Estamboli Polow - Persian Tomato Rice with Potatoes


This recipe is perfect all year round since most pantries are always stocked with fresh tomatoes and canned tomato products. However, I waited for the weather to warm up and for the peak tomato season to arrive to hopefully cook with vine-ripened tomatoes and not the dull and tasteless tomatoes that are picked green. This recipe is loosely based on my grandmother's recipe who was known for her delicious cooking. For a more tart استامبولی پلو - estamboli polow recipe, I searched the vegetable markets for a good torsh (tangy) tomato but to no avail. Among all the different varieties of tomatoes that were available I settled on the beefsteak tomatoes due to their great flavor. I prefer outdoor cooking in the hot summer months and try to minimize my standing in the kitchen as much as I can but this tomato rice is a perfect summer dish that goes well with grilled chicken, fish or vegetables.



There are many recipes for estamboli polow from plain tomato rice to a rice complete with meat and green beans, depending on what part of the country you are from and how this was prepared in your home. For us, growing up in Khuzestan, estamboli meant کته تماته/گوجه فرنگی - kateh-ye tamate which is slow-cooked rice in tomato puree with the addition of small cubed potatoes using the long and narrow type of potato called estamboli in Iran. For a simpler estamboli you can even make it without adding the cubed potatoes. If you prefer a less acidic dish you can skip the tomato paste. Ultimately, it depends on your taste, diet, and food restrictions.



Estamboli Polow

Ingredients:
Serves 4

2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed well and drained
7 ripe medium tomatoes, blanched and peeled
6 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, diced
1-2 tablespoons organic tomato paste (for added color and a bit of an extra sour flavor) *optional
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
A good pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt
Vegetable oil
Butter
Water

Method:

  1. In a pot of boiling water blanch the tomatoes for 5 minutes or until the skin comes off. Let cool, remove the skin, core the tomatoes and puree using a food processor. Yields about four cups.
  2. In a medium bowl wash the rice thoroughly until completely clean, drain completely. 
  3. In a mixing bowl combine the well-drained rice with the tomato puree, mix well and let it soak for 20-30 minutes before cooking the rice. Do not drain.
  4. In a large pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat, add the onions, cook until golden. 
  5. Add the potatoes, cook for about 5-7 minutes or until golden on all sides. add turmeric and a pinch of salt. Stir well.
  6. Push the potatoes to the side and add the tomato paste in the center of the pan and cook for about 5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently using a wooden spoon until it changes color. 
  7. Remove the pan away from the heat source, add the rice and tomato mixture to the pot, add 1 cup of water, 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of red pepper, stir well.
  8. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of butter or oil. Stir. Reduce the heat, cover the lid with a paper towel or a clean dish cloth, close the lid tightly and cook on low heat for 40 minutes. Over cooking and adding too much water makes the rice too mushy.
Serve with plain yogurt or  mast o khiar, sabzi khordan with a bunch of fresh mint, and salad shirazi.

Enjoy!

Ab-Haveej Bastani - Persian Carrot Juice and Saffron Ice Cream Float


Summertime is officially upon us and a carrot juice ice cream float is the perfect way to cool down on a hot day. Carrot juice is refreshing, healthy and a great source of vitamin A all on its own. I initially made this recipe with plain vanilla ice cream but then decided to change it up for the next batch and make it with scoops of saffron ice cream instead. The addition of a little bit of saffron and a hint of rosewater greatly enhances the flavor and aroma of this treat. Carrots may have been around for hundreds of years but this recipe is relatively modern. I'm not certain about the exact origin of this recipe but it seems to me that this is a different take on the European cafe glace (coffee with ice cream float) that became popular in the 1960's in Iran. I remember on one of our trips to my grandmother's house in Tehran, my sister took me to the upscale Chattanooga restaurant and that's where I had my first cafe glace. On the other hand, it's also quite possible that ab haveej bastani recipe was created by some ingenious Iranian chef in the past. It's been thought that by tapping into the collective consciousness people from different parts of the world may come up with the same results at the same time!


In our home carrot juice was served regularly and we all had to drink it whether we liked it or not and each time we were reminded that carrots are good for us and that they would improve our vision. Our juicer was archaic and pretty much a nightmare to clean. However, that wouldn't stop my mother from juicing almost anything frequently.


زردک - Zardak meaning "the little yellow one" (wild carrots) go back about 5,000 years in Iran, Afghanistan and the neighboring lands. Zardak (yellow carrots) are sill cultivated mostly in the region of Isfahan in Iran but they are not as common and popular as haveej farangi (western carrots). Carrots are a staple in our home all year long and are on my list of foods to always keep in the fridge and luckily they are readily available in markets year round. The in season carrots, however, are more flavorful, tender and sweet. Carrots are a  versatile vegetable that complement many recipes and are delicious when eaten raw, tossed into a summertime saladsalad oliviehsoup e jo, pickled or made into a delicious carrot halva. They are also great eaten alone or with a dip.



Carrot Juice and Saffron Ice Cream Float

Ingredients:
Serves 2

10 large carrots (preferably organic), washed and tops removed
Vanilla ice cream, (16 ounces)
1/3 teaspoon crushed saffron dissolved in 3 tablespoons hot water
1 tablespoon rosewater
1 tablespoon crushed pistachios

Method:

  1. Leave the ice cream out to soften. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ice cream, liquid saffron, rosewater and mix well. Return ice cream back to freezer for 3-4 hours or until firm.
  2. Place your serving glasses in freezer to chill for 5 minutes.
  3. Juice the carrots. Add 1 or 2 scoops of saffron ice cream to each glass, pour the carrot juice over the ice cream, sprinkle with crushed pistachios and serve immediately with spoons and straws.
Enjoy!

Torshi Liteh - Persian Pickled Eggplant and Vegetables with Sibzamini Torshi (Sunchokes)


ترشی - Torshi (pickle) is a very common side dish in Persian cuisine served alongside rice and khoresh, kebobs and other traditional dishes. I have posted several of my favorite pickle recipes so far such as pickled eggplant and pickled vegetables among others.  لیته - Liteh is a combination of pickled eggplant with a few other vegetables and herbs. For this recipe I'm thrilled to have finally found  سیب زمینی ترشی - sibzamini torshi (pickling potato), also known as  یارالماسی - yaralmasy in Iran. Sibzamini torshi, which is called sunchokes/Jerusalem chokes, is a member of the sunflower family and is not related to artichokes nor is it from Jerusalem. For further information please check out the following link on sunchokes.


A few years ago, I asked my younger brother who lives in Iran to send me a picture of the sibzamini torshi that's cultivated in Iran. I didn't want to forget what they looked like. It wasn't until recently that after leaving my dentist's office, I walked into the Whole Foods market across the street and there among the neat and organized fresh vegetables was a small box of sunchokes. They looked a lot like ginger roots and they came in different shapes and sizes. I was so excited to have finally found what I was looking for and I figured they would make a nice addition to torshi liteh by adding
a nutty flavor and a bit of a crunch.


 If you are unable to find sunchokes in any vegetable markets just leave it out since liteh is traditionally made without it. For this recipe you can use grilled eggplant instead of having it simmered in vinegar.. If you use grilled eggplant, remove the skin, slice and combine with all the other ingredients. For the herbs, you can use fresh herbs if you prefer. I used dried herbs since I didn't have enough time after washing to lay them out to dry completely.


Torshi Liteh

Ingredients:

5 medium eggplants, stemmed, sliced lengthwise (I didn't remove the skin, you can if you prefer)
4-5 sunchokes, peeled, cubed
2 large carrots, peeled, cubed
2 celery stalks, diced small
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 medium green bell pepper, cleaned, cubed
5-7 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons dried tarragon
2 tablespoons dried mint
2 tablespoons dried savory
2 tablespoons dried dill
2 tablespoons dried basil

1 tablespoon crushed golpar (angelica)
1 tablespoon siah daneh (nigella seeds)
1 tablespoon crushed tokhm-e geshniz (coriander seeds)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 small whole dried red pepper, crushed (or more to taste)
Salt
White vinegar
Water

Method:

  1. Pour 1 cup of vinegar and a cup of water into a non-reactive saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, add the turmeric, eggplant and 1 teaspoon of salt, then reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  2. Remove the eggplant and place in a colander to drain.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggplant, sunchokes, carrots, celery, cauliflower, bell pepper, garlic, herb mix, spices and 3 teaspoons salt. Mix well.
  4. Pack the torshi into the clean and dried jars, pressing down, pour the vinegar over them up to about 1 inch from the top. Close the jars tightly and pickle for 10-12 days.
Enjoy!



Haft Seen Photos - Nowruz 2014



Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous Nowruz - Persian New Year. After a few days of preparation and Nowruz related activities I finally got a chance to gather all of my haft seen photos and share some of them with you. For me, there's such a joy in photographing a haft seen table, especially with loved ones included. For more information about Nowruz and the haft seen you might want to check out this article Persian New Year's Table Celebrates Nature's Rebirth Deliciously on NPR's Blog.

Sabzeh

Seeb

Senjed

Somagh

Samanoo

Serkeh

Seer

Sekkeh

Tokhm-e Morgh Rangi

Mahi Ghermez



Also, here are some haft seen  photos from previous years:

Haft Seen - 2013

Haft Seen - 2012

Haft Seen - 2010 


!نوروزتان خجسته و پیروز باد - Happy Nowruz!

Loze Nargil - Persian Coconut Sweets with Rosewater and Pistachios for Nowruz


It's that time of the year when Iranians from the four corners of the world celebrate the vernal equinox, the first day of spring and the arrival of نوروز (literally meaning the "new day"). This ancient جشن - festival of Nowruz originally began as a Zoroastrian celebration during the Achaemenid dynast, dating back 3,000 years, welcoming the rebirth of nature with all its radiance, blooms, colors, warmth and glory. For those of us who celebrate, Nowruz preparations are already underway with khaneh-tekani - cleaning the house, getting rid of the clutter and making it shine. With this long and freezing winter finally coming to an end I feel a surge of energy and excitement to celebrate nature's new life.

This post was written as part of a collaboration with many of my lovely fellow Persian food writers. This has been an amazing joint effort that brought all of us together for this happy occasion and I would like to thank each and every one of these outstanding bloggers who, through their efforts, made this collaboration meaningful and more delicious! My special thanks goes to Sanam joon of My Persian Kitchen for her effort in putting together this fun project and on a more personal note, I'm so grateful for her generous spirit and support over the years. For the complete list of all the food bloggers/participants and their contributions to this round-up please see the bottom of the page.


I vividly remember my last Nowruz in Iran. Together with my parents and two of my brothers we drove to Abadan to visit my dear aunt and uncle and my two lovely cousins (Yasi and Ladi). The precious memories of our visit, in the beautiful city of Abadan during Nowruz holiday, will forever remain in my mind. As well as driving through the charming little towns and visiting the roadside attractions. For us, even the sight of a little stream at a distance in the middle of nowhere was exciting. Throughout our travels we would stop at any little body of water anywhere in Khuzestan just to wet our feet and wash our faces!

My last Nowruz in Khuzestan

As we are getting ready to gather around our haft-seen table at the time of سال تحویل - sal-tahvil to celebrate the New Year with our loved ones, let us remember those who are less fortunate and pray collectively and globally for a better world.


Poems from Divan-e Shams Tabrizi

Cleaning, cooking and baking may not be high on your list of priorities these days but in order to get into the mood for this beautiful festive occasion this no-bake and fragrant, melt in your mouth treat is just perfect for spring.


Loze Nargil

Ingredients:

2 cups coconut, shredded (I used unsweetened shredded coconut to keep the sugar level down)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons coconut milk, unsweetened (I used organic)
2-3 tablespoons rosewater
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom *optional
1/2 cup pistachios, crushed

Method:

  1. Combine water and sugar in a heavy medium pan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to simmer for another 8-10 minutes or until the syrup thickens a little bit. Remove from heat and let cool a little, beat well with a whisk for couple of minutes. Return the pan back to the stove. Add the coconut, rosewater and coconut milk, mix well over very low heat for about 5 minutes or until well blended. Pour the mixture into an 8 x 8 inch lined pan. Evenly sprinkle crushed pistachios on top. 
  2. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until firm. With a knife cut the loz in diamond-shaped pieces or use a diamond-shaped cookie cutter.
Place the loz pieces on a plate and serve with chai.

Participating Bloggers in The Nowruz Recipe Round-Up - 2014


Enjoy! سال نو مبارک  - Sal-e No Mobarak!