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.