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Author: nmalekan@gmail.com

The Perfect Burger Recipe

The Perfect Burger Recipe

Every year my family hosts a big Memorial Day BBQ for our friends and family. On the menu are burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, veggies and lots of side salads and condiments. Over the years, I’ve learned to perfect what my friends call “The Naz Burger”.” It’s simple and delicious, and based on the feedback I’ve received on the 700+ burgers (that’s not a typo) I’ve made over the last decade, I think you’ll like them too!

You too can make a  great burger if you cover these basics:
-Good quality meat (I use beef)
-Minimal seasoning
-Properly made patties
-Not messing with the burgers too much
-Right cooking time
-Fun condiments (pickling recipes coming soon!)

 

The Fire Of Our Lives

The Fire Of Our Lives

There is something uniquely special about the appeal of fire, we love being around the warmth and glow it creates. There is something that draws us towards the bonfire and the hearth. I believe our memories- conscious or subconscious, personal or collective are a part of that draw. Most of us have treasured memories of people who have cooked for us- Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents, friends… We cherish these memories because they are a special reminder of the love and generosity we’ve received in our lifetime. We gather around the fire, and the hearth and our tables to pay homage to that gift. To quote Michael Pollan, “a good pot holds memories.

 

Most cultures have some form of grilling tradition which usually result in groups of people in the family or community gathering around a fire and sharing a meal together. Kebabs in the Middle East, Asado in Argentina, Tandoor in India, Churrasco in Brazil, Luau in Hawaii, Sausage Sizzle in Australia,  Gogigui in Korea, Hibachi in Japan, Chuanr and Char Siu in China, Sataay in Southeast Asia, Lechon in the Philippines, Braii in South Africa (for which there is a national day and anthem, which I learned about from Bon Appetite). And of course there is the classic American Backyard BBQ which many of us enjoyed this past Memorial Day Weekend.

 

Each of these traditions have their own unique style and flavor, but the common denominator is the communal aspect of the tradition. The lyrics in South Africa’s Braii anthem go “We stand united at the bonfire. We raise our glasses to the clear, blue sky, tell me your story and I’ll tell you mine.” Gathering around the grill is universal. When we don’t have an actual fire, we gather in our kitchens. Near the hearth, near the source of the fire, around those whom provide for us sustenance and satisfaction. One of my personal highlights of the year is that moment when I bring the turkey out of the oven on Thanksgiving day. Surrounded by friends and family who applaud and cheer as if I just invented bread! I love that moment and appreciate their gratitude. Everyone wants to take a picture with me and the turkey- which incidentally works out nicely, it gives our bird the right amount of time to rest.

As an avid cook, I may be biased on the importance of cooking and how it elevates our experience. Beyond my personal passion, there is an important evolutionary aspect of cooking that may be represented in the fires we gather around.

Cooking is what separates us from our evolutionary cousins, what made us civilized creatures. Learning to cook elevated humans from lone animal to more intelligent beings. Some neurologist believe the reason humans have bigger brains than gorillas is because we learned to cook. By using fire to cook our food, we spent less time foraging and less time chewing our food. This allowed us to get more energy out of our food, allowing our brains to grow. Although the human brain is 2% of our body mass, approximately 20% of what we consume fuels brain activity. The more calories we consumed, the more our brains grew.  With more time spent around the fire, we spend more time together and learned from one another.  This topic is artfully covered by the fantastic Michael Pollan in his book Cookednow a stunning docu-series on Netflix. A visually captivating, poignant and educational series.

“The discovery of fire and its use with cooking completely change our evolutionary curve, enabling us to shrink our guts and grow our brains…The cook fire tamed us and socialized us by giving us the institution of the meal.” -Michael Pollan

This history of us is fascinating. Cooking plays a role in how we came to be creatures which have the capacity to enjoy life. A transformation occurred when we stopped cooking for survival, and started cooking for pleasure. So raise a glass to friends and loved ones who cook for you and who’s kitchens you’ve gathered around. Not only are they the source of many of our best experiences, it may also be that without them we would be a lot less intelligent!

I love to grill and summer BBQ’s are a wonderful way to gather around the fire for “old times” sake.

This week I’ll share my favorite grilling recipes with you. From the now (somewhat) famous
“Naz Burger”, to fun marinades for grilled chicken and fresh summer veggie recipes.

Happy Summer, my fellow humans!

Exquisite Hard-boiled Eggs

Exquisite Hard-boiled Eggs

I love eggs. It is one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen and I’ve enjoyed learning different ways of working with it. From a humble omelette to a sumptuous souffle, the options of what you can make with eggs are infinite. For those of us who are not vegan, eggs are an excellent wellspring of nutrition in a single source- eggs provide proteins, antioxidants, fatty acids, amino acids, and vitamins and minerals.

Omelettes are great on weekends, like this Scallion and Mushroom Turmeric Omelette we love.                  On weekdays the classic hard boiled egg is my go to for either topping a salad for lunch or an express breakfast on busier days.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “There is always a best way of doing everything, if it be to boil an egg.” I 100% agree with that statement. Here I share with you what I consider the best way to make hard-boiled eggs. It will be one the simplest and most satisfying dishes you make. And since here at Basil and Roses we love flowers so much, we present our eggs shaped like one! It’s just beautiful and we think it will put a smile on your face.


Something salty compliments eggs well. Feta cheese is a great choice.
Here I served the eggs with a typical Persian breakfast of Feta, Tomato, herbs and pita (noon o  paneer o sabzi!)

Tequila-Lime Baked Fish Tacos

Tequila-Lime Baked Fish Tacos

Fish tacos, how we love them so… truly one of my favorite things to eat. I enjoy indulging in crispy fried versions once in a while, but in general prefer a healthier baked or grilled version. With the immense flavor of this tequila-lime recipe nothing will be lost, promise! There is just something so gratifying about a good fish taco. All you need is a nice flaky fish, a zesty salsa with a kick, guacamole, a crunchy slaw and of course a nice amount of citrus and spice and everything nice!

My family loved this recipe and I hope you enjoy it too. With summer just beginning, this is the perfect dish to make for warm afternoons in the backyard served with a refreshing margarita!

¡Buen apetito!

Vibrant and Colorful Mango Salsa

Vibrant and Colorful Mango Salsa

This colorful salsa is fun to make, fun to eat and a feast on the eyes! The gorgeous colors make the table festive and the sweet and sour flavors are explosive! Great on fish tacos or as a dip.

 

 

 

 

 

Nani’s Guacamole

Nani’s Guacamole

I think avocado is the most magnificent fruits in the world! It is rich, creamy, earthy, nutty, and savory. Avocados also have great health benefits. The list is long but to name a few they are high in potassium, good fats and they are one of the few high protein fruits. I love it’s creamy texture and use it as a substitute for butter or oils often. And of course, nowhere is the beautiful avocado highlighted more than in a classic guacamole! I don’t use garlic or tomato’s in my recipe, but feel free to add them if it makes you happy…

P.S. This recipe also works really well for avocado toast. It’s excellent on toasted sourdough bread with a couple of slices of tomato and a pinch of sea salt. Yum!

 

 

 

Pico De Gallo Salsa Fresco

Pico De Gallo Salsa Fresco

Forget store-bought salsa and with a few simple steps make your own tasty Salsa Fresca!
In Spanish, pico de gallo literally means the “beek of the rooster.” An internet search led me to several colorful explanations for the etymology of the term, but mostly urban legends and no definitive answer. According to Wikipedia “in Mexico it is sometimes called salsa mexicana (Mexican sauce). Because the colors of the red tomato, white onion, green chili are reminiscent of the colors of the Mexican flag, it is also sometimes called salsa bandera (flag sauce).” So there you go.

Now, let’s make some yummy flag sauce! This is a party favorite to be enjoyed as a dip with chips, and it ends up being great on tacos, nachos, burritos, grilled chicken… and so on.

Azi’s Red Cabbage Slaw with Honey-Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

Azi’s Red Cabbage Slaw with Honey-Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

This was the first time I made this and it ended up being great. I love using red cabbage for it’s beautiful color, slightly bitter and peppery flavor and many health benefit- Vitamin C, A, K and dietary fiber to name a few. It adds a nice crunch to the otherwise soft textured fish taco and marinated in a honey-lime-cumin vinaigrette it became a great addition to our fiesta!

In case you’re wondering, it’s called “Azi’s Slaw” because my beautiful sister Azadeh was a big help in the recipe testing of this dish. She has always been a dream sous chef, putting up with my colorful antics in the kitchen… Thanks, Sis!

 

 

Fresh Lime Margaritas

Fresh Lime Margaritas

Who doesn’t love a citrusy fresh margarita! A natural addition to our Mexican themed celebration but also a fun drink to make all summer long for those hot weekend afternoons to enjoy with chips and dip and friends.

Skip the high sugar content margarita mixes and make this fresh version at home. You can either use agave nectar, honey or make a simple syrup in minutes. I usually use agave nectar, but since this was a celebration we indulged a bit by using sugar. No biggie, everything in moderation! Just combine 1/2 cup sugar in 1 cup water in a saucepan and cook on medium heat until sugar dissolves. It only takes a few minutes.

¡Salud!

 

 

Mama’s Mexican Fiesta

Mama’s Mexican Fiesta

My beautiful Mother Edna is one of my greatest inspirations- in life and in the kitchen. In life she is and always has been an incandescent source of light + love and my rock. In the kitchen, she is a creative genius. Cooking with my Mother has always been a pure source of joy for me and I have learned much from her over the years. She makes amazing dishes and somehow manages to always keep it healthy yet interesting. She is the master of creating Persian dishes, but balances that with new and modern recipes. There is never a dull moment in Edna’s Kitchen and thanks to her, many lovely meals have been enjoyed in our family Home.

Much like in Italian culture, in a Persian family you show people how much you love them with food. Combine that with the generous magnanimity of the graciousness of Persian hospitality and every gathering becomes magical. I grew up in a home in which my parents embraced that sentiment along with a deep passion to make the people we love happy by bringing them together and hosting beautiful meals. The pots and pans in that kitchen are exhausted! I can’t tell you how much work and effort they’ve been a part of over the years. I love these pots… so many meals, so many trips to the market, so many onions peeled, so many glasses of wine filled… so many memories, so much hard work and ultimately, so much love.

One of many cabinets filled with heavy duty pots and pans. More than kitchen utensils, they have been the vessels through which Mom’s beautiful cooking has messenger-ed her love for gatherings, people, family and friendship.

 

Given her exceptional skills in the department, our Mom (whom we adoringly call Duda) is usually cooking for us. On rare special occasions, I get to cook for her. This past Mother’s day was one of those special days. And in true Duda character of originality and unpredictability- she asked for Fish Tacos! When Mama asks for a Mexican Fiesta, she gets the best Fiesta! In this post I share with you the fun menu we enjoyed. It’s not an easy task, but Duda was pleased. Not only with the fish tacos, but also with sharing another delightful meal with her family, in her kitchen of pots, memories and laughter.

Tequila-Lime Baked Fish Tacos

Fish tacos, how we love them so… truly one of my favorite things to eat. I enjoy indulging in crispy fried versions once in a while, but in general prefer a healthier baked or grilled version. With the immense flavor of this tequila-lime recipe nothing will be lost, promise! There is just something so gratifying about a good fish taco. All you need is a white flaky fish, a zesty salsa with a kick, guacamole, a crunchy slaw and of course a nice amount of citrus and spice and everything nice!

My family loved this recipe and I hope you enjoy it too. With summer just beginning, this is the perfect dish to make for warm afternoons in the backyard served with a refreshing margarita!

¡Buen apetito!

 

 

 

Vibrant and Colorful Mango Salsa

This colorful salsa is fun to make, fun to eat and a feast on the eyes! The gorgeous colors make the table festive and the sweet and sour flavors are explosive! Great on fish tacos or as a dip.

 

Nani’s Guacamole

I think avocado is the most magnificent fruits in the world! It is rich, creamy, earthy, nutty, and savory. Avocados also have great health benefits. The list is long but to name a few they are high in potassium, good fats and they are one of the few high protein fruits. I love it’s creamy texture and use it as a substitute for butter or oils often. And of course, nowhere is the beautiful avocado highlighted more than in a classic guacamole! I don’t use garlic or tomato’s in my recipe, but feel free to add them if it makes you happy…

P.S. This recipe also works really well for avocado toast. It’s excellent on toasted sourdough bread with a couple of slices of tomato and a pinch of sea salt. Yum!

 

 

Pico De Gallo

Salsa Fresco

Forget store-bought salsa and with a few simple steps make your own tasty Salsa Fresca!
In Spanish, pico de gallo literally means the “beek of the rooster.” An internet search led me to several colorful explanations for the etymology of the term, but mostly urban legends and no definitive answer. According to Wikipedia “in Mexico it is sometimes called salsa mexicana (Mexican sauce). Because the colors of the red tomato, white onion, green chili are reminiscent of the colors of the Mexican flag, it is also sometimes called salsa bandera (flag sauce).” So there you go.

Now, let’s make some yummy flag sauce! This is a party favorite to be enjoyed as a dip with chips, and it ends up being great on tacos, nachos, burritos, grilled chicken… and so on.

 

Azi’s Red Cabbage Slaw
Honey-Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette

This was the first time I made this and it ended up being great. I love using red cabbage for it’s beautiful color, slightly bitter and peppery flavor and many health benefit- Vitamin C, A, K and dietary fiber to name a few. It adds a nice crunch to the otherwise soft textured fish taco and marinated in a honey-lime-cumin vinaigrette it became a great addition to our fiesta!

In case you’re wondering, it’s called “Azi’s Slaw” because my beautiful sister Azadeh was a big help in the recipe testing of this dish. She has always been a dream sous chef, putting up with my colorful antics in the kitchen… Thanks, Sis!

 

 

Fresh Lime Margaritas

Who doesn’t love a citrusy fresh margarita! A natural addition to our Mexican themed celebration but also a fun drink to make all summer long for those hot weekend afternoons to enjoy with chips and dip and friends.

Skip the high sugar content margarita mixes and make this fresh version at home. You can either use agave nectar, honey or make a simple syrup in minutes. I usually use agave nectar, but since this was a celebration we indulged a bit by using sugar. No biggie, everything in moderation! Just combine 1/2 cup sugar in 1 cup water in a saucepan and cook on medium heat until sugar dissolves. It only takes a few minutes.

¡Salud!

 

 

Master sous chef Azi and I toasting to a successful meal!