Shirazi Salad with Pickled Shallots and Feta

IMG_4667

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.

IMG_4658

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.

IMG_4659IMG_4661

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

IMG_4665

 

Advertisements

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

IMG_4003

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.

IMG_2832

 

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.

IMG_3978

 

Add the herbs and simmer for another 30 minutes.

IMG_3977IMG_3979

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.

IMG_3980IMG_3982

 

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

IMG_3983

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.

Chicken and Sweet Potato Kotlet

 

IMG_3932

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.

IMG_3909

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.

IMG_3910

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.

IMG_3912IMG_3913

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

IMG_3915

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

IMG_3916

Serve with yogurt, ketchup or Persian pickles. Enjoy!

Eshkeneh (Persian Onion, Fenugreek and Egg Soup)

IMG_3757

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.

IMG_3739

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

IMG_3740

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.

IMG_3742

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

Nargessi Esfanaj (Persian Spinach and Eggs)

IMG_3452

Since my son started crawling  a few months ago my culinary world has been turned upside down! Not content to sit still for more than 5 minutes, my son requires that I spend most of my day on my hands and knees chasing after him.  I find myself either cooking or prepping during his afternoon nap or making super speedy dinners during the very short time he will  bounce contentedly in his exersaucer.

It is for this reason that a recipe like Nargessi Esfanaj is a godsend! This dish takes little prep work and can be made in no time flat. And the icing on the cake is that it’s extremely healthy providing you with a mega dose of leafy greens and protein.

Delicate poached eggs on a bed of sauteed spinach, garlic and golden onions, Nargessi gets it’s name from the Narcissus flower (known in Farsi as Nargess). The Narcissus flower is white with a yellow centre which is the egg and the spinach is likened to the grassy meadow where the flowers bloom. Poetic huh?

Nargessi Esfanaj
(serves 2-4)

canola or olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
10 ounces baby spinach, washed and dried
4 large eggs
salt and pepper

In a large (preferably non-stick) frying pan heat 3 tbsp of canola or olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute for 8 minutes. Then add the minced garlic. and saute for another 2-3 minutes or until the onions are lightly golden. Add the turmeric and saute for another minute.

IMG_3434

Add another tbsp of olive oil and half the spinach to the pan and when it starts to wilt add the other half of the spinach. Saute for about five minutes or until the spinach is wilted but still bright green. Season with about 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.

IMG_3436

Spread the spinach mixture evenly in the pan and crack four eggs on top. Cover the pan (if you do not have a lid, you can cover with foil)  Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the whites are just set (or to your own liking). Season with more salt and pepper to your own taste.

IMG_3437IMG_3438

Serve with toasted bread, pita or barbarry. You can also serve this with steamed rice. Enjoy!

IMG_3462

Kuku-e Kadoo (Persian Zucchini “Omelette”)

IMG_3167

Over the past couple months I have discovered the wonders of the humble zucchini. I must say that it was a very under-used vegetable in my cooking repertoire. Not so any more! With a zucchini-heavy presence at the farmers market lately, I have made zucchini pancakes, zucchini fritters, zucchini muffins, chocolate zucchini bread and now zucchini Kuku!

For those of you who are not familiar with Kuku, it is the Persian answer to Italian Frittata and the French Omelette. One big difference is that the egg is the star of omelettes and frittatas, but in Kuku the egg is more of a binder to the lovely filling.  There are many different types of Kuku and probably the most famous is Kuku Sabzi – a fried herb and egg mixture – which is an essential part of the Persian New Year feast.

Delicious and very easy to prepare, Kuku Kadoo is a savoury combination of sweet caramelized onions, garlic, grated zucchini, eggs and fragrant dill and spices. Kuku’s can be fried in a pan or can be baked in the oven. In this recipe I have baked them in muffin tins……who doesn’t love cute individual portions?  I love these mini-kukus especially for kids and with school just around the corner, they make the perfect lunch box addition.

Kuku-e Kadoo
(12-15 mini kukus)

4 medium zucchini grated
canola oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
5 large eggs
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup chopped dill (optional)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Put the grated zucchini (you may grate with a box grater or in a food processor) in a colander over the sink. Sprinkle with one teaspoon of salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Then squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the zucchini. You can use your hands or cover with paper towel and press down so the liquid is drained through the colander.

IMG_3153IMG_3154

In a large frying pan, heat two tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes until slightly golden. Add the turmeric and cook for another minute.

IMG_3155

Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool slightly for about 10 minutes.

IMG_3157

In a bowl beat the eggs with saffron water, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Slowly add the flour and baking powder, beating very well. Add the zucchini/onion mixture and (the dill if you are using it) to the eggs.

IMG_3159

Put one teaspoon of canola oil in each muffin tin (the muffin tin needs to be non-stick, if it is not  I suggest using muffin liners). Swirl around to coat. Fill the muffin tin 3/4 full with the mixture.

IMG_3161

Bake for 30 minutes or until the eggs are set.  Let cool slightly and gently remove from the tins using a spatula.

IMG_3162

Enjoy!

Sandevich-e Kalbas (Persian Mortadella Sandwich)

IMG_3120

It’s kind of a stretch to call this a “recipe” but Sandevich-e Kalbas is an essential part of Persian cuisine.  Yes, this sandwich may seem rather ordinary, but it is it is anything but and is pure nostalgia for us Iranians.

Persians take the art of simple sandwich making very seriously and sandwich shops are very popular in Iran. My parents tell me stories of their favourite sandwich shop from their younger years in Tehran, Andre. There were crowds lining up for the best sandwiches Iran had to offer. Although they had many different varieties, they were famous for their Kalbas Sandwiches. Although I never had the pleasure of experiencing one of Andre’s famous sandwiches, my parents often re-created them at home in Canada. Tasting one instantly brings back childhood memories of picnics in the park and lunch at my Saturday Farsi school.

Kalbas is often referred to as Persian Mortadella. But there are significant differences  from the Italian version. In terms of taste and texture, Persian Mortadella is almost like a cross between Italian Mortadella and Kielbasa Sausage (I suspect that is how Kalbas got its name). Instead of the traditional peppercorns, Kalbas is usually studded with pistachios and has a distinct garlic flavour. Also, while Italian Mortadella is made with pork, Persian Kalbas is often made with beef or veal, in addition to a pork version.

The perfect Kalbas sandwich is served on a soft baguette or a fresh submarine bun, with lots of mayonnaise, Persian pickled cucumbers and ripe tomatoes. I’m a purist, so when my husband suggested adding avocados (which I normally love in sandwiches) I almost had a heart attack. There are some things you just don’t mess with.

Sandevich-e Kalbas
(serves 1)

Soft French Baguette or bun
3-4 Slices of Kalbas (Persian Mortadella)
Mayonnaise
3-4 Slices of Pickles (preferably Persian Pickled Cucumbers)
3-4 Slices of Tomato
Lettuce (optional)
Salt & Pepper (optional)
Split the baguette or bun. Spread a good amount of mayonnaise on the bread and arrange the kalbas slices on the bread.

IMG_3112IMG_3117

Top with the pickles, tomatoes and lettuce. You may season the tomatoes with salt and pepper if you wish.

IMG_3115

Enjoy!!!!

IMG_3114