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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!

 

 

 

 

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Medley

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Medley

I love quinoa and use it often in my recipes. I like the health benefits of this gluten-free, high fiber content, magnesium and iron rich seed which also happens to be one of the most protein rich foods we can eat.  The Incas discovered the seed around 4 thousand years ago, which they believed increased the stamina of their warriors. In the last decade, Quinoa has grown in popularity and is considered a “super food!” Quinoa is not a grain. It’s actually a seed that is related to the spinach and beet families. And although I don’t believe it’s a cardinal sin to eat carbs (as seen in my reviews of these restaurants), I do enjoy the rice like feel of quinoa without the heavy feeling of carbohydrate-rich foods.

Quinoa is a great item to have in the pantry- it can be used as a side on its own or, mixed with veggies and proteins. Here is a personal favorite of mine, mixed with a kind of deconstructed ratatouille... enjoy!

 

The Evergreen Chimichurri Sauce

The Evergreen Chimichurri Sauce

I experienced my first real chimichuri sauce when visiting Argentina and Uruguay in 2009 and it was love at first taste! This fresh, clean, garlicy, slightly spicy green goodness that elevated the incredible steaks we ate in Buenos Aires and beyond.

Over the years, I’ve perfected my recipe and use in on more than just steaks. It’s excellent on chicken, fish and my personal favorite- cauliflower steaks! (recipe coming soon).

A fantastic condiment that is pretty easy to whip up. I usually make a batch and use it throughout the week.

 

Persian Stuffed Peppers (Dolmeh)

Persian Stuffed Peppers (Dolmeh)

The term “Dolmeh” can be traced back thousands of years in the form of various stuffed vegetables and was popular all over ranging from the Middle East, to Central Asia, and surrounding areas. The vegetables stuffed could include tomato, pepper, onion, zucchini, and eggplant.  Stuffed grape and cabbage leaves were also part of this tradition and can be traced back even further in culinary history. One explanation for etymology of the word dolmeh is from the Turkish verbal noun  dolmak,  which means “to be stuffed.” Makes sense.

In the Persian Empire, references of dolmeh are traced back to the 17th century and the courts of the Shah (king). According to Wikipedia, Alī-Akbar Khan Āšpaz-bāšī,  chef to the court of Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah, recorded dolmeh as a special category of Persian cuisine and gave recipes for stuffing grape leaves, cabbage leaves, cucumbers, eggplants, apples, and quinces.

My beloved late Grandmother made dolmeh combining green stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage leaves in a large pot. She used tomato sauce and the end result was delicious! This is a picture of the dolmeh she made for us when my mom and I visited her in 2009. Those beautiful hands made many lovely dishes for us on that trip. And they all had the common ingredient of love incorporated. Many of my cooking inspirations are connected to that trip. Since my family immigrated from Iran when I was a child, this was the only time I cooked with her as an adult and I cherished every moment.

It seems the popularity and timelessness of this dish, is due to it’s simplicity. Stuff any vegetable with other vegetables, herbs and/or meat and you have a rich dish that satiates any palette.

I made my version of dolmeh for Nowruz (the Persian New Year) and they were a hit! The only dish with no leftovers and that says a lot for any meal in an Iranian home where abundance is the key ingredient to any feast.

It is a relatively easy recipe and quite healthy. You can make it meat-less by eliminating the ground turkey or chicken for a vegetarian option, nothing will be lost. The fresh herbs add such great flavor and aroma! Serve it up as a main or side dish and enjoy!

 

 

Nowruz! The Beginning of Spring & The Persian New Year

Nowruz! The Beginning of Spring & The Persian New Year

My favorite time of year has arrived! The first day of Spring marks the Persian New year, celebrated for over 3,000 years. It translates to “new day” and represents a fresh new beginning. Scientifically called the vernal equinox, it occurs the exact moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and spring begins in the Northern hemisphere. The duration of the day and night are equal, on so begins a new cycle of life.

As a child growing up in Iran and for the last 27 years in my Iranian-American diaspora community, Nowruz not only evokes fresh beginnings, but it also connects me to  my family’s traditions and an ancient heritage left in the distant places where my ancestors once used to live out their hopes and aspirations.

The notion of hope and a fresh chapter in the story is life, is universal. Nowruz is celebrated by an estimated 190-250 million people around the world and has been kept alive through a series of beautiful and meaningful symbolic traditions. Growing up the scents of memories of Nowruz were distinct: smelling the hyacinth (sombol) wafting through the house, shopping at the market for greens and goldfish, spring cleaning, leaping over bonfires, buying new clothes, reading the poetry of the eternal Hafez of Shiraz and sharing festive meals with loved ones. These traditions are what make this holiday so special. We set a haftseen, a table filled with symbolic items to represent some of these traditions. We visit loved ones, exchange gifts and eat lots and lots of beautiful foods and sweets.  There is symbolism in the food as well. For example Persians traditionally eat “Sabzi Polo Mahi”- Basmati rice with fresh dill accompanied by fish.  The fresh herbs represent rebirth and fish represents life.  Some of the symbolism of the haftseen is mentined below. These are just to name a few. In the coming days I’ll be posting the various recipes of the delicious food we enjoy over this festive holiday.

For the moment here is the Basil and Roses menu and a sneak peek of the dishes we enjoy over this 13 day holiday.

Wishing you all a beautiful New Day and all the best new beginnings your hearts desire! Nowruz Mobarak!
نوروزتان پیروز ، هر روزتان نوروز !

Sabzeh/Sprouts- grass grown from wheat or lentils, representing rebirth

Seeb/Apple– representing health and beauty

Samanu– A sweet creamy pudding, representing humility

Senjed– sweet and dry fruit of the lotus tree, representing love

Serkeh/Vinager- representing age and patience

Seer/Garlic– representing medicine and good health

Somaq/Sumac– A spice representing sunrise and light overcoming darkness

 

 

 

Musical Inspiration

Leila Forouhar- Nowrooz

Green Garden Herb Basmati Rice Without a rice cooker

Green Garden Herb Basmati Rice Without a rice cooker

Thanks everyone for the feedback on this recipe! Many of you asked for instructions on how to make it without a rice cooker. We gave it a go and the results were equally wonderful- and we ended up with a bit of delicious tahdig (crunchy bottom) to boot!

The recipe utilizes the same ingredients as the rice cooker version. Here, I used a nonstick standard pot.  Instructions are below. Feel free to share your results and happy cooking!

 

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Tuscan Inspired Lemon-Rosemary Chicken with Cannellini Beans & Roasted Squash-Arugula Salad

Tuscan Inspired Lemon-Rosemary Chicken with Cannellini Beans & Roasted Squash-Arugula Salad

There’s something so fulfilling about roasted chicken and this sense of satisfaction is universal. The warm aromas that fill the kitchen while it cooks are comforting and feel like home. I love the different ways you can roast chicken with endless herbs and veggies- somehow lemon and rosemary end up on the rotation more often than others. There is something magical about how this combination marries with garlic and olive oil. You can develop deep flavors in this  simple recipe. The cannellini beans are creamy and filling and beautifully absorb the rosemary, garlic + lemon. The kitchen will smell divine too.

Once the salad is made, serve with chicken and a nice glass of white wine. If you’re inspired by the rustic Tuscan flavors, try a nice Vermentino. Tuscany is known mainly for it’s red wines but there are lovely whites as well from the coastal regions of Tuscany known as “La Costa Toscana!” Just the name is divine! (forgive me, I’m taking Italian lessons and I’m in love with the language). According to Zester Daily, “Vermentino should have an appealing sapidità, a difficult word to translate into English — “sapidity”. Essentially it should leave you wanting another taste, or indeed another glass.”                  No arm twisting required here…

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Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic Chicken with Cannellini Beans

 

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Roasted Squash-Arugula Salad

 

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Musical Inspiration:

Andrea Bocelli, Melodramma (Vivere Live in Tuscany)

 

Versatile Salmon, done 3 ways

Versatile Salmon, done 3 ways

Beyond being nutritious and tasty, salmon is also an incredibly versatile ingredient to work with. I only use wild caught salmon. Stay away from the farmed variety.  The diet the fish are fed are is bad for our bodies and pollute the water. They also have 1/10 of the omega-3 fatty acids which is one of the main reasons I like to have this nutritious protein in my diet.

Here I highlight a few simple but elegant ways to prepare this wonderful protein:

Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche Canapes with Fresh Dill

Sesame Crusted Salmon Fillet

Cold Salmon  Salad

I love to entertain often, but don’t always have time to prepare extravagant menus. The smoked salmon canapes with creme fraiche are easy to make yet quite elegant. Simply place small pieces of smoked salmon on a thin cracker of your choice or pumpernickel cocktail bread. Top with a dollop of creme fraiche and sprig of fresh dill and voila! These are a hit every time.

Smoked Salmon & Creme Fraiche Canapes with Fresh Dill

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Sesame Crusted Baked Salmon

This recipe is great for dinner any night of the week or on a large salmon fillet for entertaining.

 

 

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Cold Salmon Salad or Sandwich

What’s better than a fabulous dinner? A new fabulous lunch with the leftover.

I love cold salmon sandwiches or salmon topped on a bright and colorful salad.

You can choose any veggies you like in your salad.

Here I  mixed arugula and spinach with chopped tomatoes, raw cauliflower, red beats and chopped onion.

Toss with lemon juice + good olive oil, then top with leftover salmon.

An important final step: delight in a healthy, colorful, nutritious  and fabulous salad while you reflect on the beautiful food you’ve made and the people you’ve shared them with…

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