March 24, 2017

Vegetable Rolls

by Marjan


Savoring every day of spring and all the abundant delicious fruit and vegetables from our garden... and of course, entertaining family and friends!
Drop me a line if you'r a purest like me and prefer to consume vegetables organically. Personally to taste each healthy bite and recognize individual textures and flavors is key to feed both my soul and body! I never jumped on the bandwagon of fruit and/or vegetable juicing, smoothies, or bowls. I know it's convenient and easy; but for me, eating is pure joy and pleasure, never a chore! I don't eat because I have to. I eat because I love whole foods. Most importantly, a nice crunch with different textures elevates a gastronomic experience. Sure, I occasionally enjoy a fruit smoothy or bowl for desert, but I'll save it for when I'm really old and loose my teeth. Now, that's a joke!


For me, the best way to enjoy vegetables is either raw or under cooked to preserve nutrients, texture and flavor.  For one of my recent gatherings, I prepared my favorite vegetable appetizers. In my last post, I promised to share with you this recipe as it continues the tradition of eating healthy with vegetables. Incorporating multicolor vegetables such as carrots, celery and zucchini, I cut and slice them into two inch sticks and wrapped them in slices of Persian cucumbers filled with herbed cream cheese.

Creamy, crunchy, sweet, nutritious and delicious, these rolls are fun to make and pleasing visually and palatally. Therefore, it is a great snack to prepare and eat with kids, or serve at your next gathering. I'm certain these beautiful vegetable rolls will please both children and adults, carnivores and vegetarians.

Enjoy!

Directions:
Amount of ingredients will depend on number of people serving, size of vegetables, combination of preferred vegetables based on your taste and appetite. Therefore, I'll simply list ingredients and directions without amounts. Mix and combine all the vegetables, or simply choose one or two of your favorite vegetables.

Persian cucumber (ends cut and sliced with a potato peeler into long strips)
Multi-colored carrots ( peeled and cut into sticks)
Celery (cut into sticks)
Red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers (cut into sticks)
Zucchini (cut into sticks)
Cream cheese mixed with freshly chopped herbs such as basil, mint, or tarragon

Roll out flat a strip of cucumber and spread a thin layer of soft cream cheese with herbs on top. Choosing multicolor and variety of preferred vegetable combinations and tightly pack 4-5 variety of sticks from one end of the cucumber strip and roll it to the other end. The cream cheese will hold vegetable sticks together with the cucumber wrap.  If the wrap does not hold, either you have placed to many vegetable sticks or not used enough cheese; or the cucumber strips are too thick or too thin.  Either way, after rolling two or three rolls, you will get the hang of it. It's easy! Have fun making these rolls and enjoy!


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March 18, 2017

Persian Cucumber & Cheese Sandwich

by Marjan

"Once again Spring is upon us. Once again there is hope for a better today. Once again it's Norouz. Once again it's time to celebrate an ancient Persian tradition of well wishes, joy, peace and love. Once again, it's time to cherish 2,570 year old tradition and share its spirit of warmer and more blessed days overcoming cold dark nights and celebrate it along with millions of people around the world."

My dear cousin Atosa, sent me this beautiful quote a couple of years ago during a very difficult time in my life. Since then, I sooth my heart with these words, tucking away darker memories and creating a new canvas using colors filled with hope, celebration, tradition, and lighter days.

That is why I love spring! It really gives me the opportunity to look forward to new beginnings, sunny days and crisp blue skies, blossoms, and of course, entertaining. Hope you enjoyed last weeks post sharing with you a little piece of my Persian Culture, Herbs, Recipes and New Year!


As you may already know from previous posts, personally I love hosting tea parties as they are simple, easy, elegant, light and happy. Our Persian New Year ceremony is all about eating and celebrating. Therefore, in addition to our traditional dishes, I also prepare finger sandwiches for my guests; they can serve themselves while I mingle and enjoy their company. Having hosted these parties for many years, there are always crowd favorites such as my vegetable napoleon sandwiches, Olivier's salad, and tomato with cucumber bites.

Vegetable Napoleon Sandwich

Oliver's Salad





Heirloom Tomato & Cucumber Bites
















Next week, I will share with you my recipe for vegetable sushi rolls, but today, I'm excited to share with you my Persian Cucumber and Cheese sandwiches. Similar to English cucumber sandwich, my version uses Persian cucumbers which are more delicate and fragrant along with feta cheese blended with herbs such as tarragon, basil, and chives. Elegant, delicious, easy to put together, I'm certain my guests will be delighted. Ingredients needed are: pumpernickel bread, Persian cucumber, feta, brie or cream cheese, herbs, lemon, and radish.


Using pumpernickel bread (or any bread slice of choice such challah or sourdough), cut into bite size squares or circles.  Prepare two to three sandwich bites per number of guests. Purchase both large and smaller size Persian cucumbers. Slice them thin using the larger diameter cuts for the bottom layer of the sandwich and the smaller ones for the top. I prefer feta cheese which I crumble and mix with cream to create a smoother spreadable texture; however, any soft cheese will do such as cream cheese, blue, brie or goat cheese. Chop desired amount of fresh herb available such as tarragon (a little will go a long way, therefore, don't over power the cheese with it), basil, or chives. A combination of all three or just one herb will do, depending on your preference and taste. Blend in herbs with cheese. Zest one lemon and blend with herbs if you prefer; if not, feel free to omit. Lay out all bread slices; top with larger diameter cucumber slices. Using either a decorating funnel or teaspoon, place 1/2 teaspoon amount of cheese on top cucumber; top with another slice of smaller cucumber followed with a dab of cheese. Finish top with radish slices. Easy, elegant, and delicious, I promise you this Persian version of cucumber tea sandwiches will be a crowd favorite.
Wishing all of humanity peace, love, wisdom, and joy!






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March 10, 2017

Herbs , Culture And Persian New Year

by Marjan


Once again, my family and I are preparing to commence our celebration for Persian New Year with decorative table settings symbolic of distinctive elements of spring. For me personally, it is all about starting a new year blessed with my Persian heritage, health, family, and of course, food! One key decorative element is sprouted barley or lentil which provides a vibrant green centerpiece as it is symbolic of rebirth elements of spring.


Every year, my mother and I gather to bake traditional Persian pastries. The aromas of cardamom, rosewater, butter, and vanilla fill my entire house with delicious home bake goods. If you haven't tried our recipes for Persian New Year sweets, click here and enjoy!


A fundamental traditional meal served for New Years is sabzee polo mahee, literal translation 'herbed rice with fish'. A few years ago, I shared with you my recipe for this popular meal (click here for the recipe). This aromatic, healthy rice recipe reflects the importance of herbs within our culture as it is served on the first day of spring! Fresh herbs such as fenugreek, cilantro, dill, parsley and green onions fragrantly nestled throughout aromatic basmati rice served along side fried fish, truly highlights the importance of herbs as it is the center piece of Persian New Years meal.


Friends often ask me what distinguishes Persian food from other Eastern cuisines. To the best of my knowledge, I believe it is the prominence of utilizing herbs and variety of vegetables and fruits. Most Middle Eastern and Asian countries use spices and fermented sauces. However, my understanding of Persian cuisine relative to it's geographical positioning dating back to the Persian Empire, is it has been blessed with fertile land rendering exotic fruits such as mulberry, quince, persimmons, pomegranates and figs; along with vast variety of herbs such as tarragon, watercress and mint, along with nuts such as pistachios, almonds and walnuts. Even though Persian cuisine incorporates lamb and chicken in most recipes, it is used in moderation and not as the main ingredient.


One of our most popular posts, Fesenjoon, combines using pomegranates and walnuts. Another famous Persian stew uses a variety of herbs, ghormeh sabzee, which literally translates to herb stew. When I observe health relative to diet patterns, I am convinced eating fresh herbs daily is one key component of Persian's healthy routines. We serve a platter of fresh herbs such as mint, scallions, tarragon, basil, watercress and radishes along side all meals. Imagine consuming fresh herbs two to three times a day. Not only is this a healthy pattern, but also medicinal. Who needs to pop vitamins?
The next time you want to invite a Persian friend over for dinner, serve a platter of fresh mixed herbs, along with cheese, raw nuts and bread. A complete meal onto itself, this beautiful and healthy side dish will brighten your table setting. If available, after dinner, have prepared fresh fruit as desert along with fruit marmalade to be enjoyed with tea. Try making your own quince tea, click here for the recipe; if not, prepare Persian tea which is a combination of ceylon, Earl gray, and English breakfast. Place homemade jam or marmalade in small little glass bowls to enrich and flourish an ancient Persian tradition of eating healthy, delicious meals.
May the commencement of this Persian New Year bless our magnificent earth with peace, health, love and joy for all.
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