September 27, 2010

Shirazi Rice With Tiny Meatballs, Herbs & Kohlrabi Fries (Kalam Polow Shirazi)

This is a most flavorful and aromatic rice that is called کلم پلوبا کلم قمری وگوشت قلقلی  kalam polow Shirazi in Persian, and it is a wonderful dish from the beautiful ancient city of Shiraz, Iran. This delicious rice is layered with tiny and tasty meatballs, a combination of fragrant fresh herbs such as basil, tarragon and savory and then topped with kohlrabi fries. I heard about this recipe from a very kind and generous Shirazi friend of mine, Shahla khanoum, back in the spring and since then not only have I enjoyed making and serving kalam polow but I have also learned to love kohlrabi and it's now my new favorite vegetable. This rice can be made with cabbage as well but the flavor and texture of kohlrabi turns this dish into a more delightful blend of aromas, flavors and textures.

Kalam Polow Shirazi - Shirazi Rice with Meatballs, Herbs and Kohlrabi Fries 

Serves 6

2 cups long grain rice
1 pound ground beef
3-4 medium kohlrabi (kalam ghomri), peeled and sliced into french-fry strips
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large bunch of fresh basil (raihan), chopped
1 large bunch of fresh tarragon (tarkhoon), chopped
1 bunch of fresh مرزه marzeh (savory), chopped, I couldn't find it fresh so I used 1/3 cup dried savory
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon chickpea flour (optional)
A pinch of red pepper
A pinch of cumin powder (zireh)
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil


  1. In a medium-sized bowl combine the ground beef, chickpea flour, salt and pepper, mixing well. Shape into small meatballs.
  2. In a frying pan, heat 3-4 tablespoons of oil and saute sliced onions over medium heat until golden brown, add turmeric, a pinch of red pepper and cumin, stir well. Place meatballs in the pan, spread them out and brown on all sides. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of  chopped herbs over the meatballs, reduce heat to low and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Herb Mixture
  1. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and lightly saute the herbs together over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes, just enough for the flavors to come together. Don't fry these herbs and, if you prefer, you can skip this step altogether and layer the rice with chopped fresh herbs.

Kohlrabi Fries
  1. In a large frying pan, heat 5-7 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat. Add the kohlrabi fries and cook for 4-5 minutes, turning them a few times until golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Sprinkle salt to taste. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper if you like.
  1. Wash rice with cool water a few times and soak rice in 8 cups of water and 2 tablespoons for a couple of hours.
  2. In a large pot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil on high heat . Drain rice and gently pour into the boiling water. Bring water back to boil for 7 minutes. Test the rice to see if it's done -- rice grains should be soft on the outside and firm on the inside. Drain and rinse with cool water.
  3. Clean out the pot and return to the stove, add 4 tablespoons oil to the pot on medium to high heat. With a spatula, place rice in the pot, layer it with herbs, meatballs and some of the fries, building it into a pyramid shape. Make 3-4 holes in the rice to let the steam out. Cook for about ten minutes or until the steam starts to come out, pour 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons of water over the rice, lower the heat, cover and cook for 45 minutes.

  4. Serve rice on a platter, top with the rest of the kohlrabi fries and garnish with chopped fresh herbs. It may be served with yogurt, salad, pickles (eggplant torshi).


September 19, 2010

Joojeh Kabab, Persian Grilled Saffron Chicken

Persian Grilled Saffron Chicken

جوجه کباب Joojeh kabab is a simple, easy to make and popular dish in Iran and is most delicious when made with fresh and tender young chicken. Joojeh kabab is usually made with skinless and boneless chicken breast. However, it could be made with the whole chicken cut into small pieces, allowing ample marinating time,  which is an important step in the cooking process. It's best to let the chicken marinate overnight for the best result. For a moist, juicy and flavorful joojeh kabob, marinate the pieces in a yogurt-based sauce with olive oil, lemon juice, grated onion, saffron and salt and pepper. Typical Persian joojeh kabab is not spicy at all and a little bit on the tangy side. In our home, we like our joojeh kabab more lemony and zesty. Grilled saffron chicken is usually served right off the grill with aromatic rice, grilled tomatoes and onions. Also, grilled corn soaked in salted water would make a great side dish.

I know it took me a long time to blog about this most delicious and well-known joojeh kabab recipe but I tend to mostly blog about the everyday kinds of foods I make for my family of four. The only reason for this long over-due post might be the fact that I am more of a savory soup and stew (ash and khoresh) kind of person and I don't make kababs frequently even though I do enjoy them very much. They are a taste from my childhood.

Joojeh Kabab

Serves 4

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, preferably fresh, never frozen, cut into cubes
1 medium onion, grated
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 2-3 tablespoons of hot water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
A pinch of red pepper powder *optional

  1. In a bowl combine the yogurt, onion, olive oil, lime juice, liquid saffron, salt and pepper. Blend well into a smooth mixture, adjust the seasoning with lime juice and salt and pepper.
  2. Pour the mixture over the chicken in a large bowl, making sure that all the pieces are fully covered with the sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6-8 hours.
  3. Thread the chicken pieces onto metal skewers, place the skewers on the hot grill and continue grilling until chicken pieces are well cooked.  
Serve warm with rice, yogurt, salad, fresh herbs and pickles. Or, you can make a joojeh kabab sandwich with warm bread, lettuce, tomato and onion slices with a dollop of yogurt and cucumber dressing.


September 12, 2010

Eshkeneh, Persian Onion Soup With Fenugreek

With the cool and crisp days of Autumn weather just around the corner, اشکنه eshkeneh, this creamy and delicious onion and fenugreek (shanbalileh) soup, seems to be the best choice of food to serve your family and friends. Eshkeneh is a traditional soup made with gold brown caramelized onions, fresh aromatic fenugreek and the last-minute addition of eggs. The result is a fantastic soup that warms your soul as well as your body. Fenugreek has high nutritional and medicinal values and is used in Persian cooking, for instance in our very popular Ghormeh Sabzi dish. Eshkeneh was the dish that my mother would make whenever she felt homesick while visiting us and the rich aroma and the familiar flavor would ease her longings. However, for me, the slightly bitter taste of fenugreek took some getting used to but it eventually grew on me and now I just love the taste and I grow it in my garden whenever I get my hands on some fenugreek seeds. I have heard that in some parts of Iran eshkeneh is made without fenugreek and another variation is to add small potato cubes to the soup.

Serves 4

1 cup fresh fenugreek leaves, chopped
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 eggs, use more if you prefer
1-2 tablespoons flour, *optional
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a pot, add the onions and saute over medium heat until golden brown.
  2. Add turmeric, stir and cook for a minute or two. Stir in the flour and mix well with onion and turmeric which will help thicken the soup. If you prefer a thinner soup, omit this part.
  3. Then add the chopped fenugreek and saute for 5 minutes, stir well to mix all the ingredients.
  4. Add 4 cups of water, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 30-40 minutes on medium-low heat.
  5. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat well with a fork or whisk until well blended, add to the soup and mix well. Add additional water if necessary and adjust the seasoning before serving.
Serve hot with warm bread and yogurt.


September 05, 2010

Ranginak, Persian Date Dessert

رنگینک Ranginak is a healthy, nutritious and wonderful tasty dessert from the southern region of Iran. The history of dates in Iran goes back to the ancient times and the beautiful dates and palm trees are a part of our southern landscape. I was lucky enough to grow up having palm trees in our yard and a tall and healthy date tree with red colored dates in our last home before we left Khuzestan. The date trees stand tall and strong against the brutal heat and the hot summer sun and with only  little water and care they produce the sweetest fruits. Dates are the most healthy, satisfying and nutritious snacks when you have no time to cook and are in a hurry. 

Ranginak is best when made with freshly picked and soft dates and that's how my mother used to make it back home. She wouldn't stuff dates with walnuts as it seems to be common now a days. The ranginak she made was soft and sweet and was covered with toasted wheat flour which would easily melt in your mouth.
Ranginak is traditionally served with a freshly brewed cup of tea. I've used my mother's ranginak recipe with a little twist of adding crushed walnuts and some garnish for presentation.

Ranginak - Persian Date Dessert

Serving 6-8

1 lb dates (preferably fresh and soft), pitted and cut in half
1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 cups flour (whole wheat or all purpose), sifted
2 tablespoons fine sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom


Pistachios, coarsely chopped
Slivered almonds *optional
Shredded coconuts *optional

  1. Toast walnuts in a dry skillet for 3-5 minutes on medium-low heat. Set aside.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the dates and cook them for 3 minutes until softened, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the toasted walnuts and ground cardamom. Stir well and cook for another 2 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently. Set aside.
  4. In large pan, toast the sifted flour over medium heat until the edges turn a light golden brown. Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the flour, stirring constantly. Gradually add a cup of oil to make a smooth and creamy paste.
  5. Add the cinnamon, cardamon and a tablespoon of sugar.
  6. On a serving platter spread half of the flour mixture, top with the dates and walnut mixture, press them down packed. Spread the remaining flour over the dates.
  7. Sprinkle a tablespoon of fine sugar and garnish with chopped pistachios, slivered almonds and shredded coconuts.
  8. Serve with fresh brewed hot tea and warm bread.