Shevid Baghali Polow with Morgh - Dill Lima Beans Rice with Chicken


This is a well-blended, aromatic saffron rice with flavorful fresh dill, soft and nutty lima beans and tangy saffron chicken. Dill lima beans rice with chicken or lamb shanks is a nice colorful dish to prepare for yourself, serve your guests or take on outdoor picnics. It's also one of the dishes we make for Sizdah Bedar (getting rid of thirteen), which marks the last day of the Nowruz celebration. On this day, Iranians celebrate the 13th day of Nowruz by preparing delicious meals and heading out to parks and open fields to play games and listen to music, alongside friends and family. This is the day that we get rid of our Sabzeh (wheat sprouts) by throwing it in a river, which symbolizes getting rid of any misfortune, sickness and troubles. Since there is no nearby river where I live and I don't want to pollute the pond in my neighborhood and the Atlantic ocean, I leave it out in the garden to dry out and become one with nature. 

Growing up in different towns in Khuzestan (south of Iran), we had to drive far to find a green patch with trees for sizdah bedar and we would share it with other families, which was always fun to find more kids to play with. For those of us who were born, raised or have experienced the Nowruz in Khuzestan, we all know that there's nothing like it and I always cherish the memories of sizdah bedar picnics with my family. Shevid baghali polow with chicken or lamb and a big pot of Ash Reshteh were the two dishes we'd take on picnics.

Shevid Baghali Polow with Morgh - Dill Lima Beans Rice with Chicken

Morgh - Chicken

Ingredients: 
Serves 4-6

8 chicken drumsticks (other parts may be used as well)
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 2-3 tablespoons of hot water
1/4 teaspoon crushed cardamom (optional)
Juice of 1-2 lemons/limes
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil  
Water

Method:

  1. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat, saute onions till translucent. Add the chopped garlic and turmeric, saute for an additional five minutes. 
  2. Place the chicken pieces in the skillet, add salt, pepper, cardamom and brown on all sides. 
  3. Pour in enough water to cover all pieces. 
  4. Cook on medium-low heat for an hour. 
  5. Half way through the cooking add the liquid saffron and in the last fifteen minutes sprinkle the lemon juice evenly over the chicken. 
  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning and set aside.

Polow - Rice

Ingredients:

2 cups basmati rice
2 cups baby lima beans (fresh or if frozen, thawed)
2 cups finely chopped fresh dill or 1 1/2 cup dried (I used 1 1/2 cups fresh and 1/2 cup dried)
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
Dash of cinnamon *optional
Vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
Salt

Method:
  1. In a small bowl mix dill, lima beans, turmeric and a dash of salt and cinnamon, mix well. Set aside.
  2. Wash rice with cool water and soak in 4 cups of water, with 2-3 tablespoons of salt for 1-2 hours. 
  3. In a non-stick pot bring 4 cups of water to a boil and gently pour in the drained rice. 
  4. Let it boil for 10 minutes and test to see if the rice is ready. Rice grains should be firm in the center and soft on the outside. 
  5. Drain and rinse with cool water. 
  6. Wash the pot and return it to heat, add oil to cover the bottom. 
  7. Place a layer of rice then a layer of dill and beans and continue layering into a pyramid shape. Make 2-3 holes in the rice with a bottom of a spoon to let the steam out. 
  8. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes on medium to high heat till rice starts steaming.  
  9. Pour 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 cup of water and the liquid saffron may be added at this point  or later on when you serve it on the platter. 
  10. Lower heat, cover and cook for another 50 minuets. 
Arrange the rice and the chicken pieces on a platter and serve warm.

* Variations: Cooked chicken could be added to the rice as another layer when layering rice with herbs and beans. If you are cooking the rice and chicken together, instead of using the melted butter for topping, add a couple of tablespoons of chicken liquid on top of the rice before putting the lid back on tightly.

Enjoy and Happy Sizdah Bedar!

Gol Gav Zaban: Persian Herbal Flower Tea


Gol gav zaban (Borage) is a herb that grows in the northern part of Iran and its dried purple flower is brewed the same way you brew tea leaves. Gol gove zaban is a diuretic and is used in treating coughs and colds and also has a calming effect on the nerves. It's believed to be a good source of antioxidants and is also good for the heart. Gol (flower) gav (cow) zaban (tongue) literally means cow tongue flower and it has a mild and distinct taste. It doesn't taste medicinal at all. It's an aromatic, flavorful and soothing herbal tea. There are many herbal medicines and home remedies in Iran dating back to the ancient times which were handed down generation to generation.

In our home, gol gav zaban, among other herbs, was used frequently for its medicinal purposes or even just to enjoy a soothing and tasty hot drink. My mother used to usually brew gol gav zaban with a little bit of  sonbol-tib (Valerian root) mid morning. She believed that there's a medicinal herb out there for every ailment, if only we knew them all we could treat every physical sickness. She had a small, brown, two tier wooden table next to her favorite comfortable chair with her poetry books and all her herbal remedies. I have kept a few of her little bottles and containers with her large handwritten labels. Drinking this delicate fragrance flower tea makes you feel good and comfortable all over!



Gol Gav Zaban

Ingredients:

2 large tablespoons or a handful of gol gav zaban
A pinch of Valerian root *optional
2 cups water
2 small pieces of  nabat (rock candy)
Juice of a lemon/lime or a teaspoon of crushed dried lemon (limoo amani)

Method:
  1. Bring water to a boil in a kettle. 
  2. Take a handful of gol gav zaban and place it in a teapot. 
  3. Pour in the hot water and brew for 15 minutes on medium heat.  
  4. Serve hot with rock candy or lemon juice depending on your taste.
Enjoy!

Haft-Seen Photos


Sofreh Haft-Seen 
The Table of the Seven S's.

Sabzeh (Wheat Sprouts): Representing rebirth and fertility.

 
 Sabzeh (Wheat and Lentil Sprouts)

Sabzeh (Mung Bean Sprouts)

 Senjed (Dried Fruit of the Lotus Tree): Representing love.

 Somagh (Sumac): Representing the spice of life.

 Samanoo (Sweet Pudding made with germinated wheat): Representing the reward of patience.

 Serkeh (Vinegar): Representing age.

 Sekkeh (Coins): Representing wealth and prosperity.

Seeb (Apple): Representing natural beauty.


 Sonbol (Hyacinth): Representing spring.

 (Goldfish): Representing life.

For more haft-seen photos please see the following link:

Sal-e no Mobarak!

Guest Post: Happy Nowruz! (Persian New Year)


I'm so honored that Laura Kelley, the author of the book The Silk Road Gourmet and the Silk Road Gourmet blog, has asked me to do a guest post on her fantastic blog. This has been a wonderful opportunity for me to write about Nowruz (Persian New Year) which is the most celebrated occasion in Iran and to also share the recipe of one of my favorite Iranian dishes. Please read my guest blog post, here!  I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year! Eid-e Shoma Mobarak!

Kookoo Sabzi

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6
2 cups  fresh parsley, chopped
2 cups  fresh scallions (green parts only), or  leeks, chives, chopped
2 cups  fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup  fresh dill, chopped
1 cup  fresh cilantro, chopped
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons barberries (zereshk) *optional
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped  *optional
1/3 teaspoon turmeric
1-2 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
4-5 tablespoons vegetable oil/olive oil

Method:
  1. Clean and wash the vegetables. Chopping them by hand is the preferred and the traditional way. However, the convenient and the less time consuming way is to use the food processor. You may chop them finely but I only pulse it a few times. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs well with a whisk. Then add all the above ingredients except the oil and mix thoroughly until well blended. To this mixture add one tablespoon of oil and stir well.
  3. In an oven proof baking dish place the remaining oil. Gently pour the herb mixture into the dish evenly, cover lightly with an aluminum foil and place in a 350 degrees Fahrenheit pre-heated oven for 40-50 minutes.  I used a non-stick square muffin/baking pan for this recipe.
  4. Remove the foil half way through the cooking. Once cooked, remove from oven and let it cool for a few minutes before cutting it into small pieces. 
  5.  Place on a serving platter. It could be served hot or cold with warm bread and yogurt or mixed-vegetable pickles (torshi).
Enjoy!

Samanoo


Samanoo is one of the many items on the haft-seen table or "sofreh" tablecloth that starts with the letter "S." It is a sweet pudding made with germinated wheat sprouts and flour. "Sabzeh," wheat sprout, represents rebirth and samanoo represents the reward of patience and sweet life.

Making an authentic samanoo requires time, patience and a good arm, or the help of several people to help with the cooking. Usually the person who makes samanoo shares it with others and sends out bowls or containers of it to neighbors, family and friends.The making of samanoo from the start to the finish takes several days. First, the seeds have to be soaked in water for two days, then transferred into a bowl wrapped in a moist cheesecloth and as soon as the new shoots appear they have to be spread out on a paper to completely dry out before grinding and sifting them. "Samanoo pazan," the making of the samanoo, usually takes about a full day.


I must say that I don't remember how my mother made samanoo for I was too busy enjoying the holidays, and at the time I wasn't very interested in helping out with making it or even tasting it! And since I moved away from home I would either buy samanoo from a Persian grocery store or there were always some good friends who would send me some for Nowruz. For the last few years, there's been this sweet and generous Iranian lady, a grandmother Zahra khanoum who's been giving me my Nowruz samanoo until this year. Last week, she told me that she was going to Iran for the holidays and that she won't have enough time to make it. Then she asked me whether I would make it on my own if she gives me the dried seeds. After a long pause I said I would. The next time, as she handed me the plastic bag filled with seeds, she gave me the recipe as well.


Samanoo

Ingredients:

4 cups sprouted grains, completely dried and ground, (makes about 2 cups of wheat flour) 
4 cups whole wheat flour, sifted 
water

Method:
  1. Please see the following link on growing seeds (sabzeh).
  2. It takes about 2-3 days for the wheat sprouts to reach 1/2 inch in length, spread them out on a flat surface and let them dry out completely. 
  3. Grind the seeds as fine as possible using a grain mill and sift through a sieve. 
  4. Put the finely ground germinated wheat in a cheesecloth and place the cheesecloth in a large bowl.
  5. Add 2-3 cup of cool water to the freshly ground wheat and squeeze out the excess water out by pressing down with the back of a large wooden spoon or by using your hands. Add more water if needed.
  6. You can use the left-over wheat by grinding it very fine.
  7. For each cup of freshly ground wheat, add 2 cups of flour. 
  8. In a large heavy pot, add the liquid from the bowl with 2 cups of sifted whole wheat flour and mix well, over medium heat. Add more water gradually to cover as needed, bring to a boil while stirring frequently.
  9. For the first 30-40 minutes don't leave samanoo unattended. 
  10. Lower heat to the lowest heat setting and let simmer. I was told for 24 hours! I gave it a total of 3 hours. 
  11. The first two hours stir and add water gradually when needed and after two hours, when it turns reddish brown, cover the pot and cook for another hour on low heat. Samanoo is sweet by itself and does not need any added sugar. 
Serve in small containers and share them with others.

Happy Nowruz!  Happy Spring!

Sabzi Polow


 Persian New Year (Nowruz) is the celebration of the first day of spring (Bahar) with all its beauty, greenery and blossoms. Traditional Nowruz dishes are made with herbs representing new life and revival. سبزی پلو Sabzi polow is a delicious and healthy dish usually served with smoked white fish (mahi doodi) or fried fish. I posted a sabzi polow ba mahi recipe last year, here. However, this new variation came about in an attempt to have every grain of rice and chopped vegetables blend well together. In addition to the fresh vegetables, I used about 2-3 tablespoons of dried herbs (a combination of parsley, leek and dill).



Sabzi Polow

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

1 cup of chopped parsley
1 cup of chopped dill
1 cup of chopped scallions or leek (green parts only)
1 cup of chopped coriander 
2-3 tablespoons dried mixed herbs for sabzi polow*optional
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled *optional
2 1/2 cups of long grain rice
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 2-3 tablespoons of hot water
Salt
Vegetable oil
Water

Method:
  1. Clean vegetables, wash and finely chop either by hand or use a food processor. Mix well and set aside. 
  2. Wash rice and soak in 4 cups of salted water for two hours. 
  3. In a non-stick heavy pot bring 6 cups of water to a boil. 
  4. Drain rice and add to the boiling water, let it boil on medium to high heat for about 10 minutes. Check to see if the rice grain is firm at the center and soft on both ends. 
  5. Using a colander drain rice and rinse with cool water. 
  6. Wash and dry the pot and put back on the stove on medium to high heat. 
  7. Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil, add rice and layer with the chopped vegetable and sprinkle the dried vegetables over each layer to cover the rice evenly. 
  8. Place the cloves in the rice and make a few holes in the rice with the bottom of a spatula. 
  9.  When the rice starts steaming, sprinkle the liquid saffron over the rice, add 2 tablespoons of oil and 1/4 cup of water. 
  10. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for about 45-50 minute. 
  11. Serve the rice on a platter with along with fish.

Enjoy and Eid Mobarak!

Shirini Keshmeshi - Persian Raisin Cookies



These are delicious, simple and easy to bake raisin cookies that are perfect for the holidays, or any day for that matter. I cook all the time and enjoy making pickles and jams. When it comes to sweets, however, I usually only make them for a special occasion, and the Persian New Year is as special as it can get. It may be that my mother wasn't much of a baker and she would hire someone to do the baking when necessary, or maybe since the loss of my father was due to diabetes complications some years ago I'm watching the amount of sugar we consume. But these days are expectational with the feel of Spring in the air.

The recipe for shirini keshmeshi is adapted from here. The original recipe calls for food coloring which I never use in my cooking and I also cut down on the amount of sugar and raisins.


Shirini Keshmeshi - Persian Raisin Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup small raisins
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup superfine sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 teaspoon powdered saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, butter, oil and eggs. 
  2. Mix thoroughly and add the saffron, vanilla and the raisins and blend well. 
  3. Take a teaspoonful of the cookie dough and place on the parchment covered baking sheet, leave about 1-2 inches of space between them. 
  4. Place the cookies into the 350 degrees Fahrenheit pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes or until they are light golden at edges. 
  5. Cool on racks. Store them in an air tight container. 
Serve with tea, coffee or a glass of milk.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!

Poolaki: Persian Caramelized Hard Sugar Candy


This is a caramelized hard sugar candy from the city of Isfahan, located in the central part of Iran. I was ten years old when I first tasted poolaki during one of my family's annual summer travels where we visited the historic city of Isfahan. My parents bought many bags of poolaki as a souvenir (soghati) among many other things that the beautiful city of Isfahan is known for! Poolaki is a sweet candy usually served best along with hot and fresh brewed tea. Poolaki from Isfahan is exceptionally tasty and delicate and no homemade version of it would ever come close to the real thing. However, with the Persian New Year fast approaching I've decided to give it a try! So, this is my attempt at making candy. It may not turn out quite like the authentic poolaki that you might buy from the bazaar in Isfahan, but it's the closest thing to it if you miss having it with your tea during the holiday! This is not a sugar cube to melt quickly in your mouth and it's not that soft to chew or swallow quickly, you need to take time and experience the magic of poolaki. Make yourself a nice cup of fresh brewed tea, take a poolaki, dip the corner of it into the hot tea, place the candy in your mouth, taste the sweetness of it and then take a sip of your tea. Let the bitterness of the tea mix in with the candy, and for a nostalgic moment you'll be walking down those old tree-lined streets of Chahar Bagh among the crowd of early evening shoppers where everyone looks happy! I mentioned a nostalgic moment with a heavy heartfelt wish, didn't I?

 Khajoo Bridge, Isfahan,  Iran, Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Chehel Sotoun, Isfahan, Iran, Wikipedia
Si-o-se pol (33 bridge), Isfahan, Iran, Wikipedia

Poolaki recipe adapted from Persian Cuisine: Traditional Food/ Book 1 by M.R.Ghanoonparvar

Poolaki: Persian Caramelized Hard Sugar Candy

Ingredients:
1 cup sugar

Toppings:
Crushed pistachios, shredded coconuts, powdered saffron, finely crushed dried lemon, barberries (zereshk) (I used shredded coconut).

Method:
  1. In a heavy small pan place a cup of sugar and heat it up on a medium to high heat, stirring frequently.
  2. When the sugar is melted, swirl it around the pot a couple of times. 
  3. As soon as the syrup turns an amber color, remove from heat. 
  4. Do not over cook and boil the syrup. 
  5. Mix in any of the toppings that you like and quickly, with a tip of a teaspoon, drop the syrup onto a clean and dry baking dish covered with parchment paper. 
  6. An easier variation is to pour the syrup onto the flat baking pan and spread it out. 
  7. When dried, which only takes a few minutes, break it into small pieces by using the back of a heavy spoon or if the pan is flexible move and twist the four corners. 
Serve with tea.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!

Khoresh Gheymeh: A Traditional Iranian Dish with Meat and Yellow Split Peas


It's name is قیمه  "Gheymeh!"  خورش قیمه Khoresh-e Gheymeh! I will not call this dish a stew, or a casserole, or anything else for that matter. In my book it's one of the top five Khoresh's and there are many delicious stews in the Persian cuisine. Hopefully, I'll get to share them with you all, one dish at a time!


This is a simple but very tasty dish that, for me, not only satisfies my hunger, but warms my heart and soothes my occasional longing for home, even after all these years. However, as soon as I start cooking gheymeh, slicing an onion and pouring oil into a heated pan, the aroma of sauteed onion with turmeric, browning meat, stirring in those tiny yellow split peas and piercing the dried lemons, I feel at home once again.


Khoresh Gheymeh

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

2 pounds meat (lamb or beef), washed and cut into small pieces
1 cup yellow split peas, picked over and washed.
1 large onion, peeled, chopped
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
4-5 dried limes (limoo amani) may be purchased from an Iranian/Persian grocery stores. Soak them in water for 5 minutes and then pierce them in a few places with a dinner fork.
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon  rosewater *optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil
Water
2 large potatoes, peeled, sliced and fried for topping

Method:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pot over medium heat, add the tomato paste and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until it starts to change color. Set aside.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onions and saute until they are translucent, add turmeric and stir well. After a minute or two, add the meat and brown on all sides. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of cinnamon. Stir well. 
  3. Add the yellow split peas to the pot and saute for 5 minutes, spoon in the the tomato paste. Mix thoroughly. 
  4. Add water to cover all the ingredients in the pot by 1-2 inches. Add in the dried limes. Lower the heat, cover and cook for about 1-1/4 hours or until the meat is well-cooked.  Add a little bit of water and adjust the seasoning when needed. 
  5. Yellow split peas shouldn't turn too soft and mushy, they still need to have a bit of bite to them. You may parboil them separately until they are just tender and add them to the pot in the last 30 minutes.
  6. In the last ten minutes add the rosewater if you like.
Gheymeh  is usually served with fried potatoes on top. Serve gheymeh in a large bowl and top with a layer of  fries. Serve warm with basmati rice, mast o khiar, salad shirazi, and torshi.

Enjoy!

Growing Seeds (Sabzeh) For Nowruz (Persian New Year)


This year's Persian New Year (Nowruz) falls on March 20th, therefore along with the spring cleaning we need to start growing our own "Sabzeh" wheat sprout which symbolizes revival and rebirth. Besides wheat, which is the most common and popular seed to grow, you may also grow barley, lentils and mung beans. Sabzeh is one of the seven items on the haft-seen table that starts with the letter (S).





Below are some simple directions on how to grow sabzeh, as was taught to me by my mother:
  1. Depending on the size of  your display dish, take a cup or two of the seeds of your choice.
  2. Rinse under cool water and place in a large enough bowl, cover with cool water and soak for a day or two. Be sure to change the water a couple of times a day.
  3. Drain the seeds and place them in a moist cheesecloth. Place the cheesecloth in a deep dish, this would keep the seeds and the moisture together untill the seeds start to germinate. Place the dish on a sunny windowsill.
  4. Keep the seeds moist by sprinkling/spraying water on it when needed.
  5. If the seeds are of good quality and there's ample sunlight, it won't take long for the seeds to sprout.
  6. Remove the cloth and place the newly germinated seeds in a desired dish.
  7. Change the water twice a day and discard the extra water.
  8. You may tie a red ribbon around the grass and place it on your haft seen table!

Happy Spring!