Mirza Ghasemi, (Persian Smoked eggplants casserole)

Mirza Ghasemi is a vegetarian dish from Gilan in Northern Iran, yet quite popular through the country and beyond, especially as a tasty side dish.  Made traditional way, the recipe contains only four ingredients (eggplants, tomatoes, eggs, and garlic).  The real trick however in making a remarkably authentic Mirza ghasemi is to making this casserole-like dish taste and smell, partially or totally smoky! And that has to do with how you cook your vegetables.  So, let’s get started!

Ingredients (serves 4)

Eggplants, 4-5, small. Tomatoes, 4 large. Garlic cloves, 5 (use more if you like garlic or less if you don’t). Eggs, 4. Oil, 3 tbs. Salt and pepper to taste.


Method:
Grill pierced eggplants and whole tomatoes on a barbecue grill – ideally on charcoal, till skin is burned and inside is well cooked. Obviously eggplants require more cooking time. Cut off the two ends of garlic cloves and place them on the barbecue grill with the skin on and grill them for a few minutes as well. Remove your vegetables, as they are sufficiently cooked and set aside to cool.  Note that it is customary to grill and “smoke” the eggplants, but I have figured smoking tomatoes add to the delicious taste of Mirza ghasemi. My friend has discovered and kindly tipped me preparing garlic the way I just mentioned is magical! It truly is, you just have to be careful not to burn it. And while you are at it, make lots of smoked garlic and use them in your jar of olive oil along with fresh herbs and red chili pepper.

Using a cutting board, remove the eggplants’ skin and cut the eggplants in tiny pieces, sprinkling salt all over. Set aside. Do the same with the tomatoes. Skin the smoked garlic, and smash it. In a skillet sauté the smashed garlic in hot oil for a couple of minute over medium heat.

Add eggplants and sauté for ten minutes or until light brown. Add chopped tomatoes, and stir another 3-4 minutes. Taste for adjustment. Then cover the lid, reduce the heat and let it cook for 15-20 minutes.

At the last stage, remove the lid, break the eggs, immediately maximize the heat, stir thoroughly. You could add black powder pepper if you like.

Mirza ghasemi is traditionally eaten with plain rice, kateh style.


Rigatoni & Broccoli

I had an Italian friend who cooked me this delicious side dish once while she was staying with me in Montreal. I don’t usually make my guests cook for me but she insisted!

Ingredients (serving four):  Broccoli, 1 crown. Rigatoni pasta, one pack (about 4 cups, or half a kilo) Garlic, 4 cloves, finely chopped.  Olive oil, 3 tbsp. Salt and water. Parmesan cheese, 2 tbsp., grated (optional).

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Jeweled yogurt mix

 

A few years ago, sometime in June-July, I was hosting my oldest buddy girlfriend for a month, seeing her after some ten years!  That was the happiest reunion ever as we both felt we still had SO much in common! Catching up with each other’s lives, plus doing stuff together (from gardening to shopping, to driving around) would not leave us too much time to cook elaborate foods every single day, although we did constantly feel hungry and eat! This nutritious, delicious yogurt-based cold soup was my friend’s solution (and ‘invention’, mind you) for the evenings that we felt too worn out to cook and too creative and energetic to go with a canned, delivered or fast food –  a quick and refreshing fix indeed!

Ingredients (for 2):  Plain yogurt (2% fat) 400 grams. Flat water, half a cup or about 150 ml. Cucumbers, 2 medium, peeled and grated. Onion (optional), ½ small, peeled and grated. Dried seedless raisin, rinsed, 3 tbsp. Dried walnuts, rinsed and chopped, 3 tbsp.  (always good to soak walnuts, change water a few times before using them for this or any other recipe). Powdered dried mint, ½ tbsp. Fresh tarragon (or if you don’t have access to it, any scented herb of your choice), washed and coarsely chopped, a fistful. A few fresh mint and basil leaves. Dried rose flower, a pinch. Salt and black pepper, to taste.  For variations you would need: one large Pitta bread, cut in small pieces and mildly toasted. A few ice cubes.   Read the rest of this entry »


Shrimp-mixed rice (maygoo polow)

What can I say? I have already posted three different dishes with shrimp (ghalyeh, shrimp-onion dish, and shrimp fettuccine). This is indicative of something, isn’t it!?

And count this mixed rice as two because I have included two different methods of preparing it thanks to my friend Koroush.

 Ingredients (for 2-3):

  • Defrosted or fresh half-cooked shrimp, 450 gr. ( I recommend “Marbel”).
  • Onion, 2 small to medium, thinly sliced.
  • Dried seedless raisin, rinsed, ½ cup.
  • Dried walnuts, rinsed and chopped, ½ cup. (If you have time, it is a good idea to soak walnuts, change the water a few times before using them for this or any other recipe)
  • Olive oil: 4 tbsp.
  • Turmeric, 1 tea spoon.
  • Saffron, ground, 1/2 teaspoon (soaked in 1 tbsp. of warm water for an hour).
  • Salt and pepper as needed.
  • And of course rice: 2 or 3 cups, depending how rich you want the mix to be. What you see in this picture is made with 2 cups of rice.

Method: remove the entire shelf and devein the shrimp. Wash and drain, then cut them all in half or smaller. In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp. oil and fry onions over medium heat till translucent.  Add shrimp, turmeric, salt and pepper and fry for about five minutes over high heat. Once the shrimp is slightly golden, turn the heat back to medium and add walnuts, raisins and diluted saffron. Continue stirring and frying for another 1-2 minutes, but not longer. Set aside.

Prepare the rice in usual way (soaked in salted water, drained, boiled in lots of water, drained, and steamed cooked for at least one hour). Just before mounting the rice back into the pot (after you have poured some oil in the bottom of the pot, warmed it up,  and put sliced potatoes, flat bread or rice at the bottom to make your “tah dig”), mix the rice with the contents of your frying pan. As is always the case with any type of Iranian style plain or mixed rice, you cover the lead and turn the heat to minimum till you get enough steam accumulated inside the pot. That’s when you wrap the lid in a clean cloth and let it steam cook for at least an hour. You could also transfer rice and the frying pan’s contents into the pot in layers: one layer of drained, plain rice and one layer of shrimp mix, and repeat till the end.  If you choose to transfer them back to the pot in layers, you would need to mix the two more thoroughly once the dish is ready to be served.

Variation:  You can skip dried raisins, walnuts and saffron, and use potato, and dried lime powder instead. This latter version is the one I learned from my parents who were brought up in Iran’s Southern cities of Bushehr and Shiraz. This Method is not that different from the first one, but the taste certainly is: more seafood like, if you will. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • Shrimp, onion, turmeric, oil, salt and pepper the same as above.
  • Plus: Potatoes, 1 medium, peeled, rinsed, patted dry and cut in small cubes.
  • Dried lime powder, 1 tbsp.

Method:  In a frying pan, heat half your oil and fry cubed potatoes until slightly golden.  Transfer them into a bowl.  Use the same pan and heat the rest of your oil.  Add shrimp, turmeric and fry on high heat for a few minutes until shrimps change colour.  Stir constantly. Add fried potatoes, dried lime powder, salt and pepper and fry for 5-6 minutes on medium heat until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed.   This is your shrimp mix. Follow the exact same rest of the instruction given above.

 


Fennel/noodle soup

There is this Vietnamese restaurant in or neighbourhood called “Chez Lien”. It offers a great variety of seafood, chicken, meat, vegetarian dishes, and the service is fast and hassle free.  Then it has this heavenly tasting and smelling soup they call “home-made soup”.  I love it so much that in certain cold, tired evenings I actually dream about having a nice, hot bowl brought to my door.

Well, a more practical way of course is making it at my own kitchen.  And believe me, I have tried this soup enough at Chez Lien to be able to produce a certified copy!  If you like thin tasty and extremely fast and easy soup, try this:

Ingredients:

  • Chicken broth (homemade), 3 cups.
  • Instant noodle, 1 bag (less than 100 gr.),
  • Portabella mushroom, 2, diced.  Small fennel bulb, 1.
  • Scallions, 2, thinly cut crosswise.
  • Salt, powdered black pepper to taste (I like it spicy hot).
  • Lime juice, ½ tbsp.

Method: For chicken broth, in case you don’t already have it in your freezer J (well, in this case, it takes you more time and more ingredients you know!)  In a medium size pot place half a skinless chicken, add one small onion, a pinch of salt and cover with 4 cups of water.  Cook for half an hour. Take the chicken out and keep it for salad or sandwiches.  Throw out the onion and pass the broth through fine meshed colander. This is the base of your soup.

Preparing fennel: Cut the stalks and fronds off the bulb. Sit the bulb on its flat bottom and cut it in half. Cut off the little hard part out of the center of the fennel in each half. Then set the fennel halves cut side down and slice each half cross wise into thick slices.

The soup: In a medium saucepan, pour broth add fennel slice, add a pinch of salt and black pepper and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the fennel is soft but not mushy. Add instant noodle and cover the lid and cook another 5 minutes or so (until the noodle is ready).  Two minutes before serving the soup add lime juice and sliced mushroom.  When serving, make sure you have a bit of everything in each person’s little soup bowl.  Sprinkle some sliced scallion for extra savory effects!


Celery stew with saffron

This past winter (hopefully passed!) I had my sister in law over for a week or so. One day she volunteered to make celery stew for lunch while my husband and I had a long rough day out.  I happily approved and we came home to a dizzying fragrance of steamed rice and perfectly settled hot stew with remotely detectable sent of fresh herbs and saffron.

At first I thought the thrill I felt upon sensing this welcoming food had to do with not having to cook when you are hungry, but rather coming to a homey and ready to be served meal. But when we started the meal I discovered that her method for making this particular stew was completely different than mine) which I have already shared here), and I must admit far too superior to it – to my taste anyway.   The proof to this last claim is that I followed her recipe and came up with the exact same delight.

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Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged Kale Salad, a nutritious magical and delicious salad with many verity of recipes. Here is the one I prefer over the others.

Ingredients: (for a small bowl like the one shown in the picture) half a bunch of Kale, or about 6-7 leaves, washed, drained, and torn into small sized pieces. Yellow mango, 1 medium to large, skinned and diced. Sunflower seeds, 2 tbsp. Olive oil, 1 tbsp. Honey, 1 tbsp. Lime juice, 1 tbsp. Salt 1 tea spoon. Read the rest of this entry »