Yalda Night Celebration - 2017

شب عاشقان بیدل چه شبی دراز باشد     تو بیا کز اول شب در صبح باز باشد 
شب یلدا Shab-e yalda or شب چله shab-e chelleh (winter solstice) is here. The Iranian celebration of yalda (December 20-21) starts on the eve of the last sunset of the last day of autumn. The yalda festivities proceed into the night and it officially ends at the sight of the first sunrise of the first day of winter. Shab-e yalda is the longest night of the year and it is followed by the shortest day of the year. Then the days start to get longer which marks the victory of light over darkness and the birth of Mithra (the Sun God) according to ancient Persian tradition dating back thousands of years. Today, Yalda celebration centers around family gatherings, Hafez khani (reading the poetry by Hafez of Shiraz), storytelling, music, and eating fruits, nuts and sweets.

Growing up, celebrating shab-e yalda wasn't about preparing an elaborate meal. My mother always had the yalda spread on our dining room table and on it was winter watermelon, pomegranate, پسته pesteh (pistachios),  بادام badam (almonds), برگه زردآلو bargeh zard-aloo (dried apricot), انجیر anjir (figs), and تخمه tokhmeh (seeds). Another Yalda tradition is reading Hafez which was a daily ritual in our home. This was my mother's way of passing on tradition and teaching us the importance of our culture.

!شب یلداتون مبارک
Happy Shab-e Yalda!

Khoresh Gheymeh Kadoo Sabz - Iranian Lamb and Yellow Split Pea Stew with Zucchini

Here's my favorite خورش قیمه کدو سبز khoresh-e gheymeh kadoo sabz: a combination of the delicious and popular khoresh gheymeh and khoresh kadoo. Recently, I posted a picture of this dish on my Instagram and I was asked for the recipe. So I made it again and this time I measured the ingredients instead of eyeballing everything and wrote a new blog post! Traditionally, gheymeh is made with small bite-sized lamb, yellow split peas, limoo amani, fried onion, tomato sauce, and topped with fries. Khoresh kadoo sabz is cooked with cubed lamb, lightly fried kadoo (gray squash/zucchini), fried onion, tomato sauce, and limoo amani (dried limes). Gray squash is lighter in color and more round at the bottom than zucchini. For this recipe you can use gray squash or zucchini or baby zucchini if available.
Baby Zucchini

It's worth mentioning that the word کدو kadoo refers to both summer and winter squash such as  pumpkin, butternut squash, zucchini, or gray squash. سبز Sabz means green in Persian/Farsi.

  کدو حلوایی/ کدو تنبل Kadoo Tanbal/Kadoo Halvaie (Pumpkin & Butternut Squash), Kadoo Sabz (Gray Squash & Zucchini)

Gheymeh Kadoo Sabz - Yellow Split Pea Zucchini Stew

Serves 4-6

1 pound boneless lamb or beef, trimmed and cut into small bite-sized cubes
1 1/2 pounds regular zucchini, peeled and cut lengthwise into thick slices or whole baby zucchini
1 cup yellow split peas
1 large onion, peeled and diced or thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes or 4 small tomatoes, peeled and diced
4-5 limoo amani (dried limes), make 2-3 little holes in each of the dried limes with a fork or a knife
1 cinnamon stick (small)
1 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper
Pinch of red pepper *optional
Juice of 1 lemon *optional
Vegetable oil or olive oil


  1. Rinse yellow split peas, place in a pot, add 3 cups of water, add a small stick of cinnamon and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cook for 30 minutes over medium-low heat or until tender and remove foam as it cooks. Set aside. Remove the cinnamon stick.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Fry the zucchini until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion, saute until soft and transparent. Add a pinch of salt and the turmeric powder, stir. Add the minced garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.
  4. Add the meat and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and thoroughly brown on all sides.
  5. Spoon in the tomato paste in the center of the pot, cook for 2-3 minutes until the tomato paste changes color.
  6. Add the diced tomatoes, yellow split peas, limoo amani, 1 teaspoon salt, a pinch of red pepper and enough water to cover the stew by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes. 
  7. Layer zucchini slices or whole baby zucchini on top of the gheymeh. Add a little more water if needed. Cover and cook for another 30 minutes over low heat until the meat and the peas are fully cooked and the flavors come together. 
  8. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir in juice of a lime or lemon if you like.
Serve warm with rice, mast o khiar, salad shirazi and sabzi khordan.


Ash-e Goje Farangi with Koofteh Ghelgheli - Hearty Iranian Tomato Soup with Tiny Meatballs

Persian Tomato Soup

Early this summer we planted two rows of different types of tomatoes in our vegetable garden. We are so pleased with the results that we are now planning to only plant tomatoes next summer along with some basil. Tomatoes are easy to grow and are very nutritious. They turn out incredibly tasty and harvesting them is truly gratifying. There are many Iranian recipes that call for tomatoes, tomato sauce or paste. These recipes include dizi, khoresh gheymeh, khoresh bademjan, and estamboli polow and they are usually served with a side of salad shirazi: a simple salad with tomatoes, cucumber, and onion. A ripe and juicy tomato wedge wrapped up in a warm lavash is also a great snack on any given day.

As we are nearing the end of summer, there's still time to take in the sunshine, walk on the beach, and enjoy the abundance of fresh summer produce. With tomatoes still in season it's time to make آش گوجه فرنگی Ash-e goje farangi (tomato soup). This is a very flavorful soup that can be had all year round but is especially delicious as a late summer soup. Every region of Iran has its own version of ash-e goje farangi. They may use different kinds of herbs or spices, add beans, or peas. The Khuzestani (southern-style) آش تماته ash-e tamate is hot and spicy.

Serves 6

5 large tomatoes, peeled, chopped
1/2 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch chives or scallion, chopped
A handful of basil, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
A pinch of red pepper
Vegetable oil/olive oil
Juice of 1 lime or 1-2 tablespoons abghooreh (verjuice), juice of sour grapes

For کوفته قلقلی Koofteh Ghelgheli - Meatballs

1/2 pound ground beef or lamb
1 small onion, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper


  1. In a bowl combine beef, onion, salt and pepper and shape into mini meatballs. Place on a large plate and set aside.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut an "x" in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and cook for a minute or two. Remove from the pot, allow to cool and peel the skins. Chop or grate the tomatoes on a box grater. Remove the seeds if you prefer.
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of oil to a pot, saute chopped onions over medium-high heat until the onions become translucent. Add turmeric, stir and add the chopped garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the rice, parsley, scallion, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and a pinch of red pepper.
  6. Add six cups of water, stir, bring to a boil, add the meatballs, reduce the heat, cover and cook over low heat for 45-50 minutes. Periodically, stir the soup and add a little water if needed.
  7. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add lime juice/verjuice just before serving.
Serve hot with fresh herbs and warm bread.


For a vegetarian version of this soup you can make it without the meatballs.
For a lighter soup you can reduce the amount of rice to 1/4 of a cup.
You can drizzle نعنا داغ nana dagh (fried dried mint) on top.