Shirazi Salad with Pickled Shallots and Feta

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I love to entertain, but I especially love summer entertaining. Throw something on the BBQ, serve a salad or two, something frozen for dessert, a chilled bottle of white wine and you’re ready to go!

Salad Shirazi is a classic Persian salad with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, onions and herbs. It is one of my favourite side dishes for Persian Kabobs. I wanted to slightly update this classic salad by using rainbow grape and cherry tomatoes, baby cucumbers, fresh mint and tangy feta cheese. I’ve also pickled the shallots to cut the harsh onion flavour and add a slight sweetness to this salad.The result is a fresh, vibrant, flavourful and  visually beautiful summer salad that is the perfect complement to any BBQ dish.

Shirazi Salad with Pickled Shallots and Feta
(serves 4-6)

3 small shallots (or one large), sliced thinly
1/2 cup vinegar (white or apple cider)
500 g grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
3 baby seedless cucumbers, split lengthwise and chopped into half moons.
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
200 g feta, cubed
kosher salt & fresh ground pepper

To pickle the shallots, put the shallots in a bowl and pour vinegar over them along with 1/2 cup water. Set aside for 30-60 minutes.

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In a large bowl put in the tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh chopped mint and feta. Drain the shallots and add to the salad.

Add the feta cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.

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Toss the salad. Taste and season with more salt, pepper or lemon juice if necessary. Enjoy!

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Khorest-e Kadu (Persian Chicken and Zucchini Stew)

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Cooking Persian food can seem to be a daunting task. I’ll admit, I was intimidated at first. It’s the number one reason most of my Iranian friends don’t cook Persian food. Most complain that it’s too difficult or time consuming. But when you actually try it, it’s much easier than it seems. Trust me, if my little brother can make Fesenjoon off my recipe, anyone can!

I wanted to include a Khorest (Persian stew) recipe that even the most novice cook could make. This simplified recipe for Khorest-e Kadu is very easy to prepare and can be made in about an hour. The prep work is minimal and you only get one pot dirty. Just to put it in perspective……during my son’s afternoon nap, which is usually only an hour and a half, I was able to eat my lunch, prepare this stew, clean up the kitchen and still have time to do an art project with my daughter!

Khorest-e Kadu

(Serves 6)

vegetable oil
1.5 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 heaping tbsp tomato paste (approx a small can)
1.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp of ground saffron dissolved in two tbsp hot water
salt & pepper
8-10 whole grape tomatoes

Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium high heat in a large heavy saucepan or dutch oven. When the oil is  hot, brown the chicken, about 3 minutes per side.

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Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. If necessary add another tbsp of vegetable oil and add the sliced onions.  Fry the onions for 8-10 minutes or until they are slightly golden. Add the turmeric and fry for one more minute.

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Add the zucchini and fry, stirring frequently for about 4 minutes. If you find that the bottom of the pan is getting too brown, turn the heat down slightly, add a few tablespoons of water and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

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Add the tomato paste and fry for one more minute. Return the chicken to the pan. Then add the chicken broth, the saffron water, lemon juice, one tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last 20 minutes add the grape tomatoes.

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When ready, check for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if desired. The stew might seem very watery when it is very hot. It will thicken up a bit as it cooks down. What I personally like to do is cool it completely and then heat it up again before I serve it.

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Serve with steamed rice. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Aash-e Reshteh (Persian Bean, Herb and Noodle Soup)

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Although Nowruz was over a month ago, I wanted to share one of my favourite Persian New Year dishes. Also, considering we just got back from a much needed vacation, I thought it was quite appropriate seeing that in addition to being a holiday food, Aash-e Reshteh is also a meal you are supposed to make when a loved one travels.

Traditional Persian New Year dishes are filled with meaning and symbolism and Aash-e Reshteh is normally served on the first day of the New Year. Eating the noodles in Aash-e Reshteh represents the unravelling of the knots of life and it is supposed to bring good fortune and luck. Aash-e Resteh is also a dish that is traditionally prepared when someone embarks on a journey. When a loved one goes on a trip you are supposed to prepare this dish on the third day. According to my mother, if you want them to return soon you make the Aash thicker and if you want them to stay a little longer you prepare it a bit thinner. Either way, eating this Aash is supposed to bring the traveller luck and prosperity.

Hearty and nourishing, this thick soup is filled with beans, aromatic herbs, noodles and creamy whey (kashk). I strongly suggest using low sodium beans and broth as both the noodles and kashk have salt.

Aash-e Reshteh
Serves 6

3 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped italian parsley
1 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 cup finely chopped green onion (green  parts only)
1 cup finely chopped spinach
1 cup finely chopped chives
1 can (540 ml) low sodium chick peas (drained)
1 can (540 ml) low sodium red kidney beans (drained)
1/4 cup dried green lentils, rinsed
9 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
200 grams dried reshteh noodles, broken in half*
1/2 cup kashk**
salt and pepper

Heat the canola oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Fry the onions for 8 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another two minutes. Onions should be slightly golden. Add the turmeric and fry for one more minute. Reserve about a 1/4 of the onion mixture for garnish.

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Add the chicken/vegetable broth, the beans and the lentils. Turn up the heat to high and bring to a light boil. Once it has starting to lightly boil turn the heat down to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are al-dente (softened but still with a bit of a bite to them.

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Add the herbs and simmer for another 30 minutes.

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Check the Aash and when the lentils are cooked, add the reshteh noodles and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the noodles are soft. The Aash should be thick and hearty but if you find that the Aash is too thick you may add more broth or water. If the Aash is too thin you can add a tablespoon of flour mixed with 1/4 cup water to thicken it.

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Turn off the heat and add the kashk and stir well until dissolved. Taste and adjust seasoning and add extra kashk if you like.

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Serve in bowls garnished with the reserved fried onions. You may also garnish with fried dried mint, fried garlic and diluted kashk. Enjoy!

*If you do not have reshteh noodles, you can substitute with fettucine or linguine.

**If you do not have access to kashk you can substitute with sour cream.

Nowruz Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

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The Persian New Year (Nowruz) is one week away and the lead up to the holiday is a very exciting time for Iranians living in Iran and abroad. This year I’m thrilled to be participating in a Nowruz Recipe Round-up with my fellow Persian food bloggers around the world. Community is a very important foundation for Iranians and I am so proud to be a part of this wonderful community of Persian food enthusiasts. Each blogger has contributed a recipe for the upcoming New Year season. You will find the list at the end of this post and I encourage you to click on the links and discover delicious recipes from these amazing ladies.

This year my mother wanted to start a new tradition for Nowruz. In the past, my parents generally served store-bought traditional New Year cookies. Inspired by my Canadian side’s Christmas baking tradition, my mother suggested we all contribute one home-baked cookie or treat to be served to visiting Nowruz guests . My mother is going to make traditional Shirni-Kishmishi.  My sister-in-law will be making her delicious chocolate truffles. My five-year old daughter (with my help) will make her favourite soft sugar cookies with red, green and white sprinkles to symbolize the Iranian flag and I will be making these Persian Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies.

These fragrant, buttery yet light shortbread cookies are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. These cookies are very simple to prepare and the best part is that the dough can be made ahead of time and frozen. All you have to do is defrost overnight, slice and bake.  I highly suggest using Iranian pistachios for this recipe. I personally prefer them to their California counterpart and find that they have a very distinctive flavour.

These shortbread cookies are so delicious that I think they might join our Christmas cookie lineup as well!

Pistachio, Rosewater & Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
(approximately 48 cookies)

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp rosewater
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup shelled salted pistachios (preferably Iranian), coarsely chopped

Using a stand or electric mixer, beat the butter for about one minute on medium speed.

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Turn the mixer off and add the powdered sugar, rosewater and cardamom. Turn the mixer to low so the sugar doesn’t spray everywhere. When the sugar begins to incorporate, turn the mixer to medium and beat for 3 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.

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Turn off the mixer and add the flour. Mix on low-speed until just incorporated. The mixture will be slightly crumbly. Do not overmix or it will result in a tough cookie.

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Add the pistachios and turn the mixer on to low and mix until the pistachios are distributed.  Again, do not overmix.

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Divide the dough in half and roll into a log approximately 12 inches long on top of a large rectangular piece of wax paper. Roll the cookie dough log in the wax paper and twist the ends.

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Refrigerate for 1-2 hours until completely firm. You may also freeze the dough by putting the log into an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to 3 weeks. Defrost overnight in the fridge before using.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a sharp knife, slice the log into 1/4 inch pieces.

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Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat and arrange cookies spaced out one inch apart. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges are starting to very slightly brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Enjoy with a nice cup of tea!

Nowruz Recipe Roundup

 

Havij Polo bah Morgh-e Ab Paz (Persian Carrot Rice and Braised Chicken)

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I have one culinary regret I have in my life…..I wish I had introduced Persian food to my daughter at an earlier age. I was a first time parent and so worried about strong flavours and exotic ingredients, that I don’t think I gave my little girl Persian food until after her second birthday. My poor daughter had a very bland (but healthy) diet up to that point….as a result, at five years old she still tends to prefer bland foods. Although she eats Persian food, she still sometimes asks if she can have her plain rice without “Farsi sauce”.

I vowed not to make the same mistake with my son and I’m proud to say that at 14 months he is a Persian food lover! I may go so far as to say that I think it’s his favourite cuisine. Havij Polo and Morgh-e Ab Pas was my son’s first taste of Persian food. Simple, delicious, aromatic and slightly sweet, I thought this dish was the perfect introduction to the spices that are common to Persian food. Since then, he has tried numerous Persian stew and rice dishes which he has happily gobbled up.

Havij Polo can be served on its own or as a side dish for any meat dish. Some people like to layer chicken within the rice during the cooking process, but I personally love serving Morgh-e Ab Pas (Persian Braised Chicken) on the side because I love pouring some of the flavourful braising liquid over my rice.

Havij Polo
(Serves 4)

2 cups basmati rice
4 tbsp butter
300 grams carrots (about 3-4), peeled and coarsely grated*
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
canola oil
salt
braised chicken (recipe to follow)

In a medium non-stick frying pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the grated carrots and fry for 3 minutes. Add sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 cup water, bring to a boil and cook for another two minutes (most of the water will evaporate). Turn off heat and set aside.

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Wash as much starch off the rice as possible. To do this put the rice in a large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate with your hands. You will notice that the water will become milky. Drain the water and repeat. Keep doing this until the water is clear (about 4-5 times).

After the rice is washed, cover with 6 cups lukewarm water and 1 tsp of salt. Allow the rice to soak for at least 30 minutes (this step is optional, but the rice will be tastier and fluffier if you do it).

Fill a large non-stick pot ¾ full with water and 1 tbsp salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pot of boiling water. Turn down the heat slightly to medium-high (it should still be boiling) and boil for 6-10 minutes stirring occasionally. Make sure to taste the rice as you go along. When it is ready it should be soft but not mushy and over-cooked. It should be the texture of al-dente pasta. For me, I find that 6 minutes usually is enough.

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Drain the rice in a wire sieve.

Using a paper towel, dry your pot. Pour enough canola oil into your pot to just cover the bottom. Add the saffron water to the oil.

Using a spatula, add 1/3 of the rice to form a layer to cover the bottom of the pot and form the ta-dig (the golden rice crust).

Sprinkle half of the carrot mixture over the rice. Then layer another third of the rice on top and then the rest of the carrot mixture. Top with the last third of the rice. The layers should resemble sort of a pyramid.

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Using the handle of a wooden spoon poke three holes in the rice and pour over 1/4 cup water. Top with two tbsp butter. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes.

Turn down the heat to medium low and take a clean dish towel and cover the lid of the pot. Make sure that the lid is on tightly. Alternatively you can use a double layer of paper towel between the pot and lid. Let the rice steam for 40 minutes.

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When the rice is ready, use a spatula to transfer the rice to a serving dish. Gently, mix the carrot and rice. Season with salt if necessary. Loosen the ta-dig with your spatula or a wooden spoon.

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Serve with Morgh-e Ab Paz (recipe to follow) or Persian Roasted Saffron and Lemon Chicken.

*I grate my carrots in the food processor using the grating attachment. You may also cut the carrots in small match sticks if you prefer.

Morgh-e Ab Paz (Braised Chicken)

6-8 chicken thighs (bone-in and skin-on preferred)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric

Spread the onions on the bottom of a large heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid (I prefer a dutch oven). Put the chicken pieces on top of the onions. Sprinkle salt, pepper and turmeric on top and pour 1 cup of water over it. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, turning the chicken over half way.

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Serve the chicken and braising liquid with the rice. Enjoy!

Chicken and Sweet Potato Kotlet

 

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Happy 2014! Every year I make outlandish and unrealistic new year resolutions…that I inevitably abandon after a few days. This year I decided to keep it simple and attainable – add two extra servings of nutrient rich vegetables to my diet per day. Twelve days into the new year and I’m doing pretty well!!

I love Persian Kotlets and I wanted to make a healthier version that tasted delicious and was packed with vitamins. I replaced the traditional beef with lean chicken and the white potato for sweet potato.  Rich in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and potassium, the sweet potato is considered by many to be a superfood. Instead of frying the kotlets, I baked them in the oven. By coating them in panko, they achieved the crunch reminiscent of the fried version, while still being soft and tender on the inside. I loved the texture and ease of baking them so much that I think it may be how I prepare all my kotlets in the future!

Chicken and Sweet Potato Kotlet
(16-20 patties depending on size)

1 lb ground chicken (or turkey)
2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 lb)
1 medium onion finely chopped (I chop mine in a food processor)
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and rub olive oil on the parchment paper.

Peel and cut the sweet potato in one inch chunks. Steam until fork tender (about 20 minutes). Cool slightly.

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In a large bowl combine ground chicken, onions, dried bread crumbs, salt, pepper and eggs. Using a potato masher, mash the sweet potatoes and add to the bowl. Alternatively, use a potato ricer to rice the sweet potatoes into the bowl. Using a spatula or your hands combine the mixture. If it seems too wet, add a little more bread crumbs.

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Put the panko bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. Take about two tablespoons of the mixture (I use an ice cream scoop) and using your hands roll it into a ball and roll it in the panko. Flatten the meat mixture ball and set on the baking sheet.

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Repeat leaving one inch spaces between the patties. Drizzle patties with olive oil.

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Put in oven for 10 minutes. Turn and cook for another 10-12 minutes or until cooked through and lightly golden on the bottom.

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Serve with yogurt, ketchup or Persian pickles. Enjoy!

Eshkeneh (Persian Onion, Fenugreek and Egg Soup)

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I hate winter. To many fellow Canadians this type of talk is blasphemous but I don’t ski, ice skate, I don’t like snow (especially having to manoeuver a baby stroller through mountains of it), I constantly slip on icy sidewalks and I just plain hate being cold. Winter, to me, has only three redeeming qualities……the holidays (I will admit, I do love a white Christmas), the look of joy on my daughters face after a snowfall…..and last, but not least, soup season.

Winter is an excuse to make soup.  I love all soups…..purees, chowders, noodle, broths…..every culture has their own and I love them all. To me, there is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of soup on a cold day.

Eshkeneh, is the Persian answer to Chinese egg drop soup or Italian Stracciatella. A very simple to prepare, warm and fragrant broth with onions, fenugreek and ribbons of lightly cooked egg. Fenugreek is what gives Eshkeneh its uniquely Persian aroma and flavour. Fenugreek is a relatively new herb to the Western world but has been used in parts of the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia for ages.  It has been used in cuisine and to treat a variety of health concerns including arthritis, asthma, digestion and lactation to name a few.  This herb is becoming much more well-known worldwide as some studies suggest that Fenugreek may help lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Oh, and did I mention, that studies have also shown that it has a very positive effect on male libido;)

Eshkeneh
(Serves 4)

canola oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp dried fenugreek
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 eggs, beaten
salt & pepper

In a medium pot, heat 3 tbsp of canola oil over medium heat. Add the onions to the pot and fry, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. Add the turmeric, fenugreek and flour and fry for another 2-3 minutes.

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Add the broth and turn the heat up to high. Bring to a boil.

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When boiling, turn the heat down a little to medium and let simmer for a 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly pour the eggs into the soup while stirring the soup at the same time so the egg does not clump together too much. You want to egg to cook into ribbons as opposed to big clumps.

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Season with salt and pepper. Serve with warm bread. Enjoy!