Chicken Koobideh & Persian Cucumber Salad

Chicken_Koobideh

There are few smells that remind me of being a kid and visiting family than saffron. I remember driving to Iowa City to see my uncle and cousins and upon stepping inside their home being hit with the warming scent of saffron and rice. Then it was a tortuous waiting game until lunch was served.

If you’ve followed by blog for a while you’ll already know I’m half Iranian.¬†Growing up Iranian food wasn’t a regular thing at home, so going to my uncle’s place where they’d expertly prepare it, was always a treat. At lunch the table was jammed packed with food. Usually the spread was two entrees like kabab and joojeh kabab, rice (duh!), relishes like torshi and radishes, tadig, yogurt, and salad. We’d spend a couple hours leisurely eating and catching up on each others lives.

Now as an adult I want those memories to live on through the food. Also, I was just really craving it ūüôā This recipe is not exactly how my family would make this meal. Their koobideh is typically made with beef, and they would serve this with rice as well. I thought I would lighten it up for summer by substituting chicken for beef and pita bread for rice.

Koobideh

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Ingredients for the Koobideh:

  • 2lbs ground chicken
  • 1 large yellow onion grated
  • 2 tbsp liquid saffron*
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium lime juiced

Ingredients for Salad:

  • 1 large cucumber diced and core removed
  • 1 small red onion diced
  • 1 container of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup parsley finely chopped
  • 1 large lime juiced
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients for yogurt dip:

  • 1 pint greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tsp sumac

Directions

Combine all the koobideh ingredients besides the lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Mix until the ingredients are equally distributed. Cover, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. In a separate small bowl stir together the olive oil and lime juice, set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and mold the ground chicken into 1″ inch thick, 1″ inch wide, 5-6″ inch long pieces. Brush the lime juice and olive oil mixture onto the koobideh. If you have left over liquid saffron you can brush that on as well to give the chicken extra color. Be careful though since saffron can stain your brush bristles. Using a spoon press into koobideh pieces to make indentations. Bake for 20 minutes, remove and reapply the olive juice lime mixture, and bake on the other side for 18¬†minutes.

To really get that char look of a grill I sear the koobideh, indentation side down, in a cast iron skillet for a couple of minutes. This is optional, but really enhances the presentation and give a nice slight char taste- if you’re into that!

To make the cucumber salad and yogurt dip mix their respective ingredients until combined. Serve with warm pita or white basmati rice.

Enjoy!

*Liquid saffron: a pinch of saffron strands soaked in 3 tbsp boiling water. Allow strands to soak for 10-15minutes.

Lemon Poppyseed Ice Cream

Summer is officially here and I’m combining two of my favorite things– lemon and ice cream! Honestly, I am seriously obsessed with lemon desserts. I will take a lemon bar, lemon chess pie, or a lemon granita any day, and with multiple servings! There’s something about marrying the tartness of lemons with the sweetness that dessert brings, which is so mouthwatering.

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This recipe will make your mouth water also. I’m not going lie, this is a very lemon forward dessert, but it’s nothing to shy away from, since it’s incredibly refreshing. There’s just a little bit of prep, mostly zesting and juicing the lemons, before popping it into the ice cream maker, and then you’re set!

Ingredients

  • 3 large lemons
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 12 ounces sour cream
  • Splash of vanilla
  • 1 tsp poppyseed

Directions

Rinse and dry the lemons. Press or roll them on a cutting board to loosen the juice. Using a zester grate the skin from the lemon careful to only get the yellow peel and not the white pith- which is bitter. Put the lemon zest in a bowl and place a strainer on top. Strain the lemon juice from all the lemons into the bowl.

Add the sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and vanilla to the bowl with the lemon zest and juice and mix until combined. Put into the ice cream maker and churn for 12-15 minutes. The ice cream should be pulling away from the sides and more of a soft serve consistency. Add the poppyseed and churn for 1-2 minutes more.

I moved the ice cream into another container since it’s easier to scoop that way, but you can leave it in the ice cream maker if you want. Cover the container with plastic wrap so that it is touching the surface of the ice cream to prevent freezer burn. Then place it in the freezer for 2-3 hrs up to overnight.

Remove and serve!

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Des Moines 2017 Restaurant “To Go” List

I know I’m a little slow on posting this considering we’re already 4 months into the year, but in my defense that just means the list is a little shorter than if I posted it earlier! This is a list of the restaurants in Des Moines I want/need to visit- a wish list. Currently I have 15 on my list and a few are a hold over from the 2016 list (shame on me).

The fianc√© and I did count all the restaurants we’ve been to in Des Moines and we’re at 95 in 2-3 years so we’re making good progress. Some of the restaurants you may be surprised are on here considering they’re all over the “top places to eat in Des Moines” articles, but that also means they can cost a pretty penny. We’re hoping we can finally get to some of these places this year and break the 100 mark!

For 2017 the restaurants are in order- not by quality, but by desire to visit. I’m only going to highlight the top 3 and list the rest (up to 10).

  1. Reed’s Hollow– The owner and head chef,¬†Zach Gutweiler, had been at Hole in the Wall on the side of Gaslamp on 15th & Grand (where Black Cat ice cream now is), and I heard great things about that little space, but never got a chance to visit before they closed! I’m not going to miss my chance again. I would order the brussels sprouts to start and the bone marrow for my main.
  2. Big Al’s BBQ– I belong to a group on Facebook called “Des Moines Food Lovers” and for about 2-3 weeks the only thing people raved about was this place! I’m not a big BBQ person, but my appreciation has grown as I’ve gotten older and after being exposed to Smokey D’s. As much as I love Smokey’s- it’s my parent’s 1st choice every time we go out to dinner- I want to see what else is out there BBQ wise! Big Al’s seems like a great start. I want to try the fried okra and the Carolina (pulled pork) sandwich.
  3. Alba– This one might be a surprise since it seems like everyone and their grandma have been here since it’s one of the Des Moines staples I mentioned earlier. Now I want go, not due to the¬†hype, but because I’ve seen the pictures and read the reviews, which have been completely complimentary. Also, their head chef- only known as Joe on their website- was nominated for the James Beard best new chef award in 2016. I would have the¬†fritters and short rib stroganoff.
  4. Angry Goldfish
  5. Table 128
  6. Nachos Tequilas
  7. Aposto
  8. Chicago Dog
  9. D’jango
  10. Barntown Brewing

Have you been to any of these restaurants? Did you like it? If so, what should I order? Also, is some place on the list not worth the trip? Let me know!

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

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For this being only the second week of spring it has been dark and gloomy. I understand it has to rain in order for “April showers [to] bring May flowers,” but does it have to make everything seem so sad?

I was hoping to celebrate spring outdoors instead of camping in my living room. It was nice the first couple of days cuddling up with my pug, Pickle, and reading Garlic and Sapphires, but now I want some sunshine damnit!

If there’s a sliver lining in all this it’s this soup. It’s not only flavorful and colorful, but simple to make using only a few ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 small white onion diced
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1.5 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of paprika for garnish

Directions

In a medium sauté pan warm the oil and add the diced onion. Cook until translucent- adding the chopped garlic towards the end. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium stock pot add the 3 cups of water and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil.  Add more water if the sweet potatoes are not submerged. Once boiling reduce to medium heat and cook an additional 20-25mins.

The sweet potato should be tender at this time so remove from heat, drain, and place in a separate bowl to cool for 10mins. Once cooled, transfer to a blender or food processor and and add the onions garlic mixture, milk, curry powder, garam masala, turmeric, and salt to taste. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture back into the stock pot and cook on medium heat to rewarm.

When serving, top with a pinch of paprika for color. Enjoy!

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Persian Lentil Soup

Even though February has been crazy since there’s been¬†68 degree weather and snow in the same week, BUT now that winter is back to acting like winter we can cozy up with this soup. ¬†This Persian lentil soup has sweet potato, which is completely not normal, but when you have left overs you get creative. Besides the whole sweet potato addition this recipe is pretty traditional, and did I mention it’s vegetarian, simple, and healthy as heck?

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There’s a ton of fiber from the lentils and sweet potatoes and there’s nothing processed added. But, that doesn’t mean it’s bland. No way– not when there’s all these warm spices like cumin, coriander, sumac, and cinnamon. I really wanted to make this meal since I just got my hands on some home ground sumac from my dad’s personal pantry. Sumac has a peppery, flowery smell which I love, and it has a tart taste to it.

Also, though there’s cinnamon in the soup, it’s not sweet- cinnamon is not sweet. If you don’t believe me, try a dab of it alone. Maybe you’ll perceive as sweet, but that’s only due to the constant paring of cinnamon with sweet things so you’ve trained your brain to expect it!

Ingredients

  • 1lb sweet potato
  • 1 small white onion diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup of uncooked lentils (I used green)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • lemon- to squeeze on top

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While it’s preheating peel and dice the sweet potato into medium size cubes. Place on a sheet pan and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and a dash of salt. Cook for 20minutes or until the sweet potato is tender, but not mushy. Note if you cut the pieces too small and try roasting them they will be mushy and fall apart in the soup! So don’t do that!

In a medium sized stock pot warm the tsp of olive oil on medium heat. Add the white onion and saut√© until translucent- not caramelized. Add the spices and warm up for a minute in order for them to release their oils and “wake up” the flavor. Next, add the vegetable broth and water and bring to a boil. Add the diced tomatoes and lentils to the mixture¬†and reduce to medium-low heat. Let the soup cook for 25-30minutes until the lentils are tender. Salt to taste.

Enjoy!

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Update & Mushroom Bolognese

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I have had one heck of a February. It started with the flu which progressed into pneumonia and after 2 weeks with a fever, 4 days of PTO, and a prescription of antibiotics I’m finally on the up and up. You¬†know it was bad since during that time I had no appetite (!!!) and lost 4lbs.

Since I started feeling better I wanted to eat something other than a smoothie and PB&J. Not surprisingly,  I began craving the thing which was obviously absent from my diet: vegetables. With this in mind I knew I needed to check one of my favorite blogs-  Sprouted KitchenРa mostly vegetarian blog centered on simple recipes which highlight great ingredients,and not masking them.

I came across the mushroom bolognese and thought the recipe looked easy (it was) and involved a lot of ingredients I already had on hand. Bonus: this was also one of the few times I cooked with wine where it didn’t taste like I spilled my drink into the dish. ¬†Head over to their website for the full recipe.

 

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Here’s to getting better and enjoying food again!

Book Review: Taste

When I first started this blog I said I wanted to have/do all things food related, but then it turned out to be mostly my recipes. So to stay true to my promise I’m going to start a book review segment. If you have any recommendations on what food/culinary/cooking books to read nonfiction or fiction let me know!

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Taste by Barb Stuckey is a book for anyone interested in how his or her senses contribute to how we perceive food. The first part goes through each of our five senses: taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing, and how they contribute to our experience during a meal.

Something that is apparent, but not truly noticed, is how a meal is a complete sensory experience where if one of our senses are off it can ruin the meal. Think about the sight or presentation of a dish. Food is generally not appetizing when it’s monotone, or an unpleasing color like gray, or if it’s shapeless. ¬†In regards to touch, the graininess of an apple, toughness of a steak, or on the other end -creaminess of a creme br√Ľl√©e all affect whether we like a food or not.

Our sense of taste is obviously is a huge factor to food- which we will discuss more in depth later- and second to our sense of taste is our sense of smell. Usually when people are asked if they had to give up a sense what most choose is smell. But what people don’t realize is that without smell you wouldn’t be able to recognize most of the food you love. ¬†If you were having soup you could feel it’s creamy, see it’s red, taste it’s salty, but wouldn’t know it was tomato soup unless your sense of smell is working. Smell is actually what determines a food’s flavor. To be clear, this isn’t smelling through your nose, but through the back of your throat called retro-nasal olfaction.

The second part of the book went through the different perceptions of taste which are salt,  sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Salt is pretty straight forward and exactly what you would think, same with sweet. Sour is where things get interesting. First to distinguish sour from  bitter think sharp/pungent vs. unpleasant. Sour is also synonymous with acidic and the reason your mouth waters with sour food is that it has a higher acidity level than saliva so in order to balance the acidity level you need more saliva, hence mouthwatering!

Umami is a fairly new recognized sense. Barb talks about how it was acknowledged before as something separate, but there wasn’t a name. It’s described as being savory, meaty, and brothy. It’s what rounds out a dish.

What I loved about this book is it wasn’t afraid to get into the science of things, but explained the concepts in laymen terms so it was easily accessible to someone without a culinary/flavorist/chemistry background. Learning about how different tastes interact with each other and how to really differentiate between them really helped my understanding of how to combine ingredients for the best flavors.

Overall I would recommend this book, especially if you’re an aspiring foodie without a culinary background. Next on the docket: The Audacity of Hops by Tom Acitelli.