April 18, 2013

My Shurka Bazaar Visit - NYC Persian Parade 2013

This past Sunday, April 14th, was the 10th annual Spring Persian Parade in the heart of New York City. The parade took place along Madison Avenue from 39th Street to 26th Street and lasted for several hours. In addition to the parade there was a bazaar along the Madison Avenue park with many vendors showcasing their products such as hand-made crafts, home furnishings, rugs, jewelry, teas and Persian food. I unfortunately missed the parade in its entirety. My plans changed a few times in the morning before I actually left my home but I finally ended up taking the Long Island Rail Road into the city with my eldest daughter. Having my daughter by my side and being to able to share this day honoring the Persian culture with her was precious to say the least. Although, I missed having my other daughter with me since she was busy studying for her Biology midterm and was not able to attend.

This post consists of various photos detailing my short day among my fellow Iranians in New York City, drinking tea, eating delicious food and meeting friends as I worked my way through the crowd. The weather cooperated and it was a glorious spring day. Since I mainly write about Persian cuisine my post captures only that aspect of my day and only the ones that captured my attention. I don't like posting images of people without their permission. Otherwise, I would have loved to post pictures of people of all ages dancing and singing in the middle of the park. I love how some of us dance to the beat of the music like nobody's watching! I cheer them on by clapping and perhaps doing a little sway on the side.

My first stop was at the table where Najmieh Batmangelij was signing her cookbooks! I asked her for a copy of her vegetarian cookbook and told her how I'm a fan of her work. She graciously signed my copy of the book and I got to take a picture of her. Such a lovely lady! How I would love to one day be in the kitchen with her and cook something together or even just watch her boil some water!

This book is a gift for a lovely family member with a heart of gold and since I haven't had a chance to give it to her yet I've cropped the name out.

                                                                             Photo courtesy of Nini Ordoubadi

Next, I visited the delightful tea den of the lovely Nini Ordoubadi where I got to drink her flavorful Persian Rose tea. Her den, which was surrounded by Persian rugs, beautiful photos, spring flowers and of course an array of all artisanal teas, felt intimate, warm and endearing. I am planning to visit her Tay tea store sometime during the summer when life is less hectic. I also purchased her Persian Rose tea which I made the next day and I love it!

Enjoying a freshly brewed tea at home

Saeed Pourkay the owner of Taste of Persia

 My next stop was the Taste of Persia's ash-e reshteh since I had heard about it for the past couple of years. I thought how wonderful it would be to be able to eat a bowl of hot ash on the sidewalk of Madison Ave. During the years when I worked in the city and had frequented many times, I don't remember ever strolling down on Madison Ave. For me it was just another avenue to cross on the way to work. So, I stayed on the long and slow line for ash reshteh and when we got to the front of the line we were told that they were all out and only had halim left! I bought a large bucket of halim instead and took it home for my husband and to photograph it too!

Halim the next morning at home

Torshi and khiar shoor, cellphone photo courtesy of my daughter

Have a lovely spring!

April 07, 2013

Soup-e Jo - Persian Chicken Barley Soup

This is a healthy and delicious سوپ جو  soup-e jo (barley soup) recipe with chicken, carrots and a good squirt of fresh lemon juice. This is the kind of recipe that I would highly recommend to college students living away from home that are tired of eating campus food and unhealthy take-outs. This soup is easy to prepare and there aren't too many ingredients. All you need is access to a working stove, a little time and a good dose of enthusiasm.

It's officially spring but the pleasant spring weather has not arrived yet! For my first post of the new season I would have liked to prepare a light dish with fresh vegetables but I'm still waiting for that exhilarating moment to be able to open all the windows and let the fresh air fill the house and to feel the arrival of spring all around me. I can't wait to put back my outdoor bird houses and wind chimes around the house that I had brought inside before the Sandy Storm last fall. Spring is such a short season here in New York, it arrives late and is gone before you know it.

While I was growing up in the southern region of Iran, early spring meant beautiful weather and gorgeous landscapes with wild flowers. One of my springtime memories goes back to یک روز بهاری (one spring day) when I was a seventh grader in our small town of Masjed Soleiman in Khouzestan province. I watched a flock of wild parrots pass over our house in the early hours of the morning. I don't know where they were traveling to or where they were coming from but my father, who loved birds and at one point had about two hundred birds and possibly more had my mother not objected, suggested catching those parrots and excitedly I went along. The next morning, at the crack of dawn, I watched my father bring out an old mesh wire cage and place it by a large open window. He tied a long string to the little latch on the opening of the cage, placed some seeds inside with a trail leading out. We waited patiently as a couple of parrots from the flock approached our house and one of them followed the seed trail into the cage. My father pulled the string and closed the door on the parrot. It was a thrilling moment and the joy continued for the next few days until we had eventually captured five beautiful parrots.

Several days later I came home from school joyfully refilling their water bowl and giving them more seeds. Things seemed calm in our household and my mother appeared to be going along with our little hunting escapade. However, she apparently tolerated the whole situation for as long as she could and one day while I was still at school she took the cage out in the back of the house over the hills, opened the cage-door and let the wild parrots out in the middle of nowhere. To my horror I found the cage empty on the lonely porch. I think I went through each stage of grief except the last one, acceptance, in the span of ten minutes before I headed down to the kitchen where I knew she would be. I don't remember what I said, it's all a blur, but I remember what she told me: پرنده جاش تو قفس نیست (birds don't belong in a cage!) "Birds need to be free and to be able to go wherever they wish to go," she said. Through our heartfelt connection I understood what she meant and to this day I am still learning the depth of that poignant lesson.

Soup-e Jo - Chicken Barley Soup 

Serves 6-8

1 1/2 cups pearl barley, rinsed and soaked in cool water for an hour
4 pieces of chicken (drumsticks or wings)
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
1-2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste (I would suggest a freshly ground black pepper for this recipe)
2-3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime/lemon juice
Chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish


  1. Arrange the quartered onions at the bottom of the stockpot, add the chicken, celery, garlic, bay leaf, turmeric, salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover all of the ingredients, bring to a boil on medium-high. Reduce the heat, cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. 
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool. Drain the soup and pour into a bowl for later use. Separate the chicken from the bones and shred into small pieces.
  3. Place the soaked and drained barley in a large pot, add the strained chicken soup and enough water to cover up to 3 inches. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes on medium-high heat, reduce the heat, cover leaving the lid a little ajar and cook for 45 minutes.
  4. To the pot add the shredded chicken and the shredded carrots, stir. Add more hot water if needed. Cover and cook for another 40- 45 minutes on medium-low heat.
  5. In the last 15 minutes of cooking add the lemon juice, taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve the soup in a large bowl, sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve with warm bread.

Note: All the soup pictures are taken from the same barley soup. The first two were taken with little liquid and freshly shredded carrots on top to show the ingredients. The last two photos are from the soup filled with liquid.