Monday, June 13, 2011

More About "Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride" by Reyna Simnegar

Just like a great meal that leaves flavor memories on your tongue and mind, I hope that you're hoping for more about the Persian food I wrote about in my cookbook review of  Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride by Reyna Simnegar.

I've just received some pictures and recipes for you to sample, adapt in your kitchen.

Chicken with Eggplants
Joojeh Bodemjune

You should have seen how long it took to make this chicken the “authentic” Persian style. Momonbosorgue (my husband’s grandma) taught me this dish and it took us the whole afternoon! She is the sweetest little lady and she really knows her food. I closely watched her while tending to this dish and measured her every move while she sang basunak (wedding songs)…. However, there was no way I was going to spend all that time in my kitchen making just chicken! So, here is the non-Persian-bride-friendly version. It tastes the same!
Tricks of the trade
If you don’t want to fry the eggplants, feel free to broil them. Although it is optional, gureh gives this recipe a great tangy taste and a very exotic look. Gureh is available at Middle Eastern shops.

1 chicken, cut in pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon salt, plus extra for the eggplant
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, pressed
½ cup water
1 eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ½ inch slices
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
¼ cup canola oil, for frying
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
¼ teaspoon saffron powder
½ cup gureh (unripe grapes) (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a 9″x13″ roaster, place the chicken pieces skin side up and sprinkle with onions. Rub the chicken with turmeric, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add the water, cover with foil, and bake for 1 hour.
3. In the meantime, sprinkle eggplant with salt. When they have sweated (about 15 minutes), rinse and dry them. Fry the eggplant in a medium skillet until browned. Set aside.
4. Remove the chicken from the oven, uncover, and use food tongs to transfer the chicken pieces from the roaster to a bowl. Add the tomato paste and saffron to the chicken juices in the roasting pan and mix well. Add the potatoes, covering the bottom of the roaster. Return the chicken pieces, skin side up, and drape the fried eggplant slices on top. Drizzle with gureh, if using. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for another hour.

Yield: 6-8 servings

This seems like a great salad, though in Israel I'd cook the beets myself. I don't think I've ever seen them canned:
Beet Salad
Salad’e Chogondar

An easy salad that can be put together in a blink! I also use this salad for the Persian Yehi Ratzons in the Seder for Rosh Hashana.

2 (14.5-ounce) cans sliced beets
1 bunch scallions, finely sliced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine all ingredients and toss well.

Yield: Approximately 3 cups, depending on the size of the slices.

This "one pot meal" is very tempting:
Yellow Split Pea Stew
Choreshte Lape

Probably one of the most popular Persian stews, Choreshte Lape is a meal in itself! It has an extraordinary texture and a delicious tangy taste. It is sublime on a canvas of white rice and sprinkled with very thin French fries (which you can make from scratch if you have the time…but since I don’t, I use canned potato sticks instead).
Tricks of the trade
Remember how a Persian’s cook reputation can be ruined by overcooking basmati rice? Well, if a Persian cook’s yellow split peas are all mushy and shapeless, that reputation is down the drain as well! But there is nothing to worry about, since the trick of whole-yet-tender split peas is simply sautéing them in a bit of oil with a dash of cinnamon. I know what you are thinking…don’t try it with the rice…the trick doesn’t work there!

1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed
¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon extra to fry the split peas
2 pounds stew meat
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups yellow split peas
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups water
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 large tomato, diced
5 whole dehydrated limes (lemon omani) (3 pierced and 2 crushed )
½ cup bottled lemon juice or the juice of 3 fresh limes

½ cup canned potato sticks or narrow French fries (optional)

1. In a 6-quart saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion starts to become translucent (about 1 minute). Add the meat; cover and cook until meat no longer looks red, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper.
2. In the meantime, sauté split peas in 1 tablespoon of oil for 1 minute. Add the cinnamon and mix well. Set aside.
3. Uncover the browning meat and add the water, tomato paste, diced tomato, dehydrated limes, lime juice, and sautéed split peas. Cover and simmer for 1½ hours or until meat is tender and split peas are soft but still whole.
4. Serve hot in a casserole dish. Garnish with potato sticks or French fries, if desired.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Here's a basic recipe for Persian Rice. It's not like the rice my now-Tunisian daughter taught me to make:
Persian Steamed White Rice

Many people become extremely intimidated when it comes to making Persian rice. You have to trust me when I tell you it is really not a big deal—just don’t tell anyone Persian I said that! All you need to do is to imagine that instead of making rice, you are making pasta. Most of us know how to make pasta; it is probably what you ate everyday when you went to college! You are going to cook this rice in boiling water with oil and salt, just like pasta. You are going to wait until the rice is “al dente” (when you bite a grain of rice it should still have a white dot in the middle), just like pasta. Do not overcook Persian rice or your reputation as a Persian cook will suffer! And last, you are going to drain it, just like pasta.
The difference comes next: Persian rice has one cooking step that pasta doesn’t have. Persian rice gets steamed. Think of it this way: since this rice is fancy it requires a “spa treatment.” What is the result when you pamper yourself at the sauna? A new you! What is the result when you treat your rice to a “spa treatment”? Each and every grain of rice becomes its own entity and a pearl from heaven! What is the best after-effect of a “spa treatment” for a woman? It makes her a better wife, a better mother—and a better cook! What is the best after-effect of a “spa treatment” for Persian rice? The most scrumptious, crunchy, golden crust: TADIG!
To make this rice you will need a colander—and the smaller the openings, the better. You don’t want your precious rice to slip out! Also, many Persian cooks wash and soak the rice as if it were dirty laundry…I am sorry, I keep my laundry in the basement and I don’t have time for all that soaking, so trust me when I tell you that you don’t need to do it!
The quantities in the recipe below might seem large, but considering that Persians breathe rice, it goes really fast. If you want to make a smaller quantity, try only 3 cups rice, 8 cups water, ¼ cup oil, and 1 tablespoon salt. Also, any basmati rice will do. I prefer using Deer brand but other brands, like Tilda, are also good. Basmati rice is also available in whole-grain brown; although it is a little stickier, it is absolutely delicious and healthful!
Tricks of the trade
Chelo cooks very quickly. Therefore, when I make Chelo, I always make sure to have a colander ready in the sink to drain the rice so I do not overcook it. Also, when you steam the rice by placing the paper towels between the lid and the pot, make sure these are safely away from the heat. After this rice is steamed, it is important to tilt the lid to allow any extra steam to escape so that the crunchy bottom does not become soggy.
I often cook this rice on Thursday and have it ready to steam on Friday a few hours before Shabbat.

Part 1: Cooking the rice
5 cups basmati rice, checked and rinsed
12 cups water
½ cup canola oil
3 tablespoons salt

Part 2: Steaming the rice and making tadig
¼-inch canola oil poured into the bottom of the saucepan
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon turmeric or powdered saffron (optional, for a more authentic flavor)

To cook the rice
1. Fill a large nonstick saucepan (at least 6 quarts) with 12 cups water; add oil and salt. Cover and bring to a brisk boil over high heat.
2. Add the rice and continue cooking over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally.
3. After 3–5 minutes, use a slotted spoon to scoop some grains from the water. Break one grain in half to make sure it is “al dente” (see above). Turn off the heat and pour rice into the colander to drain; set aside.

To steam and make tadig
1. Place the empty 6-quart saucepan back onto the stovetop over medium heat. Add ¼-inch canola oil and 2 tablespoons water. Add turmeric and/or saffron powder. Stir together.
2. Add the drained rice and shape it into a pyramid. Cover the pot and cook for 5–7 minutes until rice begins to steam.
3. Uncover and place 2 paper towels (one on top of the other) over the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Replace the lid tightly.
4. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and tilt the lid until ready to serve.
5. With a wide spatula, scoop the rice from the pot, making sure not to disturb the crust (tadig) that formed on the bottom of the pot. Serve the rice on a flat serving platter, mounding it into the shape of a pyramid. Turn the tadig out onto a flat serving platter by inverting the pot, as you would invert a cake pan, or cut it into pieces and serve around the rice.

Yield: 8 servings

Now, aren't you hungry? If you try out the recipes, please let me know!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I made this for dinner tonight and all was going well until the steaming. With 10 or 15 minutes left I tasted some rice and it was not as juicy as I would have liked it to be (it almost seemed to be a little dry so I took it off the heat).

Was this the right move or should I have left it on?