Shami

Shami (pronounced shah-MEE) is a tasty Persian finger food. It is traditionally made with split peas, but I use red lentils instead because they cook quicker. Enjoy!

3/4 c. dried red lentils
1 small potato, peeled and quartered
1 pound ground beef
3/4 t. salt
1 egg
1 small onion, grated
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 t. advieh spice* (if you don’t have this, use a pinch of saffron + a pinch of tumeric)
1/4 c. flour
2 T. oil

*Advieh is a Persian spice that is a blend of various spices: cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, rose petals, saffron, and ginger.

1. Boil the red lentils and potato together until cooked through. Drain.

2. Combine all ingredients and mix well until fully combined.

3. Take a golf ball sized amount of the mixture and gently roll in flour. Press the ball into a patty. Over medium heat, fry the patty in oil until brown and crispy on both sides.

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Serve with raw sliced onion and sumac.

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Carrot Khoresht

This persian dish is easy and delicious. The recipe below uses chicken breast, but it can be made with beef as well (meatballs or cubed stew meat).

3 chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch cubes10 carrots, peeled, and cut into 2 inch long sticks
2 onions, chopped
6 dried prunes or apricots (optional)
2 T. tomato paste
1 c. water
1/8 t. tumeric
1/8 t. saffron
olive oil
salt

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and briefly saute in 1 T. of olive oil to sear all sides. Do not cook fully.

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2. In a heavy bottomed pot, saute onions and tumeric in 2 T. olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add carrots, chicken, saffron, tomato paste, prunes/apricots, water, and 1 T. salt. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes. Then give it a quick stir and cook uncovered for 5-10 minutes until juice reduces so that there is about 1/2 cup left (or, just turn it off if you like more juice).

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Serve over basmati rice.

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Chicken Biryani and Raita

Biryani is a comfort food for me. The flavors are unique and delicious, and the aroma fills up your kitchen like nothing else. It takes time and effort, but is worth it in my book!

8 bone-in skinless chicken thighs (and/or drumsticks)
1.5 c. yogurt
1/8 t. tumeric
1/2 c. olive oil
juice of 2 limes
2 T. ginger garlic paste (or, 2 T. grated or finely minced ginger + garlic)
2 t. cumin powder
2 t. coriander powder
2 t. red chili powder
2 medium onions, thinly sliced and fried until golden brown and crispy
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch mint, chopped
2.5 c. basmati rice
12 peppercorns
6 cloves
1 star anise
3 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
4 green cardamom pods
2 T. cumin seeds
pinch saffron
1/4 c. milk
2 green chilies (optional)
salt

Raita (mix the following together):
2 c. yogurt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/8 t. cumin powder
1 cucumber, grated
salt to taste

1. In a non-reactive bowl, combine the chicken pieces with yogurt, turmeric, coriander powder, cumin powder, chili powder, 1 T. cumin seeds, 1/2 cup chopped mint, 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, lime juice, 2 T. salt, 6 peppercorns, ginger garlic paste, 1 c. fried onions, and olive oil. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to cook, pull the chicken out to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.

2. Soak the rice in cold water for 1 hour. This will help the rice cook evenly. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil (at least 6 cups) with the whole spices: 1 T. cumin seeds, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves, bay leaves, 6 peppercorns, and 3 T. salt.

3. In a heavy bottomed pot large enough to hold the rice and chicken, add the chicken and its marinade in one layer. Press the chicken pieces down in the pot so that they snugly fit and each touching the bottom of the pot. You should ideally use a pot wide enough so that there is just one layer of chicken.

4. Add the saffron to hot milk and let it soak.

5. Once the rice has finished soaking, drain it’s water and add the rice to the pot of boiling water and spices. Let it boil until the rice is half cooked — this will happen very quickly, likely around 3 minutes, so don’t go far!

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6. Once the rice is ready, you will need to act quickly to layer the rice with its whole spices, herbs, and fried onions on top of the chicken. With a slotted spoon, add half of the rice and whole spices (no water!), then sprinkle a handful of the mint and cilantro and a handful of fried onions. Add the remaining rice and spices, and top with the remaining cilantro, mint, and onions. Drizzle with the saffron milk. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid (if you don’t have one, cover the pot with a tea towel, then cover with a lid). Cook on high for 5 minutes, then medium for 20, and low for 15. While it is cooking, do not uncover.

Once it is done, serve with raita, and enjoy!

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Roasted Butternut and Acorn Squash Medley

One of my favorite fall/winter foods is butternut squash; I also recently discovered acorn squash, which is also delicious. This dish celebrates both of those and lets their flavors shine. Again, this is a recipe that can be adjusted to your tastes. Here is what I threw together:

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed
2 acorn squash, washed, seeded, cubed
1/4 c. barley
1/4 c. wild rice
1 c. chicken broth
1.5 c. chickpeas, cooked
1 T. fresh parsley, chopped
1 T. fresh thyme
1 c. coarsely chopped nuts of choice (toasted walnuts, macadamia nuts, or hazelnuts work great)
1/2 c. gruyere cheese, cubed (optional)
olive oil
salt
pepper

1. Lay the squash pieces on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash in a 400 degree oven for approximately one hour, or until tender and starting to slightly brown.

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2. Meanwhile, cook the barley and wild rice in the chicken broth until tender, approximately 1 hour.

3. In a large bowl or serving dish, gently mix together all of the ingredients: nuts, thyme, parsley, chickpeas, barley, wild rice, and squash.

Enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Brisket

I looooove slow cooked meats – stews, brisket, pot roasts, you name it. This recipe is super easy because you throw everything into a slow cooker and let it do it’s thing. For the brisket, get a good quality meat and have the butcher trim off some fat, but leave a thin layer (maybe 1/2 to 1 inch) on the top of it to keep meat moist while cooking.

5-6 lb brisket (make sure it fits in your slow cooker!)
3 onions, roughly chopped
1 T. olive oil
1 c. roughly chopped parsley (Stems are ok)
2 sprigs rosemary, whole
6 sprigs thyme, whole
4 bay leaves
salt
pepper
garlic powder (optional)
6 cloves of garlic
4-6 tomatoes, quartered
vegetable medley: carrots (or any root vegetable), celery, fingerling potatoes
water or beef stock

1. In large skillet, saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Add to the slow cooker; this will be your base layer.
2. Chop carrots and celery (or whatever veggies you are using, except for fingerlings, which I recommend keeping whole) into 2 inch pieces. Lay all the veggies on top of the onions along with the herbs (rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, parsley). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Season the brisket on both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Be generous as it is a big chunk of meat. In a hot, dry skillet, sear both sides of the brisket until a brown crust forms (3-5 minutes on each side – don’t cook it so much that you can no longer see raw meat on the sides of the brisket.) Add to the slow cooker.
4. Place the garlic cloves and tomatoes on top of meat.

5. Add enough water or beef broth so that only half of the brisket is submerged.

6. Cover and let it cook on LOW for 8-10 hours. If you can (no need to wake up at 3 am to do this), flip the meat midway and remove some liquid if it goes above the halfway line of the meat.

7. After 8-10 hours, take the meat out and let it sit at room temperature with tented foil to rest (30 mins to an hour). Do not touch/eat/cut the meat at this point! The juice needs to redistribute in the meat while it rests, otherwise the juice will run and the meat will be dry.

8. remove as much juice as you want from the crockpot, strain and defat it. Set aside for serving. (And save some for later in the freezer!)

9. 15 minutes or so before you serve, boil up the juice again. Slice the brisket against the grain. Place on serving platter with the veggies, and drizzle with a ladle or two of juice. The leftover meat is also great for sandwiches/panini.

Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

After being marinated, bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces get a quick crisp on the stove top, and then a nice roast in the oven with creamer potatoes — all in the same fry pan! The result is juicy, flavorful chicken and creamy potatoes.

Enough bone-in skin-on chicken pieces to line your fry pan or skillet, washed (I use 2 large chicken breasts and 3 drumsticks for a 10″ oven-safe fry pan)
10-15 baby red (creamer) potatoes, skins on
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 cubes (optional)
2 sprigs rosemary (optional)
Salt
Black Pepper

1. Place clean chicken in a non-reactive bowl and season all sides with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and add chopped garlic and lemon juice. Let marinate in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours, turning once.

2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

3. On medium high heat, warm a dry frying pan or skillet until hot. This may take a few minutes, depending on the type of pan you have. It is best to use an oven-safe pan or skillet that will sear the meat, such as stainless steel or cast iron — not a non-stick pan.

4. Take chicken pieces from the marinade and place them straight onto the dry, hot pan on the stove, skin side down. Do not touch! Let chicken cook in pan for 5-10 minutes until skin is golden brown and firm.

5. While the chicken is cooking on the stove, cut potatoes into 1″ to 2″ pieces (this means into halves or quarters, depending on how big your baby potatoes are. Season them with salt as needed and toss with olive oil.

6. After the chicken is done searing, remove the pan from stove, and flip the pieces over, skin-side up. Then scatter all of the potatoes in the pan. The arrangement does not matter, but as a tip, if you are using drumsticks or thighs, place them on top of the potatoes.

7. Add the butter and rosemary to the pan. Cook in oven until the breast has reached 165 degrees – depending on the size of the breast, this will take anywhere from 15-25 minutes. The skin will be brown.

8. If the darker meat is not yet ready, take out the breasts and leave the other pieces in with the potatoes until done. If the potatoes need more time, leave them in while the chicken rests. Always let your chicken rest and slightly cool before serving so the juices don’t run when cut.

9. There should be delicious juice in your pan. You can serve the juice atop the chicken or separately. You can also deglaze the pan with some white wine. After everything is done, pour white wine into your pan, about half a cup. On medium heat, scrape up any chicken bits from the pan with a wooden spoon while stirring in the white wine. Let the mixture reduce. Serve over the chicken or separately.