Have you ever loved a meal so much that you avoid ordering it at restaurants or making it yourself at home for the sake of not devouring all of it in an instant? Don’t tell me you have never immersed your face in plate of food, licking the bottom with morsels left on your nose and lips?
Shamelessly, I have licked my plate clean! Ironically, I’m proud to admit.
One of my favorite Persian dishes is Lubia Polo: simply translated green beans and rice. The name does not serve this classic Iranian creation justice. It is so much more. When I think of Persian comfort food, lubia polo comes to mind and my salivary glands flood my mouth. Unlike most comfort foods which are saturated in animal fat and accompanied by processed starch such as pasta or bread, this healthy dish has lean bite size chunks of beef, green beans, spices, tomatoes and of course basmati rice. The combinations of all these ingredients create a tender, floral, satisfying dish which makes you beg for seconds! Simply omitting the beef still continues to render a very tasty vegetarian version of lubia polo.
Eight years ago, my mother prepared lubia polo for Anja. She loved it! When Anja moved back to Switzerland, I gave her the recipe as a farewell gift. I guess this was the early stages of our Savorychick’s journey. A little later, our dear friend Su Kim traveled to Switzerland to visit Anja. Together, they decided to make lubia polo. Not yet having sharpened by skills as a blogger for writing down recipes, I didn’t complete the directions on the chunks of beef. I remember checking my phone with ‘multiple missed calls’ from Anja and Su Kim asking: “Where is the beef”? Oops!
I checked and corrected the following recipe for lubia polo. Not to worry, the beef is in!
Traditionally, lubia polo is best enjoyed accompanied with Shirazi salad or Greek yogurt. As my mother would say, “noushe jan”…may your soul be nourished.
2 cups basmati rice
1 lb. beef chunks suitable for stew- cut into bite size pieces (omit if vegetarian)
1 lb. green beans - ends cut and discarded; chopped into ¼ inch pieces
**Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tablespoon turmeric
3-4 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon saffron dissolved in 1/2 cup of hot water
1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron
1/2 cup melted butter; premium organic quality
1 large onion - chopped finely
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon finely crushed dried fragrant rose pedals (sold in Mediterranean grocery stores; can be omitted if unable to find)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground all spice
Salt and pepper
*** In most of my recipes, I am now using high quality, organic butter from cows that are grass fed and finished. Instead of olive oil, you may use butter which will render an even more delicious rice.
In a large sauté pan, heat ½ cup oil over medium low and add onions; constantly stirring to prevent bitter dark edges. Once onion has caramelized to a deep golden color, stir in turmeric; then add tomato paste and sauté for 3-4 minutes until all ingredients are well blended. Toss in beef (omit for vegetarian option), 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Turn heat off and set aside.
Meanwhile, in another pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil over medium and add green beans. Sauté for 5-7 minutes and add a dash of salt and pepper. Remove green beans and add to meat mixture. Add 1/2 cup of hot water and crushed saffron to green bean and meat mix; simmer for five minutes on low heat. Turn the heat off and set aside.
In a large bowl, rinse rice under cold water.
In a large non-stick pot with a matching lid, bring to boil 2 cups of rice, 1 teaspoon salt and 6 cups of water. Immediately, turn the heat down low; stir occasionally for rice to not clump together and simmer until rice is ‘al-dente’. In the sink, using a rice appropriate strainer (small holes to not allow the rice to rinse out), drain out hot water and shower it with cold water to stop the cooking process.
In a small bowl, combine dried roses, cinnamon, and all spice.
Using the same non-stick pot, place ½ cup water and 1/4 cup oil at the bottom. With a large spatula gently spoon and spread approximately ¼ of the rice on top of the water and oil mix. Spoon ¼ of the green bean and meat mix evenly over the rice. Be cautious to not press or crush rice. With your fingers place a couple of dashes of the spice mix over the meat. Repeat with the rice, green bean and beef mix, and spices until you finish all the ingredients.
Place pot over high heat for 3-5 minutes until you hear rice starting to crackle for a couple of minutes. Using the handle of your spatula, puncture 3 holes from the top of the rice to the bottom of the pot, creating escape holes for the steam to rise and cook rice evenly. Cover the lid of your pot with a large kitchen towel to trap the steam; bring the heat down low and cook for 40-45 minutes.
Gently, spoon rice into a large serving platter. In a small pot, melt butter and then add saffron dissolved in hot water. Place 1 heaping spoon of rice mix into the pot and gently stir to cover all the rice mix with the saffron. Using this saffron rice, garnish the top of the lubia polo.
Don’t forget the ‘tah-deeg’: literally, ‘the bottom of the pot’. This is the best part! Even the most elegant and civilized guests will fight over the limited pieces of this crusty, crunchy rice cake at the bottom of the pot.
I hear my mother’s voice: “noushe jan”!