Chicken Koobideh & Persian Cucumber Salad

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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 🙂 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.

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 sautĂ© 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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Green Chili Pork with Spicy Slaw

As May rolls on I refuse to let 50 something degree weather stunt my enthusiasm for summer. What better way to rebel than fresh, light, recipe? All the bbq staples are here- shredded pork, slaw, creamy avocado (typically in guac form)- but recombined with a Mexican twist.

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This may not be the prettiest receipe, but what it lacks in looks it makes up with in flavor and ease in preparation.

Ingredients

  • 1.5lb pork butt (shoulder)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 (4.5oz) cans chopped green chilies
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 2/3 cup of mayo
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • avocado
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

 

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Directions

Coat the pork butt with olive oil on each side and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in a slow cooker and cover with the 2 cans of green chilies. Cook on low for 8hrs. You do not need to add any liquid and will be surprised at how much juice the pork butt releases. Around the 6 hour mark ladle out some of the excess juice and shred the pork using 2 forks.There should be just enough juice so that the pork is saturated, but not swimming in the juice. There should not be a film of juice over the top. Allow to cook for another 2 hours on low.

Remove the outer most leaves of the cabbage and cut into 6 wedges. Cut out the stalk (core) of the cabbage and gently rinse with cold water. Shred the cabbage. I think you get more for your money buying the cabbage whole and shredding yourself, but if you’re short on time, 2 prepackaged coleslaw with also do the trick. In a large bowl combine the cabbage, mayo, hot sauce, and cayenne. Mix until all the cabbage has been coated then refrigerate for at least 20minutes.

The instructions for the avocado topping is per dish, to keep the flavors fresh, and the avocado a nice pretty green. Cut the avocado lengthwise and remove the pit. Scoop out each side in a small bowl. Add the juice of half a lime and a teaspoon each of salt, pepper, and garlic. Mix until combined.

To assemble add the cabbage as the base, shredded pork, and then avocado to top it off.

Enjoy!

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Eggplant Roll-Ups

Sticking with the low carb theme, these eggplant roll ups are healthy and hearty. This meal is also good for pasta lovers— you can still get your fix without the carb overload!

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef 80% lean
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp parmesan or mozzarella cheese— optional

Directions

Slice the eggplant lengthwise about 1/4 inch thickness. I chose to leave the skin on since it’s filled with fiber.  Warm a sauté pan on medium heat. Brush each side of the eggplant slices with olive oil using a pastry brush. Lightly brown on each side, and put the cooked eggplant on a plate lined with a paper towel.

When I say lightly brown, I mean when the eggplant just becomes malleable— they should still be semi-firm. If you over cook the eggplant in this step they will not roll up and hold the meat and disintegrate instead. Also, just a light brushing of olive oil or the slices will meet the same fate.

Once all the slices are cooked set aside for 10 minutes to cool. Preheat the oven to 225 F. Dice the yellow onion and saute in the same pan the eggplant was cooked in. Once the onion is transparent add the ground beef and brown. Once browned mix in 1/4 cup of parsley and a pinch of salt and pepper.

To assemble- grab 1 slice of eggplant and scoop 1 spoonful onto the wider end of the eggplant piece leaving a little space of eggplant towards the edge. Roll the end inward  until it meets the other end of the slice.

Place the completed roll, seam down, in a large 4qt baking (casserole) dish. Repeat until the baking dish is full or you’ve run out of slices. In a large mixing bowl combine the pasta sauce and diced tomatoes. Drain the diced tomatoes prior to combing. Once mixed add the chunky pasta sauce over the  eggplant rolls. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup roughly cut parsley.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle 1 tbsp mozzarella then broil on low for 2 mins.

Enjoy!

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Curried Chickpea Salad

Chickpeas are a great substitute for meat and if you follow any vegan or vegetarian blogs you’ll see how popular and versatile they are. I’ve made this recipe a couple of times and can’t think of where it came from. I think I heard about it from an old Oprah magazine or something talking about how it was a popular dish in the ’70s or ’80s.

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I’m always looking for something on the lighter side but will fill you up. This dish checks those marks and more since the prep is easy and you’ll probably have most of the ingredients on hand.

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of reduced sodium chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup mayo
  • 1 medium green granny smith apple diced
  • 1/3 cup diced celery
  • 1/3 cup diced carrots
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup green onions
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30mins.  Serve sandwich style on pita bread or whole grain. Or, as a low carb option with leaves of romaine.

Enjoy!

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Power Salad

Don’t let the breakfast totchos post fool you— my fiancé and I are trying to eat better. This salad is more along the lines of what we eat day in and day out. This hearty, flavorful, and colorful salad was inspired by one I had while in Toronto.

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Though there’s a lot of ingredients they’re not difficult to find and the combination makes you actually look forward to having salad for lunch!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shredded romain
  • 1 cup shredded spinach
  • 1/3 cup shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1/4 cup chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp lentils
  • 1/4 cup red peppers diced
  • 1/4 cup cucumber diced
  • 1 tbsp red onion
  • 1 tbsp feta
  • 1 tbsp dried cranberries
  • Pinch of salt & pepper

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup tahini paste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • splash of lemon juice

Directions

Easiest recipe ever— combine ingredients and eat!

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Side note:

I used dried lentils and prepared them beforehand according to the package. The chickpeas were from a can, drained and rinsed.