January 29, 2016

Persian Plum And Spinach Plum Stew- Khoreshte Aloo And Aloo Esfenaj

by Marjan

I'm constantly amazed with the simplicity, nourishment, and healthy quality of most Persian comfort foods. With this post, I am going to share with you two classic winter stew recipes. Both have the same earthy, tangy sweet and sour plum base known as Khoreshte Aloo (literal translation stew of plums); the other has the addition of spinach and therefore named Khoreshte Aloo Esfenaj (stew of plum and spinach).  Both these dishes are served with Persian rice. By omitting the addition of lamb shanks, this recipe can also be enjoyed as a vegetarian option.

Khoreshte Aloo Esfenaj
Basic minimal ingredients are onions, plum, turmeric, saffron with either chicken or lamb shanks making this an easy to go recipe on cold, lazy, winter days. These stews are delicious, healthy and nutritious; best part of all, unlike most Persian stews, it is less time consuming to prepare.
One key step to consider is visiting your local Persian or Mediterranean Market to purchase dried Persian plums which is not pitted, yet peeled.  These plums tend to be sweet and sour and slightly more firm than dried plums sold in most other markets. Dried prunes can be a substitute if you can't find dried Persian plums; however, the flavor profile is largely altered.
Khoreshte Aloo Esfenaj is high in fiber and iron. This earthy sweet and sour stew is rich in flavor which stems from the use of spinach, and fruity and floral with a sweet tang with the use of plums. Served with Persian rice, I hope these stews will soon become your favorites.
Khoreshte Aloo

January 15, 2016

Kalam Polo- Caramelized Cabbage With Rice Recipe

by Marjan
Another classic Persian recipe I thought you would enjoy is one of my family’s favorite rice dishes- Kalam Polo.  A hearty, flavorful dish with caramelized cabbage and onions submersed with chunks of beef in a bed of aromatic basmati rice.

Literal translation being ‘cabbage rice’, you must love cabbage to appreciate this recipe, as it is not for all gastronomist due to its odoriferous nature. However, if you enjoy cabbage and have an understanding for its nutrients, I am certain you will take delight in this comfort food recipe.  Even if you shy away from cabbage, give this recipe a try.  Like me, you might be surprised how sweet and delicious caramelized cabbage can taste.  Velvety caramelized slivers of cabbage and onion cuddled in embrace with fluffy basmati rice and flavored with turmeric, saffron and tangy dried lime powder (found in most Mediterranean stores) is a perfect marriage of flavors to seduce your taste buds. Kalam polo can be made with or without beef which makes it a wonderful vegetarian option.

Even if you are not a huge fan of cabbage, consider all the nutritional and medicinal advantages of it. Cabbage is loaded with vitamin C, K and fiber. It is a good source of folate, potassium and calcium and thought to be a cancer preventing super food with powerful antioxidants. As an epicurean, I believe having awareness of nutritional benefits of what I consume assists in the pleasure of feeding my hunger, taste buds and healthier body.
Try my mother’s recipe for Kalam polo knowing that your body and taste buds will be happy that you did! Noushe Jan

January 1, 2016

Promises Kept- Patagonia

by Marjan
Ten years ago when I naively signed on to hike the Milford Trek in New Zealand, I had no idea it was going to be the commencement of a life long promise. Ironically my most vivid memory of this adventure is not the magnificence of the Fiordland with multiple waterfalls along our path or verdant landscape of ferns, mosses and lichens. Rather, I recall the constant rain, wet socks and shoes continuously rubbing on daily formed blisters of my aching feet. I had no idea the permanent impression left from that trip would be beyond callouses! On our group of hikers from all around the world, we were joined by two amazing women from Japan. Everyday, these strong women in their mid sixties would hike along with us with ease and joy in endless mud puddles, slippery moss covered rocks, and frightful suspended bridges.  I marveled at their tenacity to endure the arduous hike so effortlessly even though they were almost forty years our seniors! How was that possible? They shared with me, when they were in their thirties, a promise was made to one another that age would never be a limiting factor in their travels and hikes.

That's when I promised the same to myself.  I would keep myself fit and always challenge myself to hike trails that would allow me to explore beautiful wonders of the world. In my previous posts, I shared with you a few of my adventurous trips to IranBelize and  Machu Picchu; I am extremely blessed to have dedicated and like minded friends who also share the same promise; thus, we plan trips and hikes to all corners of the world to inhale our earths many wondrous trails.

Recently, my faithful friends and I ventured to Patagonia together. We began our adventure on the Chilean side and made our way to the Argentinian side.  Our hiking destinations to Torres del Paine (Chile) and Glacier National Park (Argentina) were breathtakingly beautiful!

From the crispy blue skies to the delicate vegetation of the land which graciously survives 70/mile winds, snow, and rain, I was bewildered at the astounding beauty of this extraordinary landscape. Magnificent mountain tops engulfing what remains of the glaciers would give way to lakes with multitude shades of blue. Along the path we were blessed with gifts of delicate flowers such as daisies, edelweiss, lady slippers and herbs such as sage and sorrel which stridently held themselves up in this rough terrain.

From hiking on land, we bravely took ginger steps on icy glaciers. Wearing stainless steel spikes on our hiking shoes, we walked through ice caves and crevices.  All along questioning, would these living glaciers be around in twenty years? Would others be able to enjoy these towering icy castles or would we only have memories and pictures to state it actually did exist? It was a powerful moment to marvel at the fragility of these massive sovereign glaciers.

To give our legs a rest, on one of our excursions, we kayaked the icy waters of Argentina Lake among glaciers that had calved into the lake.  The best part was our laugh filled thirty minutes attempting to put on our special protective gear required to prevent hypothermia should we fall into the ice filled waters. Our 'super hero' suites did give us a false sense of power against the rigid icebergs floating along with us.  We were told to not be fooled by the height and size of ice we saw above water; as the size of the iceberg below was four times larger and could dangerously topple over. I am happy to report, luckily, none of us fell into the water; thus, I cannot tell you if our super hero suites really worked. But they did keep us warm so that we could enjoy gliding in and around exalted chunks of ice.

Just as you would expect, we had amazing meals to brag about! From Santiago to Patagonia, Buenos Aires and Uruguay, we did our very best to find the best steak, culinary experiences and wines.  Unanimously, we all agreed the Chilean wines impressed us tremendously, as we had the opportunity to visit a couple of wineries. In Uruguay we were introduced to tannat grapes.  At first, we had a hard time acquiring a taste for this highly tannin wine. But with persistent effort, we came to enjoy it and miss it very much now that we are back in the States.  Of all the meals we had, a couple stand out in my mind that I just have to share with you.

First of all, our all-inclusive dinners at Hotel Las Torres at Torres Del Paine took our breath away each night just as much as the imperial Paine Massif  mountain showcased behind the picture frame windows of the restaurant. Our first night at the hotel, we had the good fortune to meet our chef; he shared with us his inspiration behind the delectable artisanal creations to be the natural elements and products of the Patagonia region. Not only did each plate look like a work of art, but exceeded all our expectations from this remote restaurant hundred of miles away from 'civilization'.

Our second notable meal was experienced while we stayed at Narbona, a working farm and vineyard in Uruguay.  On the premise, there was a bread and pasta making room, organic herb garden, and an impressive newly built wine cellar which displayed a collection of their very own olive oils, cognac, grappa, and wines.  We were graciously served complimentary grappa and cognac, which we very much enjoyed.  During our stay, we became friends with a very young executive chef who at the age of 21 surprised us with his mature palate, execution and presentation of decadent cuisine. Our most memorable breakfast was also served at Narbona.  From their farm, we were able to enjoy fresh milk and yogurt along with the best bread basket we had served to us while in Latin America! Everything was truly organic and farm to table. We could taste the freshness and purity of ingredients which made our last days in Uruguay unforgettable and truly unique.

All of which I am sharing with you would be meaningless had I not experienced them with awesome friends.  For three weeks, we laughed, cried, exchanged life long stories, played games, and marveled at the wondrous beauty of Latin America together. As with all our travels, we became more connected as our spirits brought us together and our love for adventure, travels, food and friendship solidified our promise to one another to continue to travel and experience the wonders of our beautiful earth together.  Therefore I would like to thank my "Awesome Five" travel buddies Mojdah, Nazy, Joe and Shay for taking time out of their busy lives to marvel at Patagonia with me! A special Merci to Shay for researching, planning, and navigating a trip of a life time for all of us to enjoy!

True to form, as we were still hiking in Patagonia, we promised one another our next big adventure would be to hike Kilimanjaro. I promise to keep you posted...More promises to keep.

Hope with the commencement of 2016, you have travel plans, resolutions and promises to inspire every day of your year.

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