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Posts Tagged ‘Iranian Food Blog’

Photo by my student Meghan.

Hello, my dears, and happy Friday!

I hope you all had a great week. Mine was pretty productive: Nowruz, lots of teaching, signing people up for my next Yoga retreat, Spring cleaning, daily cooking, working out and Yoga-ing, plus tax filing. Whew! Let’s not even talk about the other stuff I’ve been procrastinating about (laundry piles, I have NO interest in your cries of neglect!) Uh, sounds like a good time to move on. . .

Shirin Polow. Photo by Todd Coleman via Saveur Magazine.

My friend Anthony forwarded me this article on Persian Cuisine. It really made my day:
Saveur Magazine article on Persian cuisine.

Here’s one of my favorite passages:

The Persian Empire, which spanned with some interruptions from 550 BC to AD 651, was the greatest of the early civilizations; there were well-built roads from one end of the empire to the other, and caravansaries, or roadside inns, at regular intervals to provide shelter and food to travelers. Herodotus, the Greek historian, wrote that he was seduced by Persian food, and King Croesus of Lydia, an ancient land that is now part of Turkey, advised Cyrus the Great to lure troublesome tribes with “the good things on which the Persians live.” Between the middle of the eighth century to the mid 13th century, the Abbasid Caliphate, an Arab-Muslim dynasty that encompassed swaths of the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Spain and Portugal, hired Persian chefs to cook for the heads of state. As Islam tightened its hold on the region, Arabs adopted and adapted Persian cuisine.

Yeah, so basically Persian cuisine invented and influenced, like, the entire GLOBE, culturally and culinarily speaking. This doesn’t surprise me one bit, but it still makes me wanna say “Hollah!”

So a lot of Persian recipes I run across online use Metric measurements (duh, that’s what most of the globe uses.) A gram scale sure would come in handy for the many Metric recipes we encounter…no converting or re-calculating measurements needed. What a cool coincidence, because today SlimKicker is sponsoring a giveaway of a gram scale:

Enter to win a kitchen scale. Why would you want one? Precise measurements for all of your recipes (especially baking projects). Also a great way to measure out portions of food.

Okay, so I’ve actually never done a giveaway here on West of Persia, but that changes as of today. One lucky winner will get a gram scale, courtesy of SlimKicker.com

What is Slim Kicker?

From their site:

  • SlimKicker is a level-up game that turns your diet + weight loss goals into a winnable game.

The site helps participants:

  • Stay motivated and excited.

  • Rack up points for tracking healthy calories, logging your workouts, and completing challenges.
  • Stay accountable.

  • Enter 7 to 30 day diet and fitness challenges with others, and “check-in” daily to tell us how you’re doing.
  • Win prizes.

  • As you level up, you get to participate in giveaway challenges where we give away special prizes.
  • Personalized, Actionable Advice.

  • Get personalized reminders from our virtual coach based on your activity.

TO ENTER (U.S. and Canada residents are eligible):

1. Leave a comment and tell me how you keep yourself motivated to stay fit. (Required entry)

2. For an additional entry, follow me on Twitter: @BriasWorld and leave a comment here telling me that you did.

3. For additional entry, follow take a look at the SlimKicker site and tell me what “Challenge” looks fun/interesting to you.

Winner announced next Thursday, April 5.

Good luck entering the giveaway. Have a great weekend everybody!

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Just today I learned that pineapple is excellent for the throat...for both healing and preventing laryngitis. I can't think of a more delicious remedy than fresh pineapple juice. Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.

Hey guys. I hope you all have had a great weekend. Mine has been a mixed bag. See, I had a cold last week. First legit cold in nearly a year, but a cold nonetheless.My immune system, fortunately, is pretty strong, and I thought the cold and I were done. That we’d kicked one another to the curb in record time. But then it was like “Not so fast, suckah!” and promptly boomeranged back to me early Friday morning. . .in the form of pure evil, I mean, laryngitis.

Holy throat chakra, Batman! I haven’t lost my voice in over two years. I thought was on a roll in that department.

Long story short, I’ve been on vocal rest since Friday, only talking when absolutely required. I’ve missed some work, and had to miss Khat’s birthday celebration. Which really sucked. But I would have have been bad, bizarre company with my squeaky vocal range and weird hand gestures.

So alas, not being able to talk has given me time to listen. To myself and others.This has been oddly refreshing, rejuvenating, even. I could get used to this.

And one of the things that dawned on me while giving the ol’ gift of gab a break is that I really ought to post on here more often. And I quickly realized that I’ve been letting arbitrary rules I’d “set” for myself determine what my posts had to be.

Spending time in quiet, and in meditation, is helping re-balance my chakras. (Dear Lord, did I just type that...it sounds so hokey. But it's TRUE!) Photo courtesy of stock.xchng.

The advice I often give my students and clients about letting go of the all or nothing mentality? I SOOOO wasn’t following my own advice in terms of this blog.

I’d backed myself into the corner of thinking that most of my posts needed to be full-on recipes, photographed by me, and with some sort of a little story to go along. I was “shoulding” myself to death!

That corner and all that “shoulding”? Very limiting. Why stay stuck in a corner when you have a whole world to explore?

I’ve decided to come out of the corner and toss my own rulebook. So from now on, there might be more posts, but maybe not every single post will be a recipe. I live in NYC, and this place can be absurd and inspiring, sometimes all at once. Would you guys mind if I posted random, funny and/or poignant tidbits and photos from my day to day life?

Peacock pose. Central Park, NYC. I totally look Photoshopped in, right? But it's for reals. Photo by Marisa Train.

I love Yoga, fitness, meditation, travel, nature, and Downton Abbey. You won’t mind, will you, if some posts delve into those topics? My friends are some of the most interesting and talented people I’ve ever met. You won’t mind, will you, if I periodically post a “day in the life” of some of them….such as my friend Alena who is currently a Broadway performer in the musical “Sister Act”?

And yes, Persian food, food in general are near and dear to my heart, always, and will be talked about on here. Some of you send me events and info about community events and film screenings of Iranian and other Middle Eastern films. I love that stuff. Keep that info coming. I’ll do my best to include it here. (And apologies for the information I might not always post. I’m not the most organized gal, admittedly.)

I could go on, but for now, I’ll simply say:

Here’s to letting go of the “All or Nothing Mentality.”

Now, I must ask…

In what areas do you have a tendency to think (and maybe act) in an “all or nothing” fashion?

Are you game to change that tendency and see what happens? Or maybe you’ve made such changes already…how’d that go? Any tips for the rest of us?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Would love to read about others’ “all or nothing” tendencies. I can’t be the only one who thinks this way, right?

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Easy slow cooker meatballs with loads of Persian spices.

I feel like such a bootleg Persian, because I don’t grill kebab at least weekly. We did this a lot growing up. And nowadays, I love to visit the fam and eat a good grilled meal or two. Indeed, that’s a trip highlight. But as long as I call my outdoor space free NYC apartment home, I don’t see lots of impromptu, casual grilling nights in my future. The good ol’ George Foreman grill, while perfectly functional, just isn’t the same as open flames.

So for now, I’ve turned to the slow cooker. It’s quite the opposite of grilling,  I suppose: just prep the food, load up the cooker, and walk away. For hours. To that end, I’ve taken a ground chicken kebab mix and turned it into meatballs.

Serve them atop my easy rice, with a veggie side. Traditionally, Persian kebabs are served with a chunk or two of grilled tomato and onions, plus lots of fresh herbs. Here, instead, I’ve gone more in the direction of a khorest/stew, and made a saucy tomato-based mix that tastes quite good indeed. No grill required.

Persian Chicken Meatballs

See note below for stovetop option

  • 1 pound of ground chicken breast
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tablespoon grated onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated very finely (I use a microplane for a fine grate)
  • 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 6 Tablespoons Advieh/Persian Spice mix (sold as in specialty markets, on Amazon, or make your own using my easy recipe)
  • 4 Tablespoons saffron water (pinch of saffron dissolved in hot water)
  • 2 Tablespoons turmeric
  • Couple of pinches each of cumin and coriander
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • neutral cooking fat of choice (I used coconut oil that has no coconut flavor, and a couple of dabs of ghee)

1. In a medium bowl, crack the egg and beat it. Add in onion, garlic, breadcrumbs. Now add in HALF of your Advieh/Persian spice mix, half of the turmeric, and half of the saffron water. Add in a pinch each of cumin and coriander. Finally, add salt and pepper.

2. With your hands or with a fork, gently add in chicken and mix everything together until egg mixture is well integrated into the meat. Don’t overwork.

3. Wet your palms. Grab a couple of tablespoons of meat mixture, and using the palms of your hands, form into a meatball. Repeat until you have 15-18 equal sized meatballs.

4. Heat up cooking fat in a skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry 5 or 6 meatballs at a time for a minute or two on each side. You’re looking for a nice golden or golden brown color, not to cook them all the way through.

5. As meatballs cook, place a 14-16  ounce can of tomatoes in slow cooker. Break up tomatoes with a spoon or fork. Throw in the rest of the spices. Mix.

6. Gently add in meatballs to tomato mixture and set cooker for 2-4 hours. (In my cooker, they’re done at 2 hours, so I either switch to “keep warm” mode if I’m home; if not, they’re okay to cook for the full 4 hours. )

7. Check tomato sauce and adjust seasoning to taste.

NOTE: Stovetop Option

Follow recipe through step four. Remove meatballs from pan, then add tomatoes and spices to the pan.  (Make sure you’re using a deep skillet or even a Dutch over here). Mix well and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Lower heat to low, add meatballs, and cover with a lid. Cook for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If you desire a longer cooking time, add water as needed so the sauce doesn’t dry out. If in doubt that meatballs are cooked through, use a food thermometer to check, or cut one in half to verify it’s cooked completely.

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Persian Sugarplums. These are simple and can be made quickly with any dried fruits and nuts you have on hand.

Merry Holidays, everyone! Does anyone really know what sugarplums are? What confection, precisely, is that Sugarplum Fairy in The Nutcracker dancing for anyways?

Turns out they’re balls of dried fruits and nuts, sometimes with spices added in, perhaps coated in powdered sugar. Well, besides sounding Christmasey, this all sounded very Persian to me. So I tooled around online, found some simple sugarplum recipes, and tweaked them to add a Persian twist. Voila!  Beautiful, tasty, festive holiday treats.

Simple to make, tasty, and these goodies actually taste better as the days go on. Time in the fridge give their flavors time to meld.  They’re plenty sweet, but perhaps a nice change of pace from all the cookies you might be enjoying lately.

 

These easy to make sugarplum are fast to prepare, and excellent with a cup of perfectly brewed hot tea.

Saffron-Infused Sugarplums

Prep time: 20 minutes or less, depending on what method you use to prep your fruits and nuts

Yield: Approximately 20 balls

Note: You can play around with the proportion of fruits to nuts, the types of fruit and  nuts that you use, and the spices. This recipe is extremely flexible.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup pistachios, shells removed
  • 2 cups of mixed dried fruit. (I used Mariani’s mixed fruit, a blend of tender fruits I get at Costco, which includes apricots, plums, peaches, pears, and apples)
  • 1/2 c cup dried sour cherries
  • 1/4 cup honey (if vegan, use a vegan friendly option like molasses, agave, etc)
  • Pinch saffron dissolved in about a tablespoon of hot water
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice blend or Persian Spice Blend (Advieh)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  • Shredded coconut flakes and/or confectioner’s sugar for garnish (optional)

Directions

1. Chop nuts into pieces, either via hand, crushing them with a rolling pin inside a bag, or use a blender or food processor to pulse once or twice to chop the pieces.  Chop or food process/blend the the fruits as well. Remove fruit and nut mixture from food processor or blender (if using), and set aside in a bowl.

2. Add honey to another bowl. Infuse honey with saffron and hot water, and then add in the pumpkin pie spice or Persian spice blend and vanilla (if using). Mix well.

3. Combine honey mixture with fruit/nut mixture, and mix very well.

4. Use your hands to form this mixture into balls. (Mixture will be very sticky. Keep a dampened cloth handy to wipe down your hands periodically). Roll in confectioner’s sugar or coconut flakes, if using. Refrigerate in an airtight container and enjoy at your leisure.

 

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and wishing every one of you a fantastic 2011!

 

 

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