Sour orange juice, a unique seasoning taste

Sour orange نارنج also referred to as bitter orange is a variety of citrus tree native of Southeast Asia but widely used in the Middle East, parts of Europe and US.  In my hometown Shiraz, almost every house with a backyard used to have a couple of sour orange trees which wore perfumed, white robe of blossoms in the spring and orange robe of fruit in early summer.  The blossoms of sour orange, bahaar-e naaranj, were used to make sherbet and jams, or sundried to be mixed with loose, black tea.  The fruit itself, too, has many culinary usages including for seasoning.

Here in Montreal, Iranian supermarkets carry sour orange right on time before the official spring season starts.  Right on time I said because sour orange has a special spot both on our Norooz table as well as with the herbed-rice and fish that we serve on the first day of the Persian New Year, Norooz. Read the rest of this entry »


Torshi in the making: From Shiraz to Montreal

At any full and happy Persian sofreh or table, several side dishes should be present to complement the main dish, especially at supper time and most certainly with specific types of meals such as kotlet and any kind of mixed rice dishes. The most crucial and common sides to go with these dishes are small bowls of torshi, assortment of seasonal fresh herbs, radishes and scallions, and Shirazi salad.

Now, Torshi, ترشی, or torsu as it is called in Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisine, is basically diced fruits, vegetables and herbs marinated in vinegar and spices to be eaten with food in small portions as an appetizer and counterbalance to the greasy components of a meal. Read the rest of this entry »


Fresh Garlic

I have recently started regrowing a number of vegetables and herbs right from my kitchen’s window and have had loads of fun watching them grow before my eyes, while enjoying their fresh taste and aroma in my salads and cooked foods.

I find growing garlic sprouts from the clove to be the easiest and most rewarding among the vegetables I have tried so far (including lettuce, celery, scallion and parsley). Easiest because it just happens without much effort and so fast! Rewarding, because in my city, Montreal, it is not easy to find fresh (green) garlic all year round and I just adore the tender taste of it in traditional Persian cuisine as well as in almost any other type of food.

The video bellow shows the growth of my garlic in ten days, captured in ten slides. Pretty straight forward, right?

GrowingGarlic from Afsaneh Hojabri on Vimeo.

Yet, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • To start, buy a whole garlic bulb from a grocery store where their stock is fairly fresh.
  • “Open” the bulb, without skinning it completely, and divide it into two if it is too plump.
  • Place each bunch of garlic cloves in a transparent container. The idea here is to be able to see not only the growth of the roots, but to check on the water you are about to add in, thereby changing it as soon as it gets cloudy.
  • Add just enough water to touch the base of the garlic cloves; you do not want the cloves to be submerged in the water and get smelly and rotten after a couple of days.
  • Place the containers in a sunny and warm spot (4-5 hours of direct sun per day will do). If you have a sunny kitchen window, that is the ideal spot.
  • All you have to do is changing the water once it evaporates completely or when it gets cloudy. You should see the first sprout in a couple of days. After that, the white roots as well as the green sprouts keep growing tall to much of your delight!
  • Each clove may produce a few shoots, and each shoot gets as tall as 10 cm. They are ready for harvest once they get about 4 cm tall, but I would wait for their full growth before snapping off  from the top just what I need for a certain recipe.  You will not more shoot from a sprout that has been cut down to the clove.

Unlike garlic clove, green garlic has a very subtle and pleasant and not-lingering taste which makes it an ideal addition to almost any type of cold or hot dish.  I recently used my precious little garlic sprouts in Kookoo with potato (Persian pancake), and sabzi polow (herb-mix rice). Obviously the taste is more fully preserved when it is used fresh, such as in (absolutely any type of) salad, and in oven baked potatoes, along with chopped parsley.

Hope you go for the cultivating-cooking package and find it as rewarding and enjoyable as I do!


Clove

Many know cloves only as a flower; I certainly would have, had it not been for the dentistry history of my family. You see, my grandfather was a traditional dentist back in the 1940s in Iran (meaning his dentistry knowledge was acquired not through university education, but by experiment and experience).  Apparently, he used to use the dried flower buds of the clove tree (simply called clove) as an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-aesthetic substance.

Till my adulthood, I had no idea that the clove was mainly known and used as a spice in Asian cuisine. In fact, for many years the clove’s intense flavor reminded me of nothing but those nasty toothaches surfacing in the middle of the night when my mother, benefiting from his father’s dentistry tools and knowledge stuck a clove bud in the toot as a temporary relief. Read the rest of this entry »


Make your own dipping olive oil

Each year, at the end of gardening season,  my vegetable beds and pots leave me with a whole lot of chili peppers,  which I usually string and dry and let dangle from a cabinet’s knob to be used in coming year.

My little garden also leaves with some herbs such as mint and rosemary (which I am too lazy to do anything with!) and with unripe green tomatoes, which I do make some use of, such as this one here, if I find time.

This year I found a marvelous and super tasty solution to using my home grown products at the end of the season: Dipping olive oil.  Making the mix is super easy, and once you try it on your salad and foods you will wonder how on earth you have been living without it thus far!? 😉 You could of course buy all the ingredients, home-grown or not would not make a huge difference in the taste.

Read the rest of this entry »


Turkish Pepper with everything

I am all for experimenting with new spices. What about you? Well, I recently came across this “Turkish Pepper” in a Middle Easter supermarket when I was looking for our traditional Persian red chili pepper powder and I absolutely fell in love with it!  The type I am talking about has red light, and relatively large flakes. The pepper is milder than chili pepper. I use it in cooking – especially in vegetarian dishes, be it dry or stew like.  And I also use it as a finishing spice for almost any type of dish, barbecue, or even salad, as the flakes add a lot of warmth and smiling welcome to the table!


Ghooreh (sour grape) and its many modes

If you think all cooks and foodies in all cultures are looking forwards for grapes to ripe, think twice! We Iranians have many uses for ghooreh, “unripe, sour grape”, for the lack of a better translation, in our cuisine.

That’s right, next time you stroll through an Iranian grocery store in North America and come across ghooreh beware this is not a fruit to nibble at casually; the eye-watering and lip- sewing sour green grape is used in cooking, mainly as spice or seasoning whether it is in whole (fresh or frozen), pressed, dried and grounded, or processed and made into paste or torshi (a type of pickle). Here is a taste of the variety in forms and usages of ghooreh: Read the rest of this entry »