Friday, February 6, 2015

TASTE - A COLLARD GREENS BORANI - COLLARD GREENS WITH YOGURT AND CARAMELIZED RED ONION SUMAC

 ♪ MUSIC WE'RE COOKING TO ♪

Raw honey.  

Like the jar from Trader Joe's.  

Dripping in gold, warmth, and sweetness.

My daughter's eyes, Soleil's eyes, the sun's eyes, shimmer like raw honey.

Dripping in gold. 

Showering us with warmth, sweetness, and unyielding love.

And occasionally stubbornness, and intense, deeply felt, unyielding five-year-old emotions.

Pure and raw.

These are the very same - stop you in your tracks, take hold of your heart and soul - eyes that stare back at me.  

Piercing right through me with passion, vehemence, and absolute indignation at 4pm on New Year's Eve. 

We are both splayed out on the kitchen floor with me holding a spoon of blueberry sauce inches from her face.

The concoction slowly but purposefully working its way down the wooden spoon, onto my hand, circling my wrist, trailing my well-pronounced bluish purple veins, down my arm and delicately drip, drip, dripping on to the wood floor.

The blueberry sauce has brought us to our knees. 
 
Literally.  

Well, actually, even lower than our knees.  

Onto our bellies. 

I have quite a fondness for all things bitter.  The bitter-sour in combination agree with my taste buds the most.  Especially bitter greens.  Arugula, frisee, escarole, radicchio, rapini, endive, dandelion greens, mustard greens...Maybe my exposure to Italian food as a child (bitter greens) and Persian food (all things sour) has had a hand in shaping and nurturing my taste buds.  

But for the longest time there has been one bitter green that I just couldn't come to embrace.  Collard greens.  Not that I would ever turn away collards, unless they've been boiled down to mush.  That goes for any vegetable boiled to oblivion.  But collards wouldn't be my first choice of greens.  Again, perhaps my lack of exposure to these beloved greens of American Southern cuisine has something to do with it.  

It also just so happens that this time of year our farm box and the farmer's markets explode with such greens.  And so inevitably I can expect a bunch of collards in our farm box every week.  Normally, I treat collards as I do other greens.  Simply.  Saute in olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, hit it with some sort of acid, add a little water (if needed), put a lid on it and give the rather tough leaves time to soften and tenderize.  But, recently I decided to treat my collards and my taste buds to a special treat. 

To a most trusted and loyal friend. 

"...my late night confidante, my consigliere..."

Yogurt.

A borani

 

Her blood courses through mine.

As does mine through hers.

Her passion matches mine.

As does her flair for drama.

And much can be said about the paralyzing stubbornness that occasionally takes hold of our bodies and selfishly refuses to let go.

She stands her ground. (Well, more like the wood floor she is splayed across)

Unwavering and proud.

As do I.

Unwavering.

And proud.

But, Mama I don't like blueberry sauce!

Soleil, I added maple syrup to it this time.  Just taste it.  It's sweet!

Mama, you always tell me to listen to my body.  And my body is telling me I DON'T LIKE BLUEBERRY SAUCE!!!

Well, your body doesn't know what it's talking about right now.  I put MAPLE SYRUP in it!!! 

Borani is a side dish or dip made with thick, creamy yogurt and an array of vegetables or herbs.  It really speaks to the Persian (and my) love affair with yogurt.  My favorite borani as a child and perhaps the most well-known one is borani-e esfenaj.  In our house we simply call it mast o esfenaj - yogurt and spinach.  Also, a great way to get the little ones to eat their spinach.  Keeping with my theory that everything just tastes better with yogurt added to it, I decided to put this to the test with my troublesome greens - collard greens.  And the results are fantastic.  I first saute the greens with onion, garlic and turmeric.  Then add a splash of water to the pan and put the lid on it and give the greens time to slowly soften.  I cook the greens just long enough to tenderize but still maintain their rich color.  I have also added plump raisins to this dish for extra texture and a little something sweet to chew on. Once the collards cool slightly I mix in the yogurt and a splash of vinegar (you could also use lemon juice).  You can't have bitter without sour. The vinegar also helps to balance out the sweetness of the raisins.  The borani can be served as it is at this point, you could even sprinkle the top with some walnuts.  But what makes this dish really sing is the caramelized red onion with sumac.  You need these onions in your life.  Be it topping this borani, or gracing a salad, burgers, meats.  Make a big batch and have on hand in the fridge - to use at all times. 

This collard greens borani is great served as a dip with some warm flat bread to scoop up all the creamy goodness.  It also makes a great side dish alongside a roasted chicken or grilled fish.  Or, my occasional favorite 10 pm cuddle on the couch with the borani bowl nestled snugly in my lap and a bag of crunchy chips at my side (Trader Joe's organic yellow corn tortilla chip rounds, if you care to know).  A meditative and quiet time (save for the crunching of the chips).  A time for self-reflection.  Where I get to acknowledge that sometimes my body doesn't know what it's talking about either when it comes to collard greens.  All I needed to do is give them another try with a dollop of yogurt.  And then just taste and marvel at the goodness of it all.      


They stand above us - my husband and my first-born.  

Luna.  My moon girl.

Representatives of peace, truth, justice and all things fair.

Embodying all that we wish the UN could really be.

They look down at us and the blueberry spoon with kindness and curiosity.

Ok you two - time to separate you.  

Says my husband as he scoops up our second born off the floor and gently cradles her in his arms and carries her off for a game of Pretty, Pretty, Princess.

Luna bends her body just so, to get a better look at me and my situation.

I lift my head slightly and come face to face with those heart melting almond shaped, chestnut brown eyes.  

Warm, deep and all encompassing.

Mama?  Can I lick that spoon?


Thursday, December 18, 2014

A WINTER'S TALE AND A POMEGRANATE SOUP - SHAB-E YALDA - AASH-E ANAR


Yeky bood, yeky nabood...

'Twas the longest night of the year.

'Twas the darkest night of the year.

'Twas the most magical night of the year.

Soak the rice as the split peas simmer away.  Immerse your hands in the cold water and gently break up the rice into bits and pieces. Feel the familiar beat of nostalgia course through your body.  Memory knocking at your door.  It always begins with a gentle knock. Patiently waiting for permission to enter.  Sometimes you grant it - sometimes you don't. It's a slippery slope - the unpaved road to nostalgia and memory. You often tread those loose cobblestones cautiously. But tonight you are in a generous mood. It's a night of celebration.  A night of light, poetry, food, music, laughter, dancing, stories, family, jokes, togetherness, and a warm and tangy crimson-hued Aash-e Anar - Pomegranate Soup. You gently shake the rice off your fingers, dry your hands and place a firm grip on memory's door. Wildly swinging it open. Welcoming with it a howling gust of wind echoing with tales of  

Shab-e Yalda/Shab-e Chelleh.

Winter Solstice - December 21, 2014.


'Tis the one night of the year children are allowed to stay up all night. 

(Only to inevitably fall asleep at the foot of the korsi.  In the warmth of their grandmother's lap.) 

Giddy with anticipation of outlasting the long and dark night and welcoming a new crimson dawn.

Turn the music up.  Let its joyful rhythm, fervor and urgency draw your girls down the stairs. Add the rice to the aash along with a sprig of mint. Stir, stir and stir some more. The split peas have a tendency to stick.

What's he singing about, Mama? -Luna


I'm not sure. It's in Kurdish. I think it's a love song.

Who are Kurdishes, Mama? -Soleil

Friends and neighbors.

Interlace your fingers with your moon and sun and start spinning.  Orbiting around one another.  Shake your hair out, shimmy your hips, spin, spin and spin some more. Let yourself get lost in the moment.  Catch the sun's light reflect off the moon and bounce around the room.  A magical night, after all.  Spin, spin, and spin some more.  Jump and sing along until your heart can't take it anymore.  Collapse on the floor.  Only to get back up and repeat it all. 



 

'Tis the night of Yalda - birth.  

The birth of the sun.  

As light, love, truth and wisdom prevail over darkness.

Start on the meatballs.  Put the girls to work.  Add the parsley, cilantro, dill and advieh to the mixture.  Now listen - don't get too crazy measuring out the chopped herbs.  Grab a handful and chop away.  What you don't use in the meatballs you can use as garnish on the aash.  Place a small bowl of water next to the girls and show them how to wet their hands a little before forming the mini-meatballs.  Show them how small you want them. Bite your tongue and move away (go stir the aash) as they start forming odd shapes and sizes.  Let them get lost in the moment. 

'Tis a well-told and oft-repeated tale.

Told by ancient Persians six thousand years ago.

Told by George Lucas. In six parts.  Soon to be seven.

Set the Yalda table.  A study in various shades of red. All to symbolize a crimson dawn - the light of life. Watermelon for protection against excess heat in the summer months. Pomegranates and red pears to ward off insect bites.

Just like those patches we put on to keep away the mosquitos when we went camping.  Remember, Mama?

I remember, Soleil.
 
Dried fruits and nuts for an abundant and prosperous harvest. Candles to light the house and keep darkness at bay. Garlic for joint pain.

Mama, do your joints hurt?

Not right now, Luna.  But just in case... 

Divan-e Hafez to stir your soul and look into your future. And a crimson-hued wine to stir your thoughts and reminisce of days long gone.  A magical night, after all.

'Twas a well fought battle.

With no end in sight.

As the night raged on and on.
 
Gently drop the meatballs in the pot. Grate the beet and let its juices drip through your fingers and into the aash.  Chalk it up to more good luck. Hold the bottle of pomegranate molasses high above your caldron as you release its contents. Stir, stir and stir some more, then cover.

But where there is dusk - there is dawn.

And the sun always rises. 

She always rises.

Serve the warm and tangy crimson-hued Aash-e Anar as the girls crack open the walnuts.  Duck as walnut shells ricochet off the walls.

Mama, can we please stay up all night?  Please?

Yeky bood, yeky nabood... 

Wishing you all a very joyful and happy Yalda and Holidays. Please make sure you also check out the wonderful Yalda posts below. Plenty to tempt you with for this Yalda night.






Thursday, November 20, 2014

THE CHEF, THE QUINCE, HIS THOUGHTS AND HER PIE - A QUINCE AND LABNEH PIE

♪ MUSIC WE'RE COOKING TO ♪

You give the wobbly wheel a swift kick right where it counts and knock it back into place.  You may or may not utter a few unsavory words.  You and your traveling companion -  an old laundry basket on wheels - hurdle your way down the blocked off street.  Giving a quick hello to the lovely farmer who sells your precious sweet lemons to your left, and a nod of the head to the organic dates guy, who is perpetually singing "get your nature's candy" to your right. 

The Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer's Market.


You try to keep your cool with the clog of human traffic.  Casually milling about, admiring the finger limes and slowly savoring the chocolate persimmon.  You contemplate the cute  wicker baskets (pinterest & instagram-worthy) fashionably swung on the arms of the equally cute and hip young shoppers.  

You come to a sudden standstill. 

You utter a few more unsavory words.

You give the rickety old wheel another kick.

You re-contemplate the cute wicker baskets.

And just as quickly you and your ever-so-moody lower back dismiss the idea.  Cute wicker baskets just don't cut it when you're hauling four pounds of sweet lemons, four pounds of fava beans, an armful of sour green plums, and bags upon bags of fresh herbs.

You dodge the huge restaurant crates coming at you, overflowing with edible flowers, beets and squash of every color and dimension.  You start to panic. You're too late.  You utter a few more unsavory words at the clog of machinery that had you stuck on the Escherian stairwell, also known as the Santa Monica Freeway. 

And then with no fan fare, with no trumpets blowing or declarations you spot her.  You spot a whole table full of them.  Quince.  Beh

You don't approach.  You admire them from afar.  You wave hello to the farmer enlisted with the delicate task of protecting these blushing beauties.  You walk right past them, thinking you'll come right back to them.  Right after you make your way to the end of the market to pick up the pomegranate.  You make your way down to the pomegranate stand in a daze. Your head swimming with thoughts of rose water, creamy labneh, and fragrant behA pie.  The whole thing pretty much comes together right there before your eyes as you gently place the pomegranate in the well-traveled and well-lived laundry cart, and make your way back to the blushing beauties.


What do you mean you sold out of them?  There was a whole table full of them just five minutes ago!

Your hands are gesticulating madly (as they quite often are wont to do).  A farcical pantomime of recreating the picturesque (pinterest & instagram worthy) table overflowing with the quince.  You know if you give a convincing performance the quince will magically reappear.  If you believe it, they will come.

You didn't do so well in mime class.

Physical theatre was never your forte.

The quince do not reappear.   

There sure was - but then came along the chef and he carted them all way.  Who knows what he's going to do with them all.  Who knows what he's thinking.

The farmer is matter of fact and kind.  He once invited you to a Halloween party.  You politely declined.  

Your eyes dart back and forth between the tomatoes, the sun chokes, the bell peppers, and the pumpkin.  All that pumpkin.  So much beauty, so much color.  But none of it registers.  None of it matters. The one and only thing that brought you here is gone.  

Absconded by the chef.  

And his thoughts.

What was he thinking? 

Was he thinking of taking out the rose water and gently sprinkling it, flicking it lightly with his fingers over the softening quince?  Did he look away as they blushed?  Was he thinking of stirring the cardamom into the labneh, and then stirring in some more because his eight-year-old thought it needed more?  Did he make his own labneh?  Was he thinking of layering it all in a flaky, buttery pie crust to be garnished with flecks of pistachios and ruby red jewels - pomegranate arils?  Did he offer a piece to his five-year-old only to be curtly and unequivocally rejected?  Was he thinking of saving and drying the quince seeds to use later as a hot tea to cure a nasty winter's cough - just as his mother had instructed him to?  Did he watch with delight as his eight-year-old stepped right into the photo and scooped out the creamy labneh with a piece of quince?  Did he savor a piece all to himself with a cup of bergamot-infused black tea - only to have the moment interrupted by the everyday bickering of sisters? 

What was he thinking? 

 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

THE SPICE CUPBOARD - A STORY OF LOVE - A YELLOW SPLIT PEA AND PERSIAN LIME STEW - KHORESH GHEYMEH
























 ♪ MUSIC WE'RE COOKING TO ♪

Casually he lifts up his shirt.  Revealing cuts and bruises.  A skateboarding injury.  Meant to impress I think.  He keeps the shirt up for a beat longer than necessary.  Awkwardly lingering in the moment.  Electrifying and innocent all at the same time. As a young man in his early twenties - really, still a boy - is apt to do.  

Casually I ask him if he needs an icepack. As I lean a shoulder into the very white wall of my new apartment.  

Leaning into my new life.  

Leaning into a new city they call Angels.

Leaning into the blue of his eyes.

Leaning into a new friend. 

Pretending not to notice that he has held up his shirt just a little longer than necessary.  

Pretending not to notice the social gathering of butterflies in my stomach. Pretending that it's just hunger pangs.  As a young woman in her early twenties - really, still a girl - is apt to do.

I should make him a soup or maybe a khoresh - a stew - I think. The kind of stew that you long for when the weather starts to turn.  When a long forgotten chill taps on your window panes, and settles in for a good long stay.  Taking your breath away every time. The kind of stew that takes you by the waist and embraces you with warmth and doesn't let go. The kind that heals cuts and bruises. The kind that calms the whisper of  butterflies. 

Khoresh Gheymeh is the ultimate late-fall/winter stew.  I recently had the opportunity to meet Yotam Ottolenghi at an event for his recent book Plenty More.  The conversation turned to Persian food and Mr. Ottolenghi remarked on how Persian food is really homemade cooking at its very best. I couldn't agree more.  And this stew is a perfect example of such.  I like to make a big batch on a Sunday and hypnotize my family with its tantalizing aromas of faraway lands.  Khoresh Gheymeh is a hearty stew so I like to serve it with brown rice, a side of mast-o-khiar, and fresh herbs to balance out the whole meal.  What we don't devour right away gets portioned out for school, work lunches and the freezer - when in a few weeks you can once again indulge yourself and your family to a fantastic and comforting mid-week meal.  

Typically this stew is made with beef or lamb, yellow split peas, advieh - Persian spice mix, limoo omani - Persian dried limes, and garnished with matchstick fried potatoes. I don't cook with red meat often so when I do I try to use the best quality meat I can.  For this stew I like to use grass-fed eye of round stewing meat.  Like most stewing meats, this cut of beef requires the luxury of time to sit and braise. 

I prefer to cook the yellow split peas separately because the cooking time of the peas can vary. What you are ultimately looking for are peas that are completely cooked through, maintaining their shape without turning mushy. I find the best way to ensure this is to par-cook the peas separately and finish cooking them off in the stew in the final twenty minutes or so.

Advieh is a very fragrant and flavorful spice mix.  There are two types of advieh most commonly used.  One for rice dishes and one for stews and meats.  The spices used varies from region to region and home to home.  Common spices used in any combination can include turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, rose petals, golpar, corriander, black pepper, cumin and ginger.  You can prepare a combination of these spices and store in a jar.  Keep in mind that a small amount of advieh goes a long way.    

He places the paper bags on the 2-person glass patio table. Now serving as my indoor dining table.  He has come over to cook for me - some kind of pasta dish.  I've made us a couple of pies - as I was apt to do in those days. He starts pulling out all sorts of brand new Trader Joes spice jars - basil, oregano, thyme.  As he pulls out his salt shaker I can no longer contain it and break out into a giggle.  What he doesn't know - yet-  is that what I may be lacking in furnishings, in wall decor, in plates, glasses and mugs - I more than make up for in my spice cupboard.  

Saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, rose petals, cardamom, golpar, my advieh jar,  salt - my dear, dear, companions.

Well traveled mismatched glass jars. Tiny little Bonne Maman jam jars filled with my precious ground up saffron.  My own Maman's handwriting forever etched on some of the jars - in Persian, English, some in Italian.  These spices and the jars that so humbly house them tell the story of our lives.

Limoo Omani is the secret ingredient that gives Khoresh Gheymeh its unmistakable unique tart flavor - a key flavor in Persian cooking.  Limoo Omani is a dried Persian lime and is quite often used whole or ground up in stews.  The flavor of Limoo Omani as it cooks down and softens up, releasing its juices is absolutely incredible.  This is where I could tell you to substitute fresh lime or lemon juice for the Limoo Omani.  But I won't, because to really enjoy and appreciate Khoresh Gheymeh you need to use these flavorful and aromatic dried limes.  Limoo Omani can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores or online.  You first need to very carefully puncture them (so as not to stab yourself!) in a couple of places with a sharp knife and then place them in the stew.  As they cook down you gently press down on them with the back of a wooden spoon to release their juices. I like to eat the Limoo Omani along with my stew.  But I will readily admit eating them whole is an acquired taste. 

Khoresh Gheymeh is also famous for the delicious matchstick fries that garnish itWhen I prepare this dish at home I usually don't make the fries - with apologies to all the traditionalists out there!  I find the stew in combination with the rice it is served with makes for a very hearty meal as is.  And doesn't require the addition of another starchy food such as potatoes - and fried ones at that.  But...if you have me over and make me Khoresh Gheymeh with matchstick fries I will happily and enthusiastically accept!   


The boy from all those years ago became a best friend, a lover, a confidante, a husband, a father.

He still makes me pasta dishes.

I still look forward to making him soups and stews. 

His skateboard comes out every once in a while.  If only to trail the moon and the sun.  As they try to find balance in it all.  On their bikes.  In their lives.  He's never far behind.  Tending to his daughters' cuts and bruises.

My spice cupboard is now our spice cupboard. 

Full of mismatched glass jars.

And he still mixes up the turmeric with the saffron. 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

LOST THINGS - JASHNEH MEHREGAN - A BROCCOLI KOO KOO


 ♪ Music we're cooking to ♪

Mama, can you squeeze the clouds to make it rain? - Soleil


Step outside.   

Plant your bare feet firmly in the grass.  

Let your toes wander. Let them search and settle amongst the rough and dying blades. 

What was once lush and green.  What was once childhood.  What was once a vibrant summer respectfully fading away and making room for a crisp and most welcome autumn breeze.

Lost. 

Mehregan 
Mehregan is an ancient Persian Autumn festival dating back thousands of years.  It was observed by Zoroastrians as a same day/name day feast.  The ancient Persian calendar was based on 30-day months.  Each day was given a name and 12 of those days were given the same name as the month.  Celebrations were held each month when the day name and month name corresponded.  The names of the months in the Persian calendar are dedications to a certain virtue or a particular divinity. The month of Mehr derives its name from and is a dedication to the Zoroastrian god Mithra - the divinity of the Sun, Light, Truth, Friendship and Justice.  The word mehr also means kindness, caring and compassion.  These virtues combined with the Autumn harvest are the basis for this much revered celebration - Jashneh MehreganMehregan is still celebrated by Persians around the globe.  Perhaps an ancient predecessor to Thanksgiving - we celebrate by gathering with friends and family, celebrating the harvest with a feast, and helping our planet and those in need with kindness, caring and compassion. 

Reach up with one hand to shield your eyes.

Look straight up.  Remember to squint.

Come face to face with your second born's namesake.

Look hard.  Squint even harder.  

Not to be found.  

Lost. 

Broccoli Koo Koo 
For some time now, broccoli has gone the way of quinoa around our house.  Both girls will happily eat it as a smooth velvety soup - but don't even consider serving it lightly steamed drizzled with olive oil/lemon and salt, roasted or otherwise.  I myself am not one to ever shun any particular type of food - especially one so packed with goodness; but I too will readily admit that I have fallen into a broccoli rut.  So when my mom told me about her Broccoli Koo Koo I happily jumped at the chance to try it out and add my own twist to it.  
Great and delicious things can come out of a good fridge clean-out, my mother having taught me.  This dish is a strong example of such.  It does not disappoint.  Just like my Fresh Herb Koo Koo - this egg-based dish (very similar to a frittata) is packed with nutrient-rich vegetables, nuts and spices.  I used an abundance of fresh herbs (cilantro), a whole head of broccoli, a carrot for texture and color, walnuts for crunch, barberries for a tangy pop, feta cheese, and fragrant spices.  The effort here is minimal, especially if you use a food processor to very finely chop up the broccoli and herbs.  The beauty of this Koo Koo is that it can be enjoyed as a satisfying breakfast/brunch, enveloped in some really nice crusty bread as a sandwich for lunch, an after school snack, or served alongside some rice with a side of mast-o-khiar for dinner. And no one will mind if you hit it with a dash of hot sauce, as Drew likes to.  It also makes for a beautiful side dish to serve for a Mehregan celebration or a Thanksgiving feast.

Tilt back your head.  

Slightly arch your back and drop your arms gracefully to your sides.    

Let your hair cascade down your back.  

Close your eyes.  

Part your lips. 

Wait for it. 

Wait for it.

Wait for the drip - drip - drip. 

The cheek - cheek - cheek.  As you would say in your mother tongue.

Wonder how it would be pronounced in China.  In Iceland.  In Bolivia.

Wait for it.

Lost.

Your Anita Ekberg moment lost without the Trevi.  Without any fountains.  Without any water.

All the fountains have dried up.  And shut down.  

A drought, they say.  One of the worst around these parts, they say.


She left us quite some time ago. 

The rain.

She gave up on us, they say.   

She packed her bags, turned her back and walked out the door.  She hasn't been seen since around these parts.

She lost her way back, they say.

If you happen upon her, or if she happens upon you, tell her we're waiting for her with open arms.

Waiting for her drip-drip-drip.  

Her cheek-cheek-cheek.

Tell her we'll be waiting with a Broccoli Koo Koo.

Tell her we'll be waiting with Mehr.

*******************************************
I am very happy to have been invited to join a group of very talented Persian food bloggers from around the world in a cyber celebration of Mehregan.  Please make sure you check out all of their amazing and delicious work! 

Ahu Eats: Badoom Sookhte Torsh | Sour Caramelized Almonds 
All Kinds of Yum: Jeweled Carrot Salad  
Cafe Leilee: Northern Iranian Pomegranate Garlic and Chicken Stew 
Coco in the Kitchen: Zeytoon Parvardeh |Marinated Olives with Pomegranate & Walnuts 
Della Cucina Povera: Ghormeh Sabzi | Persian Lamb & Herb Stew 
Fae's Twist & Tango: Rice Meatballs | Kufteh Berenji 
Family Spice: Khoreshteh Kadoo | Butternut Squash Stew 
Fig & Quince: Festive Persian Noodle Rice & Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Yummies for Mehregan
Honest and Tasty: Loobia Polo | Beef and Green Bean Rice 
Lab Noon: Adas Polo Risotto | Persian Lentils Risotto  
Lucid Food: Sambuseh 
Marjan Kamali: Persian Ice Cream with Rosewater and Saffron 
My Caldron: Anaar-Daneh Mosamma | Pomegranate Stew 
My Persian Kitchen: Keshmesh Polow | Persian Raisin Rice 
Noghlemey: Parsi Daal Rice Pie
Parisa's Kitchen: Morasa Polow | Jeweled Rice 
Persian Spice: Rice Meatballs
Sabzi:  Ash-e Mast | Yogurt Soup With Meatballs
The Saffron Tales: Khorosht-e Gheimeh | Yellow Lentils Stew 
Simi's Kitchen: Lita Turshisi | Torshi-e Liteh | Tangy aubergine pickle 
Spice Spoon: Khoresht-e-bademjaan | Saffron-Scented Aubergine Stew 
Turmeric & Saffron: Ash-a Haft Daneh | Seven Bean Soup 
The Unmanly Chef: Baghali Polow ba Mahicheh | Rice with Fave Beans and Lamb Shank
ZoZoBaking: Masghati | Persian Scented Starch Fudge 


Disclaimer: The blue spatula pictured in this post was kindly sent to me by Gir. We've really been digging their whole line of colorful silicone made spatulas and thought I'd pass it on.  All opinions are completely mine. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

THE POLITICS OF HUMMUS IN A MOODY KITCHEN - HUMMUS



 ♪ Music we're cooking to ♪

It's deliciously liberating to not have any attachments.

Soak dried chickpeas in plenty of water over night.

To not feel the glare, pressure and judgment of those wiser than you, those that have come before you, searing your back.  Those mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, that make a habit of pulling up a stool and comfortably perching themselves on your shoulders, watching your every move. Wagging their fingers at every sprinkle of sweet Spanish paprika.  Tisking and tasking as they watch the lemon juice trickle through you fingers - announcing its presence on what were forgotten cuts and scrapes. And perhaps - just perhaps - if these elders are in a giving mood they might grant you one and only one nod of approval as they watch you release the chick peas from the embrace of their skins.

Stir the chick peas with baking soda in a pot over high heat, add more water and watch as the skins rise to the top.  Magic. 

You breathe a sigh of relief that you are not the carrier of this particular torch.  Your shoulders feel weightless - free.  This is your kitchen and your mood dictates your kitchen.  For better or for worse. 

Give the lemon juice, garlic and spices a whirl in the food processor to combine.  I use sweet Spanish paprika because I also cook with the moods and taste buds of a five-year-old and eight-year-old in mind.  Use smoky paprika if you prefer - or even a sprinkle of cayenne if your taste buds have fully developed.  If you're in the mood for a little more tang and general deliciousness (as I usually am), add the preserved lemons too.  If not - don't.  Moody kitchen rules apply here.


  
Thousands of years of culture, debate and national pride cooly and casually bounce off of you and float off back into the ether.  Back towards their homeland. 

This "region" that so graciously gave birth to civilization, yet has struggled so to gently cradle it in its arms. 

This vast swath of land - where passions run high - extremely high.  

Where laughter can echo across its borders without need of passports, papers, religion. 

Where tears have flooded its rivers, lakes and seas for far too long - far too long.  

Where food - a simple meal prepared over a fire and shared with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers alike - is revered, debated, united, and is more integral to existence than any arbitrary lines etched out on a map.  

Where every tribe, every neighborhood, every home will tell you that their preparation for Hummus bi Tahini - chickpeas with tahini is the BEST way, THE authentic way, the ONLY way. 

Add the tahini (on this particular day my mood dictates to go easy on the tahini - so I do) with the saved chickpea broth (the water you cooked the chickpeas in - because my taste buds inform me this adds more flavor to the finished product).  Give it another whirl. 

But most of all, you are grateful that for once, your birth place - the very same land that for the first eight years of your life was the only home you knew - is not at the center of this particular regional discourse, debate, crisis. The politics of hummus might brush against the great peak of Mount Damavand, but it does not settle there.  It continues on its journey. Becoming one again with the dust, the sea, and mountain ranges of Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Israel, Jordan. 

Drop in the chickpeas and blend until smooth and creamy.  Excersize patience.  This might take a few minutes. If needed add a little more broth to thin out.  Taste.  Listen - and I mean really listen - to your taste buds.  Add more of anything you think is lacking.  Let the hummus rest in the fridge for at least thirty minutes before serving - it's been through a long journey, after all.   Bring to room temperature before serving (we can all use the time to acclimate) and drizzle liberally with olive oil. Serve as is or sprinkle top with anything your mood dictates. 

You glance up and catch a legion of mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers watching you from afar.  You respectfully nod and acknowledge their presence.  You are tempted to invite them to tea - but you don't.  They have a long journey ahead of them and many more homes to visit.  They nod back and acknowledge that that they will not be staying today.  You watch them turn their backs and leave.  

You freely sprinkle in the sweet Spanish paprika.