ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN LIP SERVICE WEB MAGAZINE’S ‘MEATLESS MONDAYS’ COLUMN
This week was my birthday weekend, so we prepared an immense feast of Persian and Indian fusion for a few good friends. The recipes I created for that night will start sneaking into Meatless Mondays over time. I won’t hit you all at once, because there were quite a few. We’ll toss it up with new cuisines in between.
For today, I’ll just give you the biggest successes of the night.
Ghormeh sabzi really should be considered a treasured gift from Iran to the rest of the world. It is one of the sexiest-tasting things you will ever eat. So, of course, I wanted to share it with my vegetarian and vegan friends, too. This recipe skips the traditional lamb and adds a little savory Aleppo pepper to kick up the sexiness. I will tell you up front, though. Persian food is more like a meditation on food than a cuisine. It is some of the best food you will ever eat, but it doesn’t come easy. This is food which requires a bit of patience, being food which was perfected long before modern conveniences were even a glimmer of a seed of an idea. You will not regret the time you spend chopping and mincing or needing to stick around at home for the long-slow cooking process. You will taste every moment in the food.
I’ll confess something to y’all; in all my years of cooking, I’ve always avoided anything which involved boiling milk. The idea of it frothing and bubbling up, maybe scorching, freaked me out. But, since I really wanted a special dessert which had roots and flavor profiles in Indian and Persian cuisines, I finally got myself over the hump to make a batch of kheer (Indian rice pudding).
What got me over, you might ask? A lovely Indian lady named Manjula who has videos on YouTube and a site with her collected recipes calmed my nerves enough to give it a shot. Boy am I glad I did, because her recipe for kheer is one the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. I skipped the other add-ins and just put ¼ cup of pistachos (because I REALLY love pistachios, especially with saffron), but that’s all the tinkering I did. It’s bloody perfect as is. I would recommend making some as soon as possible.
You can find the recipe on Manjula’s site.
Here’s a good tip for managing kheer: use a flame/heat diffuser (see the photo) if you don’t have a heavy-bottomed pot handy. Also, if you have a kitchen timer, set it for 4 minutes and gently break the skin, stirring while scraping the bottom of the pot with a spatula every time it goes off for about 40-60 minutes … I lost track of time, so added a photo of what the pudding looked like in the pan before I chilled it. I’ve included a pic of the bubbling pot because, though it looks a little dire and panic-inspiring, it’s fine and exactly how it should look. Now that I’m over my irrational fear of boiling milk, I’m looking forward to making this regularly when I have a meal that causes me to be in the kitchen for a while anyway. It’s so good, I already want another bowl … like right now.
** a note: Dried limes are traditional in ghormeh sabzi, but hard to hunt down outside Middle-eastern markets and the interwubs. I prefer my stew with a few limes, pierced several times to release more flavor. The Boss does not agree and prefers the taste without. You might want to scare some up and try it if you like the idea of a hint of concentrated savory citrus bite. The taste is hard to describe, but similar to how drying dramatically intensifies the deep, low notes of a chili pepper and softens the sharper ones, but keeps the same general favor. Does that make sense?
Thanks for joining me for another Meatless Monday food experiment. Have a great week!