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. شب یلدا 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!

Haft Seen Photos Nowruz 2016



It's Nowruz and it's nature's time for renewal and rejuvenation. I wish you and your family a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year filled with joy and love. To continue my annual tradition of sharing photos of our haft seen table, here are pictures of the sofreh (the spread of seven S's) representing a symbolic meaning such as rebirth, patience, beauty, health, prosperity and love.

Sabzeh o Sonbol: Representing rebirth and spring

Senjed: Representing love

Somagh: Representing the spice of life

Seer: Representing health

Samanoo: Representing Patience 

Seeb: Representing beauty

Serkeh: Representing age 


Mahi Germez: Representing life

Noghl: Sweets

Poems from the Divan of Hafez

Cooper loves flowers

Beautiful haft seen table by my friend Farzaneh joon

My friend Roya joon's Sofreh haft seen 

An old picture of Khanoum joon, my maternal grandmother, at her haft seen spread circa 1960 in Tehran


Eidetoon Mobarak! Happy Nowruz! Happy Spring!

Quick & Easy Shirini Zaban - Zaban Puff Pastry (Nowruz 1395)


The air is thick with excitement in anticipation of نوروز - Nowruz. Preparation for Persian New Year starts weeks before the spring equinox with khaneh tekany (spring cleaning) and growing sabzeh (seeds) for the haft seen table. It has been many years since I have lived in my home country. Yet all it takes is a smell or a taste to bring even those long forgotten memories back into my mind's eyes. The Persian New Year celebration gives me a chance to relive those many memories of family, togetherness, the haftseen spread, and celebrations.


It's time to start thinking about the Nowruz dinner menu. The Nowruz dinner is marked by a number of traditional dishes that are known for this occasion such as: kookoo sabzi, sabzi polow, mahi, ash reshteh, reshteh polow, etc. I have put together a typical Nowruz menu of my favorite recipes.


There are many different Nowruz sweets available in bakeries all over Iran. However, if you happen to live where you do not have access to any of those good Iranian bakeries then, like me, you would have to make your own homemade Nowruz desserts. The sugar sprinkled, golden, light and flaky شیرینی زبان shirini zaban (زبان - zaban means tongue in Persian) is a connection to my childhood -- when I remember having them for special occasions. For this recipe you'll need one sheet of puff pastry. If you have the time and patience you can make your own homemade puff pastry from scratch. However, if you find that to be too time-consuming then head to the freezer section of your local grocery store and buy a Package of frozen puff pastry. While there's nothing like a homemade pastry, I took the easy route this time and used a store-bought frozen puff pastry.


Shirini Zaban with Frozen Puff Pastry 

Ingredients:
Yield: 20 pieces

1 (14-ounce) box of frozen puff pastry, thawed  (I used Dufour puff pastry)
1-2 tablespoons sugar

For the syrup

1/3 cup honey ( I used clover honey)
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon rosewater

Flour for dusting the surface
Crushed pistachios and  powdered sugar for garnish

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the honey with water and rosewater, mix well. Set aside.
  4. Unfold the puff pastry on your lightly floured counter and dust the top of the pastry with a little flour. 
  5. Using a soft pastry brush, lightly brush the pastry with honey syrup.
  6. Using a cookie cutter cut out the pastry into zaban shape or using a sharp blade cut the pastry into rectangular pieces.
  7. Place the cut out puff pastries on the baking sheet leaving a little space between them.
  8. Using a knife make a lengthwise light cut through the center of each zaban.
  9. Sprinkle each zaban generously with sugar.
  10. Place the sheet in the center of the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden, cooked through and puffed.
  11. Remove from the oven and let it cool.
  12. Apply another light film of honey syrup over the pastries. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Serve with freshly brewed hot tea.


Enjoy! Happy Nowruz!

Ash-e Anar - Persian Pomegranate Soup with Fresh Herbs and Mini Meatballs


I've let many winters and pomegranate seasons go by without writing about آش انار ash-e anar. However, this time as I watch the icy snow flakes rapidly hit the windows and pile up all around the house I'm thinking it's time to post a recipe for this hearty and tasty ash-e anar. The idea of making a warm ash on a cold day or when you feel a little under the weather and need a pick-me-up was passed down to me by my mother. I make ash reshteh all the time and chances are if you open my refrigerator you'll find a bowl tucked in somewhere. Not to mention, after all these years living in America, it's only recently that I've been finding large, ruby-red, juicy pomegranates in the market by where I live.


You can make this soup with brown or green lentils if you are not a fan of yellow split peas. If you choose to use لپه lapeh (yellow split peas) I would suggest boiling them for 7-10 minutes on medium heat, remove any of the foam that comes to the surface, drain and then add to the stew. When making the کوفته قلقلی koofteh ghelgheli -mini meatballs try to make them as tiny as possible. They should be easily scooped up by a tablespoon. If you find the recipe a little sour you can add a little sugar to the stew. This recipe serves 6-8 people but if you want to make less you can easily cut the amount of ingredients in half. And I think you should definitely serve this ash with نعنا داغ nana dagh - hot dried mint and oil mixture.


Ash-e Anar - Pomegranate Soup

Ingredients:
Serves 6-8

1 pound ground meat (lamb, beef or turkey)
1 cup rice, rinse well, drain
1/2 cup yellow split peas, rinse well
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch parsley, remove the stems, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 bunch scallion, green parts only, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses, more if you like
Turmeric Powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dried mint
2-3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
Vegetable oil
Water

Method:
  1. Combine the yellow split peas and  2 cups of water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming the foam from the surface, lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the onion and cook until until golden brown, add the minced garlic, saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder, stir well.
  3. Add the rice, split peas, and 8 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes with the lid slightly ajar, stirring occasionally. 
  4. In the meantime, combine the meat with 2-3 tablespoons of the chopped vegetables, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Take small piece of meat mixture and form into meatballs. Continue shaping until all the meat is used.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat and fry the meatballs until brown on all sides. 
  6. Add the meatballs, pomegranate molasses, chopped vegetables, salt and pepper to the pot. cover and simmer on low heat for another 30-40 minutes.
  7. In a small pot, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, add a pinch of turmeric and 2 tablespoons of dried mint, stir and remove from stove. 
Pour the ash into a large serving bowl, drizzle with nana dagh and garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired.  Serve with warm bread.

Enjoy!