May 12, 2017

My Favorite Persian Stew, Ghormeh Sabzi

by Marjan
Celebration of Persian cuisine, healthy eating, and herbs continue! Last week I shared with you my recipe for Khoreshte Karafs, which is a delicious blend of celery, mixed herbs and meat stew. This week, I am excited to share with you another stew of herbs loved by almost every Persian; which includes me! Ghormeh Sabzi is the epidemy of all Persian stews when it comes to robust taste, color, scent, and popularity. Literal translation is stew of herbs, ghormeh sabzi is a classic Persian stew. Parsley, cilantro, scallions and fenugreek boiling within a stew of either lamb or beef shank for hours and topped with dried lime renders the perfect balance of tang, earthiness, and deep robust taste! Red kidney beans adds a brilliant finishing attraction to this dark green stew with seductive velvety bright red color to lure your palate back for a second, third, or fourth serving...Yes, it is delicious!
I will be the first to admit, as much as I love food, I can be a 'food snub'. If i'm going to consume calories, each bite has to be worth it. Especially when it comes to ghormeh sabzi, I can be quit a snob. This popular stew is a staple at most Persian dinner parties. When served, I cannot resist the pungent smell of fenugreek and lime drawing me to a large plate portion. I humbly even consider myself an expert of this sea of herb stew. So who makes the best ghormeh sabzi? Only two people I know, my mother and my dearest friend who I love beyond words, Mahnaz. 
Ask any child from any culture and they will most likely state their mother is the best cook.  With me, this is no exception. I would never dare make ghormeh sabzi for my mother and Mahnaz, since both of them pour their motherly love into this stew which makes it taste fantastic each time. I am so blessed to have two women who make this stew with a mother's passion and care for me. 
Persian cooking is not a measured precise process; experience to make this stew just right is by measuring with eyes and sense of smell. Therefore, it is almost impossible to share most Persian recipes and have them come out exactly the same each time. Hence, it is ironic that both Mahnaz and my mother's ghormeh sabzi tastes exactly the same. How lucky am I? Both these beautiful loving mothers make this stew for me from their heart. They truly spoil me! Since ghormeh sabzi tastes better the following day, they always make enough to last me three to four days. I shamelessly confess I do enjoy my ghormeh sabzi day after day and lick the pot clean! Shocked? Don't be! Of course I do!
Served along fragrant basmati Persian rice topped with saffron, the complexity of this tangy herbaceous stew will make ghormeh sabzi one of your regular cravings, as it is mine. Because once you taste this stew, you will be hooked!
Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers who selflessly cook from their heart to nourish the spirit of all those they love. 
On a personal note, thank you Mahnaz joon and my mother for lavishing me with all the love in the world! Mahnaz joon, thank you for finding a place in your great big heart to love me like your own. You are an inspiring, loving, beautiful women, both inside and out! Dear Mommy, no words from my mouth can express to you my gratitude and love; except to tell you from Rumi "May the dust beneath your feet fall on my lashes!"
I am blessed and lucky to have both of you in my life and to be carried with love within your most beautiful hearts!

May 5, 2017

Most Beloved Persian Stew; Khoreshte Karafs

by Marjan
Interest for eating and maintaining a healthy weight with lifestyle seems to be a common topic of discourse amongst my friends, no matter age or culture. Lately, I have been most fascinated with the use of herbs in Persian cuisine. Herbs and vegetables are common ingredients inebriated in a majority of stews and side servings at our meals. Which leads me to introduce you to one of the most beloved Persian stews, Koreshte Karafs (literal translation, celery stew).

Celery is a crunchy, low-calorie antioxidant vegetable with noteworthy nutrients and health benefits such as rich anti-inflammatory agents, vitamin C and flavonoids. Koreshte karafs incorporates delicious herbs such as mint, celery leaves and parsley along with stewed beef shank rendering succulent earthy flavors. Addition of lime juice elevates this aromatic healthy low-calorie stew with the perfect balance of zest and herbs. No wonder khoreshte karafs is a beloved Persian stew; it has it all! Served along with saffron laced basmati  Persian rice,  I guarantee this will become one of your favorite stews as well.

Delectable aromas of khoreshte karafs remind me of a very sweet story I must share with you. Thirteen years ago when Anja live in Los Angeles, I invited two of our mutual friends over for 'Valentine's Day Friendship Dinner'.  We were all single in LA at the time and decided to celebrate our friendship since neither of us had prospective dates. Sounds boring; right? Wrong! We shared photos and stories of loved ones and spent a heart warming night eating, drinking, and exchanging gifts. Now that's fun! Our friendship elevated to another level; St. Valentine worked it's magic.

For our special dinner, I prepared khoreshte karafs along with Lubia Polo (Persian rice dish with green beans, spices, and meat). At the time, our friendship was new. Even though Anja and I connected at the heart level, we were learning about one another's history, likes and dislikes. We already established our shared passion for food, but at the time, I was not aware of Anja's disliked for mint in stews. I began to pour khoreshte karafs onto her plate meanwhile mentioning herbs used, which included mint. She hesitated and politely asked me to serve her a small tasting portion. After a couple of spoonfuls, 'the green minty celery stew' won her over and she asked for a second serving!

Recently during Anja's visit to California, I invited Shirl over for lunch. Of course when three Savorychicks gather, it's going to be gastronomic experience. Upon Anja's request, we served fesenjoon, tahcheen, and koreshte karafs with Persian rice. Yes, it was a hearty meal indeed! Nervous about serving this minty, dark green stew to Shirl, I was relieved when she gave it two thumbs up!

Therefore, I had to share this delicious aromatic stew recipe with you as well! Stay tuned next week, for I will share with you my favorite Persian stew, Ghormeh Sabzi (stew of herbs).

Noushe Jan!

April 28, 2017

Green, White, Red: Viva Mexico!

by Marjan
As an immigrant to the United States at the age of six, and now a citizen of a country I have call home for over forty years, I sympathize with my Mexican compadres as we wonder what will be the state of our affairs. As I scratch my head in the irony of truths and 'alternative facts', I'm stumped with our celebration of Cinco de Mayo, since this event has nothing to do with American/Mexican history. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican Army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Pueblo. I believe the reason for celebrating Mexico's victory here in American has more to do with ideals of separation of church and state along with freedom of religion (which was a pivotal strife for our Founding Fathers and Constitution). Mexico's Reform War was a civil war which pitted Liberals who believed in separation of church and state against the Conservatives who favored a bond with the Roman Catholic Church. When I questioned memorizing all the dates, wars, battles and treaties, my teacher assured me of the significance for studying history. Apparently, studying history enlightens us of the past, so that we may learn and make better decisions for our future. Unfortunately today, many places here and around the world, we have yet to learn from our past history or that of our neighbors down south.
.... Oh, yes! Cinco de May! Viva Mexico!

....I'm back on track! Ready to celebrate separation of church and state...I mean, Cinco de Mayo!
Any chance I get to enjoy Mexican food, I go for it. This year, I plan to serve Mexcan inspired dishes to my family and friends for Cinco de Mayo. You can count I'll be serving margaritas, freshly prepared tomatillo and avocado salsa, tortillas, and other fun bites. Since my expertise in making authentic Mexican food leaves much to be desired, I'm improvising with my heart and creating an appetizer dish designed to capture the colors of Mexico: green, white, and red; along with Mexico's staple grain, corn!
I'm using cornmeal to make a cornbread cake flavored with jalapeƱos, cheese, chorizo, and sour cream. Beautifully decorated with green cilantro, red jalapeƱos, and white cream, this appetizer captures my essence for celebrating Mexican flavors familiar to this Iranian/American Savorychick in love with Mexican food and culture. Creamy, sweet cornbread flavored with a little spice and rich chorizo, battles and wins my hunger for Mexican food. Easy to make a head of time, serve this cake for your co-workers and bring a little fiesta to your day!
Happy Cinco de Mayo! Viva Mexico! Viva Planet Earth! Peace!