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Archive for the ‘stews’ Category

After all the holiday sweet, I was craving savory. Meaty. Hearty. Fragrant. This is what I put together in my slow cooker,  fork-tender Crockpot Persian Saffron Lamb:

Persian lamb leg cooked in my slow-cooked, along with saffron and many other fragrant spices.

It’s a Persian-spiced boneless leg of lamb on a bed of basmati rice. Saffron enhances both the lamb and the rice. This would make a perfect New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day dish. It’s luxurious, festive, and fragrant. Plus, quite easy to prepare.  Only a few minutes of hands-on work, then the slowcooker does the rest. Time heals all wounds, and time makes this lamb tender.


It’s a flexible recipe, too. Not a lamb fan? Use a beef pot roast instead. Into lamb but don’t have a boneless leg of lamb? Use shanks instead. In fact, I prefer lamb shanks, simply because the bone imparts so much flavor. But alas, all I had was a boneless leg of lamb, and still, the result was fantastic.  Friends of friends were begging that I send some their way. And I did 😉

Persian Saffron Lamb, Slowcooker Style

Delicious!

  •  3-4 pound boneless leg of lamb, or an equal amount of lamb shanks or beef pot roast
  • 1 onion
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, ghee, or neutral cooking oil of choice
  • 2-3 Tablespoons advieh (Persian spice mix) OR pumpkin pie spice (they have similar ingredients).
  • 2 Tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 Tablespoons saffron water (boil 1/4 cup water to the temperature you’d use to make tea. Add a pinch, approx 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads to the water. Refrigerate un-used portion for future use)
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and left whole
  • 1 28 ounce can of tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Remove fat from lamb using a sharp knife.

2. Chop onion into half moons. In a large dutch oven. cooking pot,  or skillet, heat fat over a medium heat and add onion, stirring often.

3. Allow onion to cook about five minutes. As it cooks, salt and pepper the outside of the meat. Either remove onion from the pan altogether or put it aside. Place meat in the pot and sear it for 2-3 minutes per side…enough to get a nice crust on it. Remove meat from the pan and place, carefully, on a heat-safe surface.

4. Place onion back in the pan and add all spices EXCEPT saffron. Stir often, and cook for about 30 seconds, or until you begin to catch the scent of the spices. Put onion into slow cooker immediately.

5. Cut a few slits deep into the meat and insert the garlic cloves. Make sure the cloves are spaced evenly throughout the meat.  (Don’t worry about losing moisture from doing this…the slow cooking method will keep the meat plenty moist).

6. To the slow cooker, add the lamb, canned tomatoes, saffron water, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper (you can always adjust salt and pepper later).

7. Cook on low setting for 6-8 hours. I cooked mine for 8 hours, overnight. Once the meat is done, taste sauce, adjust seasoning accordingly, serve over rice, and enjoy!

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Fesenjan is a beloved Iranian pomegranate-walnut stew. It can be made with chicken, duck, or without meat. What you see above is a version made with mushrooms and chickpeas, a departure from the classic recipe. Note my greenery "garnish" isn't really edible 😉 This is my fast, 15 minute version of khorest fesenjan.

Yes, you read right. A 15-minute version of beloved Persian koresht fesenjan.

What??????

For the uninitiated, it’s a stew of ground walnuts, pomegrante molasses, and, often, chicken. It has a sweet and sour flavor that might sound weird on paper, but tastes oh-so-good on the palate. It also has a bit of a reputation: a rep as something that takes a good while to cook.

We chatted about this recipe on here before:

But today’s offering is a quickie take on the slow-cooking classic. Over the weekend, a reader, Almaz, and I were chatting on Facebook. She loves the blog and had such kind words of encouragement for me. I was really touched. So I asked her if there was anything in particular she’d like me to post about. She jokingly (I think), said “15 minute fesenjan.” I immediately thought about a slow cooker version, that potentially could have only 15 minutes of hands on time.

Then today, while tinkering around in the kitchen, I realized a truly fast fesenjan, made in 15 minutes from start to finish, IS doable. If you have the following, already ready:

  • Pomegranate PASTE or MOLASSES (pre-thickened, you see!)
  • Ground walnuts.
  • Pre-cooked chicken (if using).
  • Pre-cooked rice (if serving over rice). Or you could use quick cooking rice. (Not as tasty as homemade, but just sayin’)

So here we go. Don’t blink, guys, or else this recipe will be over before you know it:

15-Minute Khoresht Fesenjan (Pomegranate Walnut Stew)

Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Approximately 4-6 servings. ( The nuts make this a very rich dish.)

Ingredients

  • Neutral cooking fat of choice (butter, grapeseed oil, etc)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 cup pre-ground walnuts
  • 1 Tablespoon sumac
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses or pomegranate paste (can find on Amazon)
  • 10 ounces of mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 cup of chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
  • 1 14-16 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed (optional)
  • 1 cup of pre-cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces (such as leftover roasted chicken)
  • Honey, sugar, or agave nectar to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Over a low heat, heat oil or butter in a Dutch oven.

2. As fat warms, dice onion.  Add it to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically. (Chopping the onion very small will help it cook through faster).

3. As the onion cooks, slice mushrooms (if using) and drain and rinse chickpeas (if using).

4. Lower the heat, and add walnuts to the onions. Toast walnuts lightly, turning often, for 30-60 seconds, or until you smell a hint of fragrance. Immediately add in spices, and cook for about 30 seconds more. Turn heat off.

5. Add in the pomegranate molasses/paste, stock or water. Stir well, then add in any of the following that you’re using: chicken, mushrooms, chickpeas. Put the heat back on, then increase heat to high until stew boils. Drop the heat down to low.

6. Cook for 5 minutes more, until mushrooms are cooked through and chicken, if using, is warmed through. (You can cook this dish longer if you wish, up to half an hour, but the shorter cooking time works if you’re in a hurry).

7. Adjust seasonings to your taste. If you want it sweeter, add in sweetener of choice, stir, taste. Repeat until you’ve reached your idea sweet-sour ratio.  Serve over rice of choice and enjoy.

That’s IT!

Enjoy it over rice of your choice.

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A quick snap of the quick veggie curry I enjoyed for dinner recently.

So you guys know that I mainly focus on Middle Eastern cuisine here on this blog, with an emphasis on Persian food and also Arabic food of the Levant region. Or, if you’re new to this blog, now you know 😉

That being said, a little bit of curry never hurt anyone. So let’s take a detour, just for today. Today’s quick curry is fast, fresh, and useful. Useful? Yes, especially if you have an abundance of summer vegetables around and you’re wondering what the heck to do with them all.

That’s exactly what happened to me recently. A friend hooked me up with not one, but two big batches of organic farmer’s market veggies. Verdant emerald zucchini, sunny yellow squash, lavender hued eggplants, ruby red sweet peppers, and more. I was grateful, excited, and nervous, all at the same time, because I wanted to make excellent use of the goodies, and not let anything go to waste.

Eggplants were part of the haul of fresh summer produce gifted to me.

I made a few dishes–grilled veggie subs, pesto with pasta and fresh veggies, chickpeas with, you guessed it, more of the fresh veggies. I dipped the raw veggies in hummus and smeared sunflower seed butter on them, too. Then one night, I was in a big hurry to get dinner on the table (who am I kidding–that’s every night!) I remembered a fast curry my friend Erica once showed me when I visited her in Florida.

Coconut milk is the base. Don’t worry, the fat in coconut milk, while saturated, is GOOD for you.  You dump in the veggies and spices of your choice into the silky coco milk, and heat everything up for just a few minutes. The variations are endless. For added flavor, cook the onions, fresh ginger, and spices together for a moment. You can garnish as you wish, swap out the veggies to your heart’s content, and play around with the spicing. Here’s what I threw together the other night:

Curry in a Hurry (Quick Summer Veggie Curry)

Coconut milk is the base of this simple curry. Feel free to get creative with the veggies, the spicing, and the garnishes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, or neutral cooking oil of choice
  • 1/2 of a medium onion, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • Curry spice mix of choice (I used Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie spice, plus 2 teaspoons of turmeric, and a half teaspoon each of cardamom, coriander, and cumin)
  • 1 14-16 ounce can coconut milk (can use light)
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 2 pounds veggies of choice (I used zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and mild red peppers)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat oil over a low heat in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven. As oil heats, clean and chop all veggies into chunks. Leave the peels on if you like to save time and add fiber.

2. To the oil, add the onion pieces and fresh ginger. Cook to soften over the low heat for about 2 minutes. Then add in the curry spices of your choice, mix well and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute (you should smell the spices).

3. Immediately add in the coconut milk, veggies, and water. Stir thoroughly. Add in a bit of salt and bring to a boil. As soon as the curry begins to boil, drop the heat to low and cook for 2-5 minutes, until veggies reach the desired texture. (You can test veggies with a fork or knife). I don’t like mushy veggies, so I cook mine around 3 minutes. Depending on your preference, you may shorten or extend the cooking time. Taste, and adjust the seasoning.

4. Serve over cooked rice or other grain of  your choice, with garnish if desired. Some garnish ideas: fresh cilantro, fried onions, raw scallions, a red hot sauce.

Serves 4.

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One pot lentil stew with chickpeas, spinach, carrots. My retreat Yogis loved it. It's easy to fix, and it tastes better after a day.

Today’s recipe is one of the very first I got good at cooking, back in my teendom days.  It’s simple, flavorful, and packed full of fiber, protein, iron, and B-vitamins, to name just a few. We’ve had some unseasonably cool days here recently, and settling down in the evening with a big bowl of this stew is oh-so-comforting.

My sister, Mona, left, and I head out for a day of sightseeing and Yoga, with lentil and chickpea stew waiting for us at home upon our return.

Good news: this dish tastes better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two. Love that! This stew was a big hit at the recent Yoga retreat I hosted, and I promised to post the recipe. I also promised my college student sis, Mona, that I’d post this so she can make it up ahead of time and have it on hand for her busy weeks of school and work. So here goes:

One Pot Lentil Stew and Chickpea Stew

Ingredients:

Olive oil

1 medium onion

2 large carrots

3-5 large garlic cloves

3 teaspoons each of cardamom and coriander

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 scant teaspoon cumin

1 scant teaspoon allspice

1 cinnamon stick (optional)

1 ½ cups lentils (brown or yellow preferred)

4-5 cups filtered water

1 28 ounce can of peeled, whole tomatoes

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

14-16 ounces cooked chickpeas (either canned or pre-cooked)

2 cups fresh spinach

Directions:

1.       Heat olive oil over a low flame in a large soup pot. As the oil heats, peel and chop the onions and carrots.

2.       Raise the heat of the pan to medium. Add the onions and carrots and stir well to begin cooking them. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often, until softened.

3.       Lower the flame to low. Add the garlic and spices and stir well. When the spices’ aroma begins to bloom (in about 30-60 seconds), remove the pan from heat immediately and turn off the heat. Cook for 30 seconds to one minute more.

4.       Add the lentils, canned tomatoes, cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and water to the pot. Break up the tomatoes and stir everything together really well.

5.       Return pot to burner, and bring to a boil. Once stew is boiling, drop the flame down to low and cook for 20-30 minutes more, or until both carrots and lentils are tender.

6.       Add the pre-cooked chickpeas. (If using canned, be sure to strain the liquid and rinse the chickpeas).

7.       To finish, turn off the flame and add the spinach. The residual heat will wilt the spinach, leaving it a bright green color without overcooking it.

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A simple Arabic-influenced okra stew quicky cookly when you use frozen, pre-chopped okra and ample spices. In Arabic they cal this bamiyeh.

Hey guys! I’m finally back with a recipe post, as promised. Today it’s a quick Arabic-inspired okra stew. Growing up in Texas, we used to always eat okra stir fried.  Honestly, I don’t even know if this is the right term. All I know is that  my mom would grab some emerald green pods from the garden, chop them into disks, and pan fry them with a bit of onion, tomato, oil and corn meal.

Beautiful okra pods! Image courtesy of FotoSearch.com

Sometimes simple things are the best, and this okra method was no exception. Magically, the orka would take on a texture somewhere between crunchy and soft. It was never slimy, and so much healthier than the deep-fried okra so popular in the South.

It wasn’t until moving away from home and doing some traveling in the Middle East that I was introduced to stewed okra. At first I didn’t think I’d like it–figured the slimy texture would put me off– but I was wrong. Stewed okra is just another way to love this versatile veggie. Especially over a big pile of basmati rice. Sign me up now, ya’ll!

An Arabic spice blend and a tomatoey broth gives this stew a lovely flavor.

Regarding okra, I used to be a bit of a purist. Only freshly picked pods from the garden (if we had one that year) for this girl. Farm stand okra is popular in Texas, and it would do  in a pinch. If we did buy it from the regular grocery store, we’d always take our time to pick out the smallest, most flavorful pods. The bigger the pod, the higher the odds that it’d be tough and maybe even bitter. Now that I live in the big city, where gardens are in short supply and farmers’ markets in high demand, I’m a bit more flexible.

Since okra’s technically not even in season yet, this time I took the plunge and bought a bag of frozen okra that had already been cut. It was on sale for $1.50. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the result of a quickie okra stew with Arabic spices, but I was pleasantly surprised. Now I’m wishing I’d bought a second bag of the frozen okra, so that I could play around with some different flavors. Next time for sure!

A closer view of this simple, fast Arabic Okra Stew.

This super simple okra stew recipe took all of 20 minutes. Now if you want a softer, more tender okra, cook it until it reaches your desired tenderness. For all the purists out there, this isn’t the exact classic Arabic style okra. It is a quick approximation. I’ll post a more traditional recipe as okra comes into season in the coming months. For that matter,  a Persian take on okra stew will get its moment in the sun as well. For now, with the bargain-priced frozen okra, here we go:

20 Minute Arabic Inspired Okra Stew (Bamiyeh)

Serves 2-4. Doubles easily.

Ingredients:

1-2 teaspoons of good olive oil

1 16 ounce bag of frozen, sliced okra

1 medium onion

2 large garlic cloves

Arabic Spice Blend-a scant teaspoon each of powdered cumin, coriander, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cloves. Plus 1/2 teaspoon each of powdered cinnamon and ginger.

1 Bay leaf

1 14-16 ounce can of whole or chopped tomatoes (low sodium, please!)

1-2 cups of vegetable stock or chicken stock (low sodium again, please!)

Salt and pepper to taste (not giving exact amounts, because this will vary depending on your taste and the amount of salt in your tomatoes and/or stock)

Directions:

1. In a medium Dutch oven, heat olive oil over a low flame.

2. As oil heats, chop onion into a small dice. Finely mince garlic or cut into pieces. (If mincing, I prefer to use a grater)

3. Add onion to oil, and cook over a medium low heat for five minutes.  Add garlic and all spices, and cook for another 30 seconds to one minute, just until spices’ aroma starts to bloom. Turn off flame and remove from heat.

4. Add okra pods and tomatoes. If using who canned tomatoes, use the back of your cooking spoon or spatula to break them into pieces. Mix everything well. Add in about one cup of stock, and salt and pepper to taste.

5. Place back on the burner, crank up the heat to high, and get the mixture to a boil. As soon as it comes to a boil, drop down the heat and simmer ten minutes on a very low flame. After ten minutes, check the spices and tenderness of the okra. If you desire a more tender okra texture, continue to cook until that desired texture is reached, adding in stock or water as needed if the mixture starts to dry out.

6. Serve over basmati rice and enjoy!

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Khatera (left) and Bria (me) at her brother Zem's wedding. Khat is in traditional Afghani dress for a dance that's performed to honor the bride and groom. The rest of the time she had another fabulous dress on, which I sadly didn't get of pic of. I'm in a Bollywood style outfit that I was thrilled to have an excuse to wear.

This past weekend was so amazing in many ways. No, I didn’t get married–don’t let that headline throw you. But it was my birthday on Easter, which I think is quite auspicious and refreshing. After all, my birthday should be a major holiday every year. At least that’s what I think! (I kid, I kid!) 😉 Well, only half kidding.

Plus, I got to do something I’ve long wanted to do–attend a Big Fat Afghani Wedding. Whoo hoo!

The bride and groom. Aren't they a lovely couple?

The opulent festivities didn’t disappoint, the peeps I hung with were cooler than cool, and the food was nothing short of amazing. There was so much of it and every bit was delectable. I was (mentally) playing detective with every bite, wondering what spice was in this chicken dish, if this bird was quail, pheasant, or pigeon, and how long this sauce had to simmer to reach perfection in flavor. For me, eating is one of life’s pleasures, but cooking is a close second, so if I can figure out how to reverse engineer some amazing dish, then it’s pretty thrilling. Of course, simply scoring the recipe will do.

Flavorful chicken kebabs. I was sort of surprised these weren't made with lamb, but I totally dug the lighter flavor of the chicken, the juicy texture, and the depth of flavor thanks to plenty of spices.

Of course, I was lurking near the buffet as they put out every dish, snapping pictures for myself this blog. Photojournalism, I tell ya! Luckily, the photography and videography crew at the wedding was also snapping pics of the food, so I’m telling myself I didn’t look like too much of a weirdo snapping pics right alongside them.

The full outfit. I snagged this beauty on my trip to L.A. back in October. I got it at an amazing price--much less spendy than what similar outfits go for out here on the East Coast.

Confession time: I haven’t been to a Persian wedding in many years, but I do remember the dinner being eaten very late, and the festivities running into the wee hours. Apparently Afghani wedding roll like this as well. We probably didn’t eat dinner til around 10:30 p.m. But food tastes better when you’re hungry, and we danced before and after the meal to work up that appetite, and then work off some of the meal.

Throughout the meal, I kept noticing how Afghani food is so varied, absorbing influences and exerting its own influence onto many different cuisines. I guess it makes sense when you look at a map of the Middle East and Central Asia. Geography lessons another day. For now, let’s let the food do the talking:

Torshi. Spicy pickled veg appetizers. Hmmm, I've seen these in both Irani and Arabic cuisines.

Note the East Asian influence in the manti, aka dumplings. I LOVE dumplings and could've easily made a meal out of these lamb-filled beauties. My friend Nilofar was loading my plate up with them. I had to tell her to stop, but not because I didn't want them 😉 Just had to save room for other goodies.

Like Persians, Afghanis are all about their rice. This carrot and raisin topped rice was delicious and gorgeous. I'm such a rice girl. So I had to make the pic of the rice bigger 😉

The question of the night on this poultry dish was "what bird is it?" I'd hazard a guess that it was quail or very small pheasants. Pigeon is a distant second possibility. I had to restrain myself from picking up this little birdie and eating the meat off of the bones.

Look at that gorgeous yellow color! This was my possibly my favorite chicken dish of the night. I detected turmeric, possibly some saffron, and some sort of tangy citrus in there. If anyone knows exactly what this is or how to make it, hollah at me in the comments section!

Curry in a blurry! Sorry for the blurry shot, I'm just including it because it's a mild curry-like dish, which reminds me that there Indian and Afghani cuisines have influences one another quite a lot through the ages.

Nilofar (left), and her sister Mary. My girls! It was great seeing them again. Aren't they gorgeous?

As well all know, weddings are a great chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones, so I was so happy to get to hang with Mary and Nilofar, among others, and to meet their adorable nieces and nephews.

Dancing was a big part of the festivities, and I even took some video of one of the more traditional dances. I hope I can get it uploaded soon. (Can you tell I’m not the most tech-savvy blogger out there! Ha! 😉

This shot is blurry (again, not very tech savvy over here, and still learning how to use my new camera. But at least you get a (vague) sense of the traditional costumes. No, these folks weren’t walking around like this the entire time, but they changed into their gorgeous costumes for a dance honoring the bride and groom:

Traditional dance moment. Loved it! Gonna try to get some video I took of it uploaded.

And as we know, weddings are a great time to meet new friends as well as catch up with old friends. Here’s one of my sweet new little friend:

Fast friends!

Overall, it was a fun evening and quite entertaining. I do plan to feature some Afghani cuisine on this blog very, very soon. As you can see, it’s creative, delicious, and full of beautiful flavors.

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Khorest Fesenjan, a classic Persian chicken dish with a sauce made of pomegranate and toasted walnut. Photo by Stacey Young.

Hey guys! We recently explored a vegetarian (actually vegan) version of today’s Persian dish, Khoresht Fesejan. Today, here’s the more classic version of this luxurious Persian stew with pomegranate, walnuts, and chicken. Enjoy this dish on top of the delicious rice dish of your choice. Classic chelo rice would work beautifully, or you could try my super easy basmati rice technique. Enjoy this richly flavored, slightly sweet, slightly sour stew.

Khoresht Fesenjan: Persian Pomegranate Walnut Stew

Note: Since pomegranate juice is so popular now and pretty easy to find in supermarkets, you can use that instead of pomegranate syrup. However, pomegranate syrup/molasses is available in some grocery stores, and also in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean stores. A lot of oil will come to the top of the dish. This is normal and nothing to worry about; it is the oil from the walnuts.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, ghee, butter, or neutral cooking oil of choice
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 pound bone-in chicken thighs, legs, and/or breasts, skin removed
1/2 pound walnuts, finely ground (shells removed)
4 cups pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup pomegranate syrup/molasses diluted in 2 cups of water
1/4 teaspoon saffron, dissolved in 1 tablespoon of hot water
Salt, to taste
Honey or sugar
Cardamom pod (optional) OR 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
Pinch of allspice (optional)

Directions:

1. Heat the fat in a large pan Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove onions.

2. Salt chicken. Add chicken and brown on both sides, about three minutes per side. Remove from pan, and set aside.

3. Place the ground walnuts in the remaining oil in the frying pan. Cook and stir over low heat 5 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

4. Return the onion and chicken to the frying pan with the walnuts. Stir in the pomegranate juice or diluted pomegranate syrup. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear. (You can simmer longer to deepen the flavor, adding water as necessary so the pan doesn’t dry out).

5. Adjust seasoning to taste. If stew tastes too sour, add a little honey or sugar and simmer a bit longer. Serve over basmati rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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