the surface of the kookoo. As eggs start to set take the spatula and run it around the edges and make four large wedges or eight small ones in the skillet. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes on medium-low heat.
To serve, cut the kookoo into small wedges and place onto a platter. May be served hot or at room temperature with yogurt, salad shirazi, torshi and bread.


Enjoy!