November 29, 2011

Sohan Asali - Persian Honey and Saffron Almond Candy

This past weekend marked my third year anniversary blogging about Persian cuisine, which is the kind of food I grew up with and to this day love to make all the time and gladly share it with you. When I ventured into the world of food blogging I never thought that one day I would be celebrating my blog's 3rd anniversary! The title of my blog, "Turmeric and Saffron" best describes my late mother's kitchen, with her spice jars and herb bottles everywhere on the counter and shelves, except for her small container of deep red saffron threads from Mashhad tucked away in a cupboard. Among the blend of intoxicating aromas in our ashpaz-khaneh (kitchen) there were various yellow turmeric-stained wooden spatulas, mismatched kitchen rags, her favorite plasco plastic containers and an array of over-sized pots and pans. Then there she was, in the middle of the kitchen meticulously preparing food for her family while beautifully humming a tune by one of her favorite singers such as Delkash, Elaheh and Marzieh.

Almost every meal that we ate at home was cooked by my mother from start to finish, since she would not allow any helpers to cook for us. She was very picky when it would come to cooking and eating. Of course baking was an exception to this rule. My mother would use zardchoobeh (turmeric) extensively to enhance the flavor and improve the aroma of meat dishes, stews and any recipe that involved using lamb or chicken. When making the traditional abgousht/abgoosht (lamb stew) she would add a full teaspoon of turmeric to the boiling water before adding the lamb shanks and the other ingredients, a cooking technique that I only saw in her kitchen. Zaferan (saffron) on the other hand was used in most rice dishes and some sweets such as shole-zard to give a bold flavor, gorgeous natural orange-reddish color and a delicious aroma. She would usually pour a estekan (small tea cup) of saffron-water mixture over the parboiled rice in the pot before placing the towel covered lid back on the pot to steam. My mother had a vast knowledge of herbal medicine, plants, food ingredients as well as how to make healthy food choices. It is not only writing down my mother's recipes and my memories of growing up in Iran that bring me joy and keep me connected to my roots but more importantly it's the simple sharing of my mother's recipes that I find even more fulfilling.

For this sweet occasion I'm making سوهان عسلی sohan asali (honey and almond candy). For best results I recommend using butter instead of vegetable oil. Even though flavored honey is not used in making this candy I like to use the orange blossom honey for an added flavor. I would also like to lightly toast the slivered almonds to improve the aroma and the taste. While cooking, the content becomes very hot so it would be wonderful if someone could give you a hand at the end when you are dropping the spoonful of the hot mixture onto the parchment paper since it dries quickly and you still need to sprinkle the ground pistachios on top. Otherwise, you've got to be very quick.

Sohan Asali - Persian Honey and Saffron Almond Candy

Makes about 20 pieces

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons rose water
1/2 teaspoon saffron powder
1/4 cup pistachios, crushed for garnish

  1. Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper and leave the crushed pistachios nearby.
  2. In a medium sized heavy pot combine sugar, honey, oil and rose water on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Stir and swirl the pot around a few times.
  3. Lower the heat and add in the almonds into the sugar mixture, stir frequently, cook for another 7-10 minutes or until they turn light golden.
  4. Add the crushed saffron and gently stir with a wooden spoon.
  5. When the almonds are well coated with this caramel color syrup, start spooning out the mixture on the parchment paper as quickly as you can and sprinkle the pistachios on top. Allow them to cool completely.
  6. Remove the sohan asali from the tray, store in an airtight container and serve them the next day.
Serve with a hot cup of tea.

* I have tweaked and made some minor changes to the original recipe. I have cut the amount of sugar and made it vegan.


November 14, 2011

Moraba-ye Beh - Persian Quince Jam with Cardamom and Rose Water

Recently, a reader left a comment on my blog asking for a recipe for quince jam and that's when I decided to make this gorgeous colored, delicious and fragrant jam while quinces are still available in the market. مربای به Quince jam was part of the typical Persian sobhaneh (breakfast) back home in Iran and it included freshly baked warm bread (barbari, taftoon or sangak) right out of the tanoor, a fresh brewed hot cup of chai (tea), sarshir (breakfast cream), panir (my fave, lighvan), butter and honey. Among the many different kinds of jams, quince jam added color, flavor and aroma to our busy breakfast table. I suggest making a large batch since this is the kind of jam that you just want to eat right out of the jar. I wish I could say how long quince jam would last when refrigerated but past a 2-3 month time period I wouldn't know. It never lasts beyond that time in our fridge. It's truly amazing to see the transformation of this light yellowish colored, tart, firm and woody fruit into a sweet fruit jam that is a rich stunning shade of red and soft enough to melt in your mouth.

This time of year, when quince is in season, it is the best time to make the hearty one-pot meal known as tas kabab with layers of sliced quinces or the fall recipe khoresh-e beh (quince stew).  Quince has a thin skin and there's usually no need to remove it, just rinse it well and with a sharp knife gently remove the core but don't throw away the seeds which are used for medicinal purposes. As I have mentioned before in one of my previous posts, a teaspoon of quince seeds mixed with a cup of hot water can help soothe a minor sore throat and chest pains. Nothing of this fruit goes to waste!

Moraba-ye Beh - Persian Quince Jam

Makes about 4 pint jars 

7 medium sized quince, rinse well under water and pat dry, remove any brown spots and core, slice or cut into bite-size pieces
3 cups sugar (can be adjusted to your liking)
3-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom or use 2-3 whole cardamom pods (I used green cardamom)
1 tablespoon rose water *optional
Water, 4 cups

  1.  Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice over the quince slices.
  2. In a large heavy-bottom saucepan combine the sugar and water, bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, uncovered. Reduce the heat and boil for another ten minutes on medium-low heat or until it thickens a little bit. 
  3. Add the ground cardamom and quince slices to the sugar syrup, bring back to a boil on medium heat. Pour in the rest of the lemon juice and add a little more water if needed.
  4. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours on low heat. It is recommended not to remove the lid during the cooking to ensure that the quince slices develop the desired rich ruby red color. You can wrap the lid in a clean kitchen towel. I didn't wrap the lid with any cloth and a few times I gently stirred the content.
  5. Add a tablespoon of rose water and simmer for another few minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool.
  7. Ladle the jam into sterilized jars. Cover tightly and refrigerate.
Serve with butter, cheese, thick yogurt and/or as a topping with vanilla ice cream. 


November 04, 2011

Borani Kalam Ghomri - Persian Kohlrabi and Yogurt Dip

I have been planning to make this super delicious recipe for quite some time now. بورانی Borani is a Persian side dish/appetizer that's made with plain yogurt and the vegetable of your choice such as borani esfenaj, borani bademjan and borani laboo, which are the most well known and popular among other borani recipes.
 A week ago I made my usual early morning visit to the vegetable market. Most times when I walk in there some of the shelves are still empty while the workers are taking the products out of their boxes and arranging the produce on the shelves. I prefer this not-so-hectic time at the vegetable market so I can walk through the aisles looking for different fruits and vegetables while enjoying their fresh aromas and not having to maneuver my shopping cart through the packed aisles. On that day my eyes spotted kohlrabies once again and since I had بورانی کلم قمری borani kalam ghomri recipe on my mind I picked up a few. As I was placing them into the plastic bag another customer quickly came and took a couple of kohlrabies without any hesitation. I was wondering what kind of a dish she was planning to make with these gorgeous kohlrabies. By the time I decided to ask this random stranger for a recipe in a vegetable store she had walked away onto the next aisle. I walked away thinking that if my mother were there she not only would have found out what this lady was going to make for dinner that night but she would also get to know her personally and find out so much about her in the course of one simple conversation!

In my mother's case, standing in saf-e noon o goosht (store lines) whether to buy freshly baked bread or the good quality hand-cut meat at the butcher shop, it was a precious moment to get to know her neighbors and the people in the community. She loved a good conversation and was always eager to hear ordinary people's real-life stories and that's what she would miss greatly every time she came here for a visit. Not being able to communicate in English with our neighbors, people in the markets or the parks was quite troubling for her emotionally. We were all so busy each time she visited us that we could not accommodate her as fully as she would have desired. I would try to do my best translating her questions which at times were a bit too personal for my taste. She was very much interested in learning how and when someone had migrated to this country, what it was like in the beginning and how the transition and the assimilation process was like for them. At times, I felt so uneasy interpreting this line of back and forth communication between my mother and a non-Iranian guest at a party. But that was the kind of story my mother was interested in, not what people did for a living, how much they were worth or what kind of a house or car they owned. I suppose it was her genuine interest in the human story of displacement and diaspora that people often responded well to her questions by giving lengthy answers.

Borani Kalam Ghomri - Kohlrabi and Yogurt Dip

Serves 4

2 1/2  cups thick yogurt (strained)
3 medium-size kohlrabies, peeled, thinly sliced or coarsely shredded or cubed
1 bunch of fresh parsley, hard stems removed and chopped
1 small bunch of fresh chives or scallions, chopped
A few sprigs of fresh mint, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried mint
1 large onion, chopped or thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
A small pinch of turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper (may be adjusted to your liking)
Olive oil (extra virgin) or Vegetable oil

  1.  Place the sliced kohlrabies into a skillet, add 1/2 cup of water and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until they soften slightly. Add a pinch of salt. Discard water.
  2. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil/vegetable oil in a frying pan, add onions and saute until golden brown. Add a tiny pinch of  turmeric and the minced garlic, stir and saute them in the olive oil for another five minutes. 
  3. Add the kohlrabi pieces, salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. At the end add the chopped parsley, chives and mint and mix well.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the yogurt with all the ingredients and gently stir together. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Let cool for an hour.
Scoop the borani into a serving bowl and garnish with fried onion and garlic. I layered the top with extra slices of kohlrabi.This could be served as a side dish or an afternoon healthy snack with warm bread or pita chips.


October 23, 2011

Turkish Coffee - Persian Armenian Style

As a kid I used to see my mother drinking ghahveh turk (Turkish coffee) in small coffee cups with her friends and neighbors during their gatherings while talking about almost anything under the blue sky. They usually would meet for an hour or two in the morning in between sending their kids off to school, tidying up the house and preparing lunch for their husbands who would come back home for lunch. My mother learned to make Turkish coffee from her Armenian neighbor when she was just a young newlywed and had moved to a new home and a new town. This warm and friendly Armenian family with grown kids welcomed her to the neighborhood and their home. They eased her sense of loneliness and in them my mother found the family that she had left behind for marriage. That's where she had ghahveh turk for the first time and from then on she enjoyed drinking it as an occasional treat.

Over the years, my very dear Armenian friend Flora and I have developed a routine of meeting each other for breakfast, which is always at her place. Well she offers and I accept, you know they say never to refuse a good offer! She usually makes a delicious omelet with all kinds of vegetables with warm barbari bread, hot fresh brewed tea, and a tiny cup of  قهوه  ghahveh (coffee) at the end of our gathering just before I leave. Besides the good food and her warm hospitality we both have enjoyed our many deep an heartwarming conversations.                             

Having Turkish coffee at my friend Flora's house

Lighthearted fortune telling is a fun part of drinking Turkish coffee. We like to look for patterns and images on the walls of these tiny cups, anything that might resemble faces, birds, roads and valleys

Here's Flora's recipe for kofe/soorj:

Serves 2

2 heaping teaspoons powdered roast coffee
2 cups water  (small-size coffee cups)
1 teaspoon sugar, may be adjusted to your liking 

  1. In a small pot with a long handle combine finely powdered coffee, cool water and sugar. stir well.
  2. Place the pot on medium heat and bring to a boil, watch closely as the coffee starts to rise in the pot and foam, remove the pot from heat and pour into each cup and serve.


October 07, 2011

Morgh-e Torsh - Sour Chicken Stew with Fresh Herbs and Yellow Split Peas

I've been wanting to make مرغ ترش morgh-e torsh for quite some time but somehow I never got around to it. However, I recently received a very kind email from a reader asking for this recipe along with a couple of other dishes from the northern province of Gilan and I was inspired to write a post about it. This is a relatively easy dish to make but the taste is just superb and every bite is so full of flavor. Food from shomal (northern Iran) has its own distinct flavor with its local vegetables that's hard to find anywhere else. Northern Iran is also known for its rice fields, tea plantations and the caviar from Darya-ye Khazar (Caspian sea).

This morgh-e torsh recipe was given to me by a very dear friend of mine of many years. My good friend Maryam is from the city of Rasht and currently lives in Toronto with her loving family. I met Maryam in college here in New York and we instantly became friends. We hung out together, laughed and complained of homesickness. After graduation she moved away, we may lose contact briefly and periodically but throughout the years we have remained friends for life. Thanks to Maryam I get to write about this amazing Gilani recipe.

I changed a couple of minor things here and there in the recipe. Maryam's recipe calls for one whole chicken, I used four pieces of boneless and skinless chicken breasts which I cut into small pieces (about two pounds) and the second change is adding turmeric to the recipe. I just couldn't resist and I added a pinch of turmeric powder while frying the chicken. 

Sour Chicken Stew with Fresh Herbs and Yellow Split Peas

Serves 4-6

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
1/2 cup yellow split peas
2 bunches of coriander, finely chopped
1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
1 large onion, peeled and diced
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Juice of  1-2  narenj (Seville orange/bitter orange) or juice of 1-2 lemon/lime, (the amount  may be adjusted to your taste and preferences)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Clean and wash all fresh vegetables, remove the stems and chop finely.
  2. In a skillet add 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, saute the chopped onion, minced garlic and the chopped vegetables on medium-low heat until soft and tender.
  3. Cook the yellow split peas in 2 cups of water with a dash of salt for about 30 minutes or until they become soft. Discard the water.
  4. Lightly fry the chicken pieces in a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan on medium heat until they are no longer pink, add salt and pepper to taste. As I mentioned, I added a pinch of turmeric as well.
  5. In a saucepan combine all the ingredients, the sauteed vegetable mixture, chicken pieces and the yellow split peas. Add enough water to cover all the ingredients. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce heat, add salt and pepper and the juice of Seville orange or lemon juice to your liking. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for about an hour until all the flavors come together, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Transfer the stew in a large serving bowl. Serve with kateh or polow, zeytoon parvardeh and pickled garlic.
For a complete Gilani lunch or dinner you may want to add mirza ghasemi to the menu as a side dish.

September 29, 2011

Sholeh Maash - Persian Green Mung Bean and Kohlrabi Hearty Soup

Ever since I saw the recipe for shole maash online in the 19th century Qajar Women Cookbook, I have been thinking about giving it a try. شله ماش  Sholeh Maash (mung beans with kohlrabi) makes a tasty and nutritious autumn soup. This recipe, like the others in the book, consists of a brief description of what the necessary ingredients are, and the word yek-meghdar (some) is frequently used to describe the amount needed for each ingredient. Persian cuisine is forgiving in terms of measurements and when you ask a grandmother for a recipe the answer is basically a list of the ingredients with yek-kami (a little bit) of this and yek-meghdar (some) of that and that's how I, along with many other Iranians, learned to cook. I learned that you can use a little less or a little more of most ingredients in a recipe depending on your taste and preferences. A few months into blogging I bought a food scale to measure the ingredients by weight but I have rarely used it.

Sholeh maash is not a thin and watery soup. It's a rather rich soup that can be served as a main dish. The original recipe calls for meat but I've decided that it is substantial enough without the addition of any lamb or beef.

Sholeh Maash - Persian Green Mung Bean and Kohlrabi Hearty Soup

Serves 6

1 1/2  cups green mung beans, rinse 2-3 times
1/2 cup rice, rinse well
3-4 medium-size kohlrabi, peel and cut into small cubes, leave one cubed kohlrabi for the topping
1 large bunch of fresh tareh or scallions (green parts only), washed and chopped
1 small bunch of fresh tarragon, stems removed and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, diced
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 teaspoon red pepper *optional
1/3 teaspoon cumin *optional

  1. Place the beans and the rice in a large pot, add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
  2. Add the small pieces of kohlrabi, salt, pepper, cover and cook for 45 minutes on low heat.
  3. Periodically check to see if you need to add more water to the soup.
  4. Add the chopped vegetables, taste and adjust the seasoning, add more hot water if needed and let it simmer for another 15 minutes for the flavors to blend in.
  5. In the meantime, fry the sliced onions in 3-4 tablespoons of hot vegetable oil in a skillet until golden brown. Add the turmeric powder and the minced garlic to the oil, stir and saute further for another five minutes.
  6. Add a large tablespoon of the fried onion to the soup and gently mix well.
  7. Lightly fry the cubed kohlrabi in 2-3 tablespoons of hot vegetable oil until soft and golden on medium heat. Add a pinch of salt, turmeric, cumin and red pepper and stir well.
To serve ladle the soup into a soup bowl, top with the fried onions and kohlrabi. Serve hot with bread and yogurt.


September 13, 2011

Kateh - Persian Style Plain and Simple Rice

We are in the last days of summer and even though I am savoring each and every day that's left I am very grateful and excited for the beginning of fall season and yet another school year. The days of holding my daughters little hands and joyfully walking them to the line outside of their classrooms have been long gone. I vividly remember my eldest daughter's first day of first grade when she walked into the classroom cheerful and I walked away with tears rolling down my face realizing at that moment that this was the beginning of a long journey in life for her and that I wouldn't be able to hold her hands forever. I have always wanted them to be independent, to stand on their own two feet and roam the world freely but sometimes letting go is not that easy.

 I remember my first day of first grade very well, but it's the night before the first day of school that stands out in my mind. In Iran, the first day of school starts on rooz-e aval-e mehr (the first day of the month of Mehr) according to the Persian solar calendar which is also the first day of fall (September 23rd, the autumnal equinox). It was the night before the start of school, with my three older siblings in high school, a sibling in elementary school and a new born baby brother, the house was in such a chaos that as I was getting ready for bed I realized that I had no book bag, no lunch box and no school uniform to go to school with the next day. That night I went to bed with the jitters, worrying about not having everything ready. However, when I woke up in the morning I was amazed to see a brand new lunchbox, a beautiful new book bag and a hand-sewn uniform by my mother next to my pillow. I never asked my parents about how they were able to acquire those things so late at night but I guess I didn't want to ruin the special moment in my mind.

 First Grade Lesson, (Persian Alphabet)
کته Kateh is the easiest and quickest way of  preparing rice. In fact, this was the first recipe I learned to cook as a child. My mother taught all of us to make kateh as a child. The simple no-fuss recipe involves adding about two parts of water to one part cleaned and rinsed rice in a pot, adding salt and oil and letting it simmer on low heat. I have posted many rice/polow recipes and almost all of them except one (dami baghali) are made by bringing lots of water to a boil, adding rice, draining the water and steaming the parboiled rice with or without other ingredients. In making kateh we use the absorption method where the water is not thrown out and the rice cooks until the water is fully absorbed. The rice in kateh may not be as fluffy as the rice in polow but it's definitely tastier. Also, kateh does not have a crispy and crunchy tah-dig.

Depending on the type of rice, you may need to adjust the water and rice ratio. I prefer using basmati rice for it's flavor and aroma and because it's somewhat similar to the very flavorful and aromatic rice from the northern region of Iran. For a less sticky and more fluffy and firm rice use 2/3 cups of water for a cup of rice. There's also the old Persian method of measuring the needed amount of water for rice by covering the rice with enough water in the pot to reach up to the first joint of your index finger. An easy option instead of making kateh on your stove is to use a rice cooker that also makes tah-dig!  Personally, I wouldn't recommend it simply because there's a joy in preparing a meal the old-fashioned way by taking the time, care and effort  to cook whenever possible.

Kateh - Persian Style Plain and Simple Rice

Serves 4

2 cups dry basmati rice
4 cups water
Salt to taste
butter or vegetable oil

  1. Rinse the rice 2-3 times with cool water or until it becomes clear, discard the water. 
  2. Place the rice in a medium-sized pot, add 4 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
  3. When the water starts boiling add 2 tablespoons oil or butter depending on your preference, gently stir once or twice with a wooden spoon.
  4. Wrap the lid with a clean dishcloth, cover the pot and cook on low heat for about 30-40 minutes.
Serve the rice on a platter with yogurt, salad or your favorite khoresh.

Enjoy! Happy Autumn!

August 20, 2011

Salade Khorfeh - Shirazi Style Purslane Salad

Wouldn't it be nice to walk into your local farmers' market and find bunches of fresh khorfeh (purslane) bundled up and stacked neatly next to the basil and mint on the shelf? I am hopeful that one day purslane will no longer be considered as just an annoying garden weed that's neglected.  Perhaps if instead of sprouting in every corner purslane was sowed and watered in vegetable gardens then it might have been appreciated more for its nutritional values, beauty and taste. But until then I am grateful that purslane grows everywhere and I can easily spot them in the lawn, in flower beds and next to the garden rocks. I appreciate purslane's generous and humble nature. This year, I have removed some of the purslane and transplanted them to flower pots to use for cooking. These beautiful and succulent herbs have a distinct sweet and sour taste and are a perfect addition to a cucumber and tomato summer salad.

For this recipe I used small, young leaves of purslane that will go well with tiny pieces of Persian cucumber, firm tomatoes and onion known as salad shirazi.  The combination of these three main ingredients with the lemon juice and olive oil salad dressing is simply a perfect side to many delicious Iranian dishes. If the leaves are broad you may want to chop them into smaller pieces to blend well or just use the tender small leaves. سالاد خرفه Salade khorfeh goes well with khoresh bademjan. A spoonful of aromatic basmati saffron rice mixed with the velvety texture of eggplant sauce and topped with this tasty and crunchy salad is truly amazing!

Last summer, I posted a recipe for mast-o-khorfeh (yogurt with purslane). Tokhm-e khorfeh (purslane seeds) are used as a topping for naan berenji.

Salade Khorfeh - Shirazi Style Purslane Salad

Serves 4-6

2 cup purslane leaves
5 Persian cucumbers or any small and seedless cucumbers, peeled and cut into small pieces
4 firm plum tomatoes or any small ripe tomatoes, cut into small pieces
1 small onion, (red or yellow), cut into small pieces, I used red onion.
1 teaspoon dried mint 
1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine purslane, cucumber, tomatoes, onion and dried mint.
  2. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve.
Serve this beautiful and delicious salad cold or at room temperature with your favorite dish.


July 31, 2011

Kabab Koobideh - Persian Grilled Ground Lamb On Skewers

Persian Grilled Ground Lamb on Skewers

I just couldn't let my third summer of blogging pass by without posting a recipe for the internationally-known Iranian dish: kabab koobideh/kabob kubide. In addition to this popular kabab there's also the well known kabab barg (grilled skewered lamb tenderloin) and the delectable joojeh kabab (grilled chicken) as well as many other types of kababs, which are served with chelow, the parboiled and steamed rice.

In our home, grilling has become one of the rituals and pleasures of the summer, but usually by mid-October the gas grill gets cleaned, covered and put away for the rest of the year until the trees bloom once again. On the other hand, growing up in Iran it was always grilling season! Kababs were made all year-round, regardless of the weather conditions. Our barbeque grill was an old, overused but sturdy rectangular manghal (portable charcoal grill) left in the far away corner of the yard year-round. But on kabab days, in a matter of minutes my mother would bring the manghal to the center of the yard, place some zoghal (wood charcoal) in it and start the fire. When the coals looked hot and glowing she would place the kabab skewers on the fire. Kababs, like any other meal, were made solely by my mother from start to finish. She had the required ease and speed in preparing the meat, fanning the charcoal using a bad-bezan (straw hand fan) and at the same time frequently turning the skewers over so the meat wouldn't fall off. Then the cooked kababs and grilled tomatoes would be placed in between layers of fresh taftoon (flat bread) and immediately taken to the dining room table where the aromatic rice, small bowl of sumac, fresh basil leaves, quartered raw onions, yogurt and a pitcher of ice-cold doogh (yogurt drink) were already placed.

Traditionally, کباب کوبیده koobideh is made with ground lamb. However, ground lean beef or a combination of the two could be used too. This is the kind of kabab that needs meat with some fat on it. Koobideh is basically made with very few ingredients consisting of ground meat, grated onion, salt and pepper. Adding a teaspoon of sumac, turmeric, saffron or any other ingredient is totally optional and depends on one's individual tastes and preferences. I'm not a big fan of using (joosh-e shirin) baking soda in cooking but a few times I have taken my friend's advice and added a teaspoon of baking soda to tenderize the meat mixture and I liked the result. I like to buy the meat on the same day that I'm grilling but if you decide to do your shopping a day in advance it's better to prepare the mixture and keep it in the refrigerator. Kababs are always served with grilled tomatoes but grilling other vegetables such as onions, hot green peppers or corn are optional. Serving this dish with raw eggs on top, as was common in the past, is no longer advisable due to health reasons.

Kabab Koobideh - Persian Grilled Ground Lamb On Skewers

 Serving: 8 skewers

2 pounds finely ground lamb, (grind it 2-3 times)
1 large onion, grated, squeeze out the juice
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper or to taste

For Grilled Vegetables:

4 medium firm and ripe tomatoes, cut in halves
2 medium onions, quartered *optional
8 hot green peppers *optional


  1. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients and mix well with your hands until the mixture becomes well blended and sticky. Set aside at room temperature for at least an hour.
  2. Leave a bowl of water next to you on the counter for dipping your hands to prevent stickiness while placing the lamb on the skewers.
  3. You may divide the ground lamb into equal portions in advance or take a handful and shape into an oval and place on a flat and long metal skewer and press onto the skewer, making sure that both ends are sticking as well. The thickness and the length of the kababs depend on your preferences. When all the skewers are done, set aside for at least half an hour.
  4. Turn on the gas grill and make sure it's very hot and then one by one place the skewers on the grill. Turn each skewer over quickly and continue to do so until the lamb is browned on both sides and well cooked.
  5. Place the vegetables directly on the hot grill or place them on the thin metal or wooden skewers and grill over the flame.
Set the table in advance, place all the necessary condiments you would need for the meal, serve the rice on a platter and then bring the kabab platter to the table with the grilled vegetables.


July 16, 2011

Dami Baghali -Turmeric Rice With Yellow Fava Beans and Caramelized Onions

دمی باقالی/باقلا Dami baghali is a combination of rice and dried yellow fava beans cooked together slowly over low heat. The result is a flavorful rice and beans dish that is best served with a bowl of mast-o-khiar, salad Shirazi or torshi (my favorite). Nothing beats having this delicious home-cooked meal on a summer day with your family. Dami baghali is one of my husband's favorite dishes and he is usually the one who buys the fava beans for this dish or anything that resembles them! Not too long ago though he mistakenly bought lupini beans instead of fava beans from an Italian market. I still haven't figured out what to do with all these beans and how to cook them.

There are different recipes for this rice and beans dish and the difference basically depends on one's tastes and preferences. Some would add a tablespoon of tomato paste or fresh chopped tomatoes. Some serve it with fried eggs (sunny side up) and some people prefer it hot. It may also be served with lamb shanks. The following recipe is how I like to make and serve dami baghali in our home, simple with no meat and with caramelized onions on top. I also like to use equal portions of rice and fava beans. However, it is more common to use anywhere from 1/2 cup to two cups more rice than fava beans. Instead of increasing the amount of rice you may reduce the fava beans to 1 1/2 cups in this recipe if you like.

Dami Baghali -Turmeric Rice With Yellow Fava Beans and Caramelized Onions

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups dried yellow skinless fava beans
2 cups white long grain rice
2 large yellow onions, one onion diced finely, one sliced thinly
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
A pinch of red pepper (optional)
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil or olive oil

  1. Rinse and soak the beans in 4 cups of cool water for a couple of hours. Drain. 
  2. Rinse the rice with cool water and soak in 4 cups of  water with 2 tablespoons of salt for about an hour before cooking. Drain.
  3. Heat about 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, saute until lightly golden brown. Add turmeric, stir well. Add the beans, cumin and red pepper. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Stirring intermittently.
  4. Add the rice to the pot and pour enough water to cover the rice and the beans about an inch above the rice. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cover the lid with a clean kitchen towel to absorb the moisture. Cover the pot and cook for about 45-50 minutes on low heat.
  5. In the meantime saute the remaining sliced onions in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When the onions become soft and transparent, reduce the heat to low and let them caramelize slowly.
Serve rice on a platter, spoon the caramelized onions over top and serve with mast-o-khiar, salad shirazi or torshi.


It would be nice to have love reciprocated 
one sided love is trouble
if Majnun's heart was filled with maddening love
Layli's heart was brimming with more intense love
~Poem by:  Baba Taher