Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pico De Gallo

It was about 11pm, maybe even later, when I became very motivated to make pico de gallo. The tomatoes I had bought at the Farmer’s Market earlier that day were calling to me. Actually, come to think of it, all the ingredients in this recipe are from the Farmer’s Market ( minus the salt and pepper). If you have access to a Farmer’s Market I highly recommend taking advantage of the summer produce. In fact, take two minutes and find one right now: Find your local Farmer's Market! Consuming in-season fruits and vegetables gives you the most nutrition for your money since the vitamin content in the produce are at their peaks during in-season. Not to mention they are much tastier during in-season.

Pair the pico do gallo with some tortilla chips and you've got yourself a healthy midnight snack.

Pico De Gallo

Servings: 3-4

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes


4 tomatoes

1 small red onion, diced

1 green chili, finely chopped

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

Juice of 1 lemon (or lime if you prefer)

Salt and pepper to taste


1- Cut the tomatoes in half and lightly squeeze out most of the juice and seeds. Dice

2- Add tomatoes and the remaining ingredients to a small serving bowl.

3- Top with lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Vegetable Samosas

I usually treat myself to at least one samosa at the Farmer’s Market every week. Some weekends I end up buying 5+; for $1 each it’s a bargain! Today I felt inspired to try and make them myself. I mean, how hard could it be? Well, let me tell you, if this is your first time with a samosa recipe, it will be difficult. Let me rephrased that, if this is your first time working with filo pastry, it will be difficult. Filo pastry is thin, dries easily, and can rip with the slightest push.

I found this recipe in The Best Ever Indian Cookbook by Baljekar, Fernandez, Husain, & Kanani (2004). Though their recipe calls for only using filo pasty and baking the samosas in the oven, my first batch of the oven baked samosas did not quite satisfy my craving for the greasy, thick breaded samosas I usually get at the Farmer’s Market. So for the recipe below, I chose to fry the samosas instead of baking them. Healthy Shmeathly, right?

Special thanks to my housemate who let me use her cookbook and spices!

Vegetable Samosas

Servings: Makes 28

Prep & Cook Time: 1 hour- 1 hour and 30 min.


14 flour tortillas, or 14 sheets of filo pastry thawed, or a mix of both

3 large potatoes, boiled and roughly mashed

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp dry mango powder (amchur)

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 fresh green chilies, finely chopped

2 tbsp coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and Pepper to taste

½ cup of vegetable oil


1- If you are using tortillas, cut each tortilla in half to make two equal halves. If using filo pastry, using one or two sheets at a time, cut each sheet(s) in half lengthways giving you 28 strips.

2- Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl (everything except the vegetable oil).

3-Heat up the vegetable oil in a large pan on medium heat.

4-One at a time using either the tortillas or filo pastry, place about 1-2 tbsp of the filling mixture at one end and fold the tortilla/ pastry dough diagonally over. Continue to fold to form a triangle, ensuring that all sides are sealed. The tortilla is not as long so don’t be afraid to use your fingers to fill the samosa full and seal the sides. As you fold each samosa, gently place it in the hot vegetable oil to fry.

5-Fry samosas on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels before serving

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sopa De Fideo (Con Pollo)

My friend makes the most amazing and simple noodle soup. The fact that I initially tried the soup when she made it for her 3 year old daughter is a compliment to how this simple recipe can satisfy anyone’s taste buds. Though my initial attempt of this recipe a few months ago failed miserably (I blame it on being sick at the time!), I was able to dust myself off and try again. This time, it was delicious. I did a little bit of research and found out that what I had been calling Mexican noodle soup, is actually known as “Sopa De Fideo”. Sopa De Fideo, which translates to noodle soup, is an essential recipe of Mexican cooking, right up there with rice! While I have already mastered Persian style rice, I’m sure I’ll be playing with the Sopa De Fideos recipe to make it my own. Like you would with tomato soup, add a garnish when you serve the soup, such as sour cream (or the drained yogurt!), salsa, cheese, jalapenos, or as I did, green onions and cilantro.

Sopa De Fideo Con Pollo - Chicken noodle soup

Servings: 5-6
Prep & Cook time: 30 minutes

2 tomatoes
1 small onion
1 package of Fideo (you can find these tiny noodles in the Hispanic aisle of the supermarket) or vermicelli noodles broken into 1 inch pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 chicken breasts or 3 chicken thighs
2 cartons chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and Pepper to taste


1- If you are adding chicken to the soup, then in a medium pot boil the chicken in 3 cups of the chicken stock. Flip halfway through cooking.
2- In a medium skillet, saute noodles in the vegetable oil on medium-low heat until lightly brown. Set aside.
3- In a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes and onion. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4- In a large pot add the tomato/onion puree, noodles, and the rest of the chicken stock. Bring to boil.
5-Reduce to medium heat, and cook with the lid on until the noodles are cooked through. If you are adding chicken, do so at the end and cook for 1 minute longer.
6- Remove from heat. Serve with your favorite garnish.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Rice, you are my weakness! Maybe it's because white rice is such a staple of Persian food, or maybe it’s because growing up I was sure to have white rice at least 5 of the 7 days every week. As much as I read how great brown rice is for you, I just cannot pull myself away from white rice. Especially long grain basmati rice made the Persian way: steamed aka “Chelow”. You have never had steamed rice!!?? Well it’s a good thing I learned my mom’s recipe, because you are in for a treat with this new method of cooking rice. Once you learn how to make “Chelow” you can move onto making “Polow” which is rice that has been cooked the same way as “Chelow” but has either meat, vegetables, beans, or fruit in alternating layers with the rice. But we’ll learn more about that later.

Persian style steamed rice gives you soft loose grains, and the best part is the “Tahdig” that forms at the bottom. Tahdig is the rice at the bottom of the pot that becomes crunchy, but many Iranians place a layer of "Lavash" bread on the bottom of the pot as well. Both forms of tahdig are delicious, and of course the more butter you use to fry that first layer of rice ( or lavash bread) the better it will be. Yes I said it, deal with it. You can find lavash bread at Persian stores, international food stores, and sometimes even local organic stores carry a version of lavash. Another variation of “Chelow” is using saffron. Yes, I know saffron is quite expensive at $500 to $5000 a pound depending on the quality, but if you really want to indulge just buy a few strands from your local market, like Whole Foods. A few strands can go a long way.
For the below recipe though I left the lavash bread out, but I did use saffron.

Chelow ( Steamed Rice)

Servings: 4
Prep & Cook Time: About 1 hour 30 min.


2 cups long grain basmati rice
1 tbs. salt
½- ¼ tsp. ground saffron, dissolved in 3-4 tbs. hot water. ( optional)
½ cup butter


1- In a large pot wash the rice several times in water gently with your hand, pouring out
the water after each wash.

2- Once washed, pour water over the rice. Instead of using a measuring cup here is an easier way to measure the water. Put the tip of your index finger on the rice in the pot. Pour in water until it reaches the crease in your finger where is meets your palm.

3- Add the salt and a dollop of the butter.

4- Bring to boil, and boil for about 6-10 minutes, or until the grains are soft. Stir the rice once or twice to make sure the grains are not sticking.

5- Drain rice in a colander and rinse with 1 or 2 cups of cold water to stop the rice from continuing to cook.

6- Using the same pot, on medium melt the remaining butter and add the saffron water if you are using it. Let cook for about 30 seconds and then pour the contents into a small bowl leaving about 2 tbs. of the butter/saffron mixture in the pot. If you are not using saffron water then leave 1 tbsp of the melted butter in the pot.

7- Taking one spatula full at a time of the drained rice, place the rice back in the pot forming it into a pyramid. This helps with the steaming process and forming the Tahdig at the bottom.

8- Place the lid on the pot and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

9- Reduce heat to medium-low, remove the lid and pour the remaining saffron water/butter mixture ( or just the melted butter) over the rice.

10- Place a couple layers of paper towels, or a clean dish towel ( I prefer the paper towels) over the pot and then put on the lid, making sure the lid fits tightly so that no steam is released.

11- Cook for about 45-50 minutes.

12- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes so that the Tahdig can separate from the pot.

13- To serve, you can either just scoop out of the pot onto each plate leaving the Tahdig intact till the end. Or you can invert the pot onto a plate so that it looks like a cake with the Tahdig on top. In Iranian homes you will most likely see the rice served on a large platter with about a spatula full of rice on top which has been mixed with saffron water to give it that golden yellow/orange color.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Borani Esfanaaj

Now that we have the yogurt draining technique down, let’s put that yogurt to use. My favorite way is to mix the yogurt with cooked spinach, onion, and garlic, in a Persian dish called “Borani Esfenaaj”. Most Persian restaurants serve this as an appetizer with some pita or lavash bread, however, traditionally Persian cuisine is not split into different courses. Instead everything is served at the same time on the “Sofreh” or a cloth/spread on the ground.

Usually I have this dish on the side with a main dish, but I also recommend it as a spread or dip. For those of you looking to cut some calories throughout the day (like me!) this is a healthy alternative to the traditional spinach dip made with mayonnaise and/or sour cream.

Borani Esfanaaj (or Yogurt with Spinach)
Servings: 3-4
Prep & Cook time: 15 min. + at least an hour of cooling

1 tsp of olive oil, or any oil you have on hand
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups fresh spinach or a package of frozen spinach, washed
¼ tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
1 ½ cups of the drained yogurt (see previous post)

1- Drizzle the oil into a medium pan and sauté the onion and garlic on medium-low heat until tender and the onions are almost see-through.
2- Add the spinach and cook until leaves are wilted. Add salt and pepper
3- Set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
4- In a small bowl mix together the drained yogurt and cooked spinach. Add any salt or pepper to taste.
5- Cool in the fridge for at least another 45 minutes. Then enjoy!


I love Yogurt. Hands down, my favorite food of all time and you will mostly likely be seeing it in many of the posts in this blog. Yogurt has been eaten for more than 5,000 years by people all over the world, and is so versatile that it can be used in hundreds of recipes. Now I’m not talking about those fruity, sugary yogurts. I’m talking about thick, creamy, sour, almost Greek-like plain yogurt.
With the economy the way it is, I can’t afford to buy those $5 little tubs of Greek yogurt, so instead I apply a technique that my mother used when she would make yogurt. Though I do not make my own yogurt, the technique can still be used on most tubs of plain yogurt. I buy those big tubs of Mountain High Yoghurt that you can find in your local Safeway, Lucky’s, or Costco (which has the best deal). I go through a lot a week, so I usually get the biggest size.
You may have heard of strained yogurt, in which the yogurt is strained through a cloth or paper to remove the whey, which is the watery substance that separates from the yogurt. This technique is pretty much the same thing, except I take it to a whole new easy level.
Next time you open a new tub of yogurt, instead of mixing it or removing a spoonful from the middle, take your spoonfuls only from one side of the tub, creating a well for the whey to gather. Each day open the tub of yogurt and gently tip out the whey that has gathered in the well. If you continue to use the tub of yogurt throughout the week, just be sure to only spoon out yogurt from one side. Remember to drain the whey everyday, sometimes even a couple of times a day. Eventually what remains is a delicious thick, sour, Greek-like consistency yogurt that can be used in many recipes or even used as a replacement for sour cream. My favorite is to eat the thick yogurt is to use it as a dip with some Fritos Scoops.
This is one container I've been working on. Looks gross with all that whey huh? And this is about 5 days into the draining process! Ya, there is a lot of whey in yogurt.

After the whey is poured out.

I'll keep the part in between my fingers in tact for a few more days, while I continue to drain the whey everyday. The final result will be so thick and creamy you'll be surprised you ever mixed the yogurt and whey.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Traveling by way of Food

I love food, and I love traveling. In a perfect world, I would be traveling the world, immersing myself into each culture, and enjoying all the different local flavors. Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources to travel for the rest of my life… at least not yet. So until that day, I can at least enjoy one of the most basic foundations of every culture: food.

Tired of cooking the same foods over and over again, one day I purchased a Persian cookbook to try and get in touch with my own roots through traditional Persian cuisines. I was able to experience a part of Iranian culture with each new recipe I tried. My hunger grew from there. Now I search for foods and ingredients from all over the world and bring them to you here to try out for yourself. If you’re an adventurous eater and want to experience cultures like you’ve never experienced them before, then let your palate do the traveling!!