December 31, 2010

Shoorba-ye Yazdi (Lentil and Beet Soup with Tiny Dumplings)

What could be better on a cold winter day than a hot bowl of tasty, healthy and sumptuous soup? This beautiful and nutritious soup is from the region of Yazd, Iran and is called شوربا - shoorba. "Shoor" means salty and "ba" generally refers to soups/stews. This shoorba is made by combining sauteed golden brown onions, brown lentils, small cubed beets, chopped young beet greens and fresh dill simmering gently over low heat until the lentils and beets are tender and soft. To make the shoorba more tasty and to increase the thickness of the soup, small flour dumplings are added about thirty minutes before serving. This delightful recipe was given to me by my wonderful friend of many years, Sohaila khanoum, and I am very thankful and grateful to her for sharing her beloved mother's Yazdi shoorba recipe.

P.S. I would have written a post specifically for my 2nd blogging anniversary on December 4th had it not been a hectic month for me. However, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, my wonderful and super kind readers and Facebook fans, for your support and sweet comments for the past two years. It always means a lot to me! Here's to hoping that I'll be able to keep my blog running steadily and continue to share as many Iranian recipes for as long as I can! I guess I make that my New Year's resolution! Once again thanks to all my readers!!

Shoorba-ye Yazdi (Lentil and Beet Soup with Tiny Dumplings)

Serves 4-6

1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 small beetroots, trimmed off  and cubed
Use whole or chop any young and tender beetroot greens
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh dill, washed and chopped
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth  or vegetable broth *optional
Vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste


1/2 cup flour
Pinch of salt
Water (lukewarm) as needed

You may substitute dumplings with small pasta shapes.

  1. Combine the flour and salt, add water little by little, one tablespoon at a time and mix well. Add more flour and water as needed until a soft dough forms. Make small size balls out of the flour dough. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a stock pot on medium heat. Saute onions until golden brown, add turmeric and stir.
  3. Add lentils, beets, broth and 4-5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 50 minutes.
  4. Gently place the dumplings into the soup. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper. Add more water if necessary. Cook for another 30 minutes. Carefully turn the dumplings once or twice until they are well cooked.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar during the last ten minutes of simmering.
Serve the shoorba hot with warm lavash or pita bread.

Enjoy! Wish you all a very happy, healthy, prosperous and glorious New Year!
Love, Peace and Blessings!

December 17, 2010

Yalda 2010! Celebrating the Longest Night of the Year (Winter Solstice)

The sight of you each morning is a New Year
any night of your departure is the eve of Yalda


شب یلدا Shab-e Yalda refers to the longest night of the year which has been celebrated ever since the ancient times in Persian history. The word یلدا  "Yalda" means birth in Syriac and is marked as the birthday of Mithra, the ancient Persian god of light and cosmic order, also called the son of Ahura Mazda, dating back as early as 5000 B.C.    

The winter solstice occurs on Tuesday, December 21, 2010. On the eve of the longest night, Iranians celebrate the birth of the sun, Mithra or Mehr, by family and friends gathering together reading poetry, story telling, feasting on pomegranate seeds, slices of sweet watermelons, fall fruit of persimmon, grapes, dried fruits of apricots and figs, ajil, and drinking tea into late hours of the night. Reading poetry from our renowned Persian poet Hafez has become an integral part of our Yalda tradition and is my favorite part of the Yalda celebrations.

On this shab-e yalda I'll sit around the table with my family celebrating the birth of the sun and the victory of light over darkness. May the spark of light illuminate us from within and bring joy to all of our hearts.

Winter Solstice, December 21, 2010, Danilo Pivato, APOD

Solstice Celebration, December 21, 2002, APOD

Happy Yalda! Yalda Mobarak!

December 12, 2010

Naan Berenji - Persian Rice Flour Cookies

نان برنجی Naan Berenji Kermanshahi is one of my favorite Persian sweets which is traditionally made for Nowruz (Persian New Year). Naan berenji cookies are rich with flavor and not too sweet. They are great to eat all year around and are most delicious when served with a freshly brewed cup of hot tea or coffee, especially on a cold day.

 I have wanted to write about naan berenji in the past but I must say that having bought them from different bakeries and trying several recipes myself over the years, the results were always kind of disappointing and never tasted quite like the authentic naan berenji from Kermanshah. I don't know if I'll ever get to make these cookies taste and smell like how they tasted and smelled the first time I ate them when I visited the city of Kermanshah with my family years ago. I remember our summer trip to that region vividly. I recall the day that we approached the Bisotoon  mountain area as the sun was setting and my father was exhausted from driving for such a long time. We stopped by a قهوه خانه ghaveh-khaneh (coffee shop), a rest area in the middle of nowhere. My father inquired about the nearest hotels or anywhere that we could spend the night and get some rest. But the given address seemed too far to to get to so the owner offered us the roof top of the ghahveh-khaneh and that's where we spent the night. The memory of us six kids going up an old and flimsy ladder one by one, laying down on just a blanket with no pillows or any sheets, staring at the sky, the moon and stars until I fell asleep is still etched in my mind. Not to mention, glancing at the nearby بیستون Bisotoon, which seemed so close towering over our heads as if it was going to fall down on us at any moment!  As a child, those family summer trips zigzagging across the country seemed exhausting, dreadful and pointless. Now, however, I am most grateful for having visited many parts of my beautiful country.

In my recent attempt,  I gave Najmieh Batmangelij's naan berenji recipe, in her A Taste of Persia cookbook, a try and I was pleased with the results. Let's just say that when I went to do a count the next day to see how many cookies the batch of dough makes and also take some photos, there were only a few left on the plate!

Naan Berenji - Persian Rice Flour Cookies

Makes about 25 cookies

3 cups rice flour
3 egg yolks
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fine sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract *optional

For Topping:

2 tablespoons poppy seeds or crushed pistachios

For Syrup:

1 1/2  cup white sugar
1/2 cup of water
1 tablespoon rose water

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat, bring to a boil, stir well to dissolve the sugar for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for another 7-10 minutes or until the mixture thickens to one cup . Remove from heat, add the rose water and set aside to cool.
  2. In a bowl mix rice flour with powdered cardamom. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs with fine sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the butter and oil and beat well until fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and the flour. Gradually add in one cup of the sugar syrup and beat well with an electric mixer/hand mixer.
  5. Place the dough in a container, cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for about six hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment papers.
  7. Take a tablespoon of the dough, flatten into round shapes into palm of your hand and shape the surface with a cookie stamp or a teaspoon. Sprinkle some poppy seeds on top of each cookie. Place on the cookie sheet and put it in the middle rack of the oven.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently place on the cooling racks.
Transfer the cookies on a serving platter and serve with tea or coffee.


December 04, 2010

Torshi Anbeh - Pickled Mango

This is a quick, simple and sumptuous torshi (pickle) that is served as a side for any rice and stew dishes. Serving a variety of pickles and relishes with main courses is a major part of the Iranian cuisine. In our home torshi making was an annual summer ritual for my mother and our hayat (yard) would be filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, limes and unripe sour grapes to juice. Years later, when I met my husband, I was happy to find out that in their home his father was in charge of making torshi and that he had designated a special place in the basement of his home to place the large clay jars used to preserve the pickles!  I knew then that I'd met someone who also has the love of torshi in his genes! There's nothing like homemade pickles where you use fresh ingredients and favorite spices and adjust the seasonings to your liking. There are the common and popular pickles such as the eggplant pickle, mixed vegetable pickle and the garlic pickle, not to mention my favorite fruit pickle that I have written about in the past.

Today's recipe is ترشی انبه  torshi anbeh (pickled mango) which I've grown to adore mostly in recent years. Mangoes make great pickles. They are soft, smooth, juicy and quite tasty. I like to maintain the color and the texture of mango while it gently simmers in tamarind infused sauce, spices, dried red pepper and garlic cloves and vinegar, until all the complex and different flavors come together nicely. I didn't chop the garlic and the peppers into pieces and chose to leave them whole. We don't want them to overpower the taste and also this way they would be easier to take out when serving.

Torshi Anbeh - Pickled Mango


4 firm ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed
4-5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of a lemon/lime
3 tablespoons tamarind sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon golpar (angelica), crushed
1/2 teaspoon siah daneh (nigella seeds)
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1-2 dried red peppers
2 cups white vinegar
Salt to taste

  1. Place the mangoes in a bowl, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized heavy pot bring vinegar to a gentle boil over medium-low heat. Add the tomato paste and the tamarind sauce. Stir well.
  3. Add the garlic, red pepper and the spices, simmer for 5 minutes over low heat for the flavors to come together. 
  4. Add the mangoes to the pot, add salt and cook for 5-7 minutes over medium-low heat, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, turn off the heat.
  5. When cool, place the torshi in a washed and clean glass jar. Make sure all ingredients are covered by vinegar. Add more vinegar if needed. Refrigerate or keep in a cool and dry place. This pickle is ready to serve the next day.
 This is a delicious side to serve with your favorite food.


November 22, 2010

Saffron Rice with Cranberries

کرنبری پلو  Cranberry Polow (rice with cranberries) is an aesthetically pleasing and tasty side dish. The tartness of cranberries are similar to the tartness of barberries and can be a good variation to our traditional rice with barberries (zereshk polow). This is my new favorite rice dish for my favorite time of the year and will be one of my contributions to Thanksgiving dinner with my family. Celebrating Thanksgiving has become a tradition since moving to America and raising a family. I would love to celebrate every occasion that gives us a chance to get together with our loved ones and express our gratitude for what we have and count our blessings.

I love cranberries fresh or dried all year round. I like freezing fresh cranberries for later on when they are not in season but we would need a gigantic freezer for the amount of cranberries that we'd like to freeze! Cranberries freeze well and all you need to do is defrost, rinse and use them while cooking. I usually sprinkle dried cranberries in salads, make a relish for poultry dishes or just eat them as snacks. For this recipe, I used dried cranberries and prepared the rice the same way I do for zereshk polow-- it's essentially the same recipe but with a different ingredient!

Saffron Rice with Cranberries

Serves 4-6

2 cups rice
2 cups dried cranberries
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 3-4 tablespoons of hot water
1-2 tablespoons sugar
Vegetable oil

  1. Rinse the rice thoroughly with cool water, soak in 8 cups of cool water, add 4 tablespoons of salt and set aside for a couple of hours.
  2. Soak cranberries in 2 cups of cool water for about ten minutes to plump up. Drain.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onions, reduce the heat and cook until onions are caramelized about 20-30 minutes over low heat. Add cranberries and saute for about 2-3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar, pinch of salt and a tablespoon of dissolved saffron, combine well and cook for 3-5 minutes on low heat. Set aside.
  4. In a large non-stick pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a rapid boil over medium-high heat, add the rice and bring the water back to a boil and continue cooking on medium heat. After 5-7 minutes test to see if rice is ready-- the grain of rice should still be firm on the inside and have a bite to it.
  5. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  6. Wash the pot and place it back on the stove. Add 4 tablespoons of oil to the pot, add a layer of rice into the pot, a layer of cranberry and onion mixture, then another layer of rice and continue building into a pyramid shape. Cover and cook for 7 on medium heat until you see steam coming out, pour 3-4 tablespoons of water around the rice. Sprinkle the remaining saffron evenly over the rice. Make a few holes in the rice to let the steam out. Lower the heat, cover the lid with a dish cloth, cover and cook the rice for 45-50 minutes on low heat.
Scoop the rice onto a platter and serve warm.

Enjoy! Peace and blessings.

November 09, 2010

Zeytoon Parvardeh-Persian Olive, Pomegranate and Walnut Salad

Persian Olive, Pomegranate and Walnut Dip

This is a tasty side dish made with green olives, pomegranate seeds and walnuts combined and marinated with pomegranate molasses, fresh herbs and garlic. زیتون پرورده Zeytoon Parvardeh is a well-liked appetizer from the north western region of Gilan province. The authentic zeytoon parvardeh is prepared with aromatic fresh herbs from the region. However, I've learned that I can substitute fresh or dried mint instead. I love the combination of  these ingredients coming together so wonderfully in one dish with all their different flavors and textures, making this a unique and quite delectable appetizer. I've been wanting to write about zeytoon parvardeh for the past several months, ever since I got the recipe from a very dear Rashti friend of mine, Monir khanoum. However, since pomegranates weren't in season at the time, I've waited until now since pomegranate season is in full bloom!

I had posted my first Gilani recipe for Mirza Ghasemi a while ago and I am so glad to write another recipe from that beautiful region. Many of my childhood summer vacations were spent by the northern Caspian Sea, escaping the southern heat and enjoying the cooler northern weather with its beautiful beaches and scenery.

Zeytoon Parvardeh

 Serves 4-6

1 pound firm green olives, pitted
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
5-7 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
A handful of fresh mint, chopped or 1-2 tablespoons, dried
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds *optional

  1. In a medium-sized bowl combine olives, minced garlic, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Pour in the syrup and the olive oil. Add fresh mint and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Transfer to a serving platter and serve it at room temperature or cold.


November 03, 2010

Dal Adas-Southern Iranian-Style Red Lentil Soup With Tamarind Sauce

دال عدس Dal Adas is a popular and very tasty dish in southern Iran and in our home it happened to be one of my father's favorite dishes. Every time he would come here to visit he would ask me to make it for him but my dal adas was always a milder version of what my grandmother used to make. He liked the way his mother made this soup, hot and spicy with lots of sauteed garlic and onions, simmering to perfection in tamarind sauce. My paternal grandmother was a gifted cook who could make anything for any number of  people and her recipes were known to be full of flavor and very delicious. This dal adas was my grandmother's recipe that was passed down to my father and the rest of the family. This is a perfect soup to have after a long walk in the park where the fall foliage is at its peak and the walkway of your favorite trail is covered with dry leaves that crackle under your feet. This is a rather thick and delicious soup that is typically eaten with flat bread or served over a bed of rice.

Autumn in NY

Dal Adas

 Serves 4-6

2 cups red lentils, rinsed well
1 large onion, thinly sliced
5-7 garlic cloves, finely minced
2-3 tablespoons tamarind paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper powder, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until soft and light brown. Add minced garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add a teaspoon of turmeric, stir well. 
  3. Stir in a tablespoon of tomato paste and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. 
  4. Add red lentils, fill with enough water to cover by 2 inches above the lentils. 
  5. Add salt, pepper and cumin, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Add the tamarind paste and red pepper, stir and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, add a little bit of water if necessary. 
  7. Red lentils cook quite fast, if you prefer a smoother dal adas cook it a bit longer or add more water if you like it thinner. 
Serve hot with warm bread or rice.


October 26, 2010

Omelette Khorma & Asal - Date & Honey Omelette

This is a simple and sweet omelette that's perfect for a relaxing breakfast. The combination of eggs and dates is so filling that I'd rather make it later in the day for brunch or for a light lunch. Sometimes there's nothing better than a super simple, quick and tasty omelette when hungry or when you just don't want to cook an elaborate dish with too many ingredients. I find the sizzling sound of the egg mixture gently pouring into the hot frying pan on a Sunday morning to be quite soothing. I cook eggs in moderation but it still remains a favorite ever since my childhood, when serving omelette on Fridays was a ritual in our home. املت خرما و عسل  Date and honey omelette can be served to friends and family for a great brunch or when alone at home and you want to make something delicious but fast that can be both lunch and dessert combined! Nothing beats an easy and delicious omelette! Any kind of dates will do for this recipe -- I used Medjool dates this time. However, I would like to point out that the best dates, in terms of the texture and taste, are the silky dark-colored dates from the city of Bam in Iran but unfortunately it's often hard to find them in Persian grocery stores around where I live.

Omelette Khorma & Asal

Serves 2

4 large eggs
A handful of seedless dates, cut each date into halves or quarters
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Swirl the pan to coat the bottom evenly.
  2. Add the dates and cook lightly until they soften for a couple of minutes.
  3. In a bowl lightly beat the eggs with a fork until the yolks and whites are well blended.
  4. Add water and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and add to the frying pan.
  5. Stir the eggs using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula and arrange the dates evenly in the pan. Cook the eggs until the whites are set. Using a spatula, loosen the edges and transfer the omelette onto a serving platter. Serve immediately.
Serve warm with flat bread and add a drizzle of honey on top.