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Gather

Gather

Hanukkah, Christmas, Festiuvs, Yaldaa or surviving 2017: No matter what we  just celebrated, we sent off last year with a bang and welcomed 2018.

New beginnings are a good time to press the wellness reset button, but healthy living can be a year-long lifestyle and need not be limited to new year resolutions. As we begin the year, I remind myself to set achievable goals, eat nutritious but delicious food, learn as much as possible, be kind to myself and others, let old wounds heal, practice gratitude, and make life as colorful as possible.

Last year was certainly colorful. 2017 tested me. But as I reflect on the last twelve months, I realize the positives outweighed the challenges and there was much to be grateful for. Mostly, the incredible people I have in my life and the extraordinary experiences we shared. Not surprisingly, many of those occurred around the table as we broke bread together, told our stories, laughed at our fortunes, waxed poetic about the future and perhaps even learned a bit about ourselves along the way. “Without the sense of fellowship with men of like mind,” Einstein wrote, “life would have seemed to me empty.” Indeed.

I have written about gathering around the fire. Today, on a cold snowy day in NYC, I sip hot chai and reflect on the warm memories of last year. I smile remembering the gorgeous tables we gathered around, the delightful food we ate, and the marvelous people who’s company I had the pleasure to keep. Michael Polan says “the shared meal is no small thing. It is a foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending.” It is also a place where our fondest memories live. Where we receive the gift of love by those who prepared those meals for us. It is where we are reminded of the power of coming together.

My memories of this gift begin in Naz year zero. My parents have always been extraordinary and generous hosts. Bringing people together and creating countless memories is an art form they have mastered a thousand times over. The loving energy created around their tables, is my eternal source of inspiration. I wrote more about that here.

In the meantime, I want to point out the only difference between the first two photos in this post are 37 years and geography. Otherwise, in both photos you see my beautiful Mother at the head of the table of her loving home, and me really excited about what we’re about to eat! Just a bit of role reversal in who’s serving whom.

Happy new year from Basil and Roses! Below are a few of our favorite “gatherings” of 2017 and the recipes they inspired.

Wishing you a colorful and meaning year!

Naz

“Not what we have But what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.” Epicurus

Pretty Pickled Onions

Roasted Cauliflower with The Evergreen Chimichurri Sauce

Beer & Basil Braised Brisket

Nani’s Classic Tomato, Onion & Feta Omelette (recipe coming in 2018)

Mama’s Mexican Fiesta (Fish Taco, Guacamole, Mango Salsa, Cabbage Slaw, Pico, Fresh Margaritas)

Tuscan Inspired Lemon-Rosemary Chicken with Cannelini Beans

Persian Stuffed Peppers

Shirazi Salad (or Israeli Salad or Mediterranean chopped salad)

Sesame Crusted Baked Salmon

Cindy’s Fabulous Holiday Rib Roast (Recipe coming in 2018!)

Green Goddess Basmati Rice with Basil, Mint, Chive and an Unexpected Trip Home

Smoked Salmon & Creme Fraiche Canapes with Fresh Dill

Chickpea & Cauliflower Coconut Curry

 

Other Top 2017 Recipes to try:

Nani’s Healthy But Decadent Butternut Squash Soup

Spicy Thai Basil Beef

Citrusy Chicken Skewers with Mint-Basil Sauce

Panko-Crusted Dijon Cod

The Best Steak Of Your Life

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Medly

Mint & Cannelini Bean Tuna Salad

Roasted Cauliflower with Tangy Tahini Sauce

Baklava

Nani’s Decadent But Healthy Butternut Squash Soup

Nani’s Decadent But Healthy Butternut Squash Soup

Pumpkins are in season now and there is no fall flavor I like more than butternut squash. In Farsi they are called lazy pumpkin (kadoo tanbal), which I think is hilarious. Butternut is the perfect name for this tender, sweet and nutty flavor. I simply roast it in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it and it’s divine! With this recipe, I take the indulgence one step further to make a rich and savory soup.

The key to the amazing flavor is roasting the squash with garlic, onion and a red bell pepper, then blending all together for a smooth and creamy texture. The result is a complex, rich and silky soup with substance. I made it for Thanksgiving last year and it was a huge hit. It is naturally back on the menu again this year. Try it for your Thanksgiving celebration or all winter long- I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Note- I serve the soup with homemade crostini and a garnish of fresh thyme.
For the corstini, simply sprinkle the bread of your choice with salt, pepper and dried oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

Recipes serves around 6-8 people, double or triple ingredients for a crowd pleaser- I sure will be this upcoming holiday.

The first harvest of butternut squash in Malekan Gardens!
Chickpea & Cauliflower Coconut Curry

Chickpea & Cauliflower Coconut Curry

My latest curry craving almost had me ordering take out, but why do that when you can make fabulous vegetable curry in a snap at home? It is a great go-to dish when you want to impress someone, feed a crowd or just craving curry goodness.

Warning, this is a crazy addictive coconut curry! You can substitute vegetables and  proteins to your liking, but this combo is literally awesome sauce.

What is the magic ingredient? Store-bought curry paste. Most varieties have ingredients which you can only find at Asian Markets. Since most of us don’t have lemongrass, kaffir lime, and galangal laying around, this is a great way to achieve authentic flavors.

This recipe is healthy with the added indulgence of a creamy coconut sauce. The miracle of this decadence is that it is vegan and dairy free, despite its richness. It is one of my absolute favorite dishes to eat and just one of those perfect recipes that satisfies many a taste buds and preferences. 

It keeps well, so make a pot of it and you’ll have fabulous leftovers for a couple of lunches during the week.

 

 

Pretty Pickled Onions

Pretty Pickled Onions

I experimented with quick pickling last memorial day and they were a hit!

Back in May, I made them as a condiment for the Ultimate Naz Burger. Since then, they’ve become a family staple. We use them on everything for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They work with countless dishes. They can be a nice addition to simple eggs, add a bright zing to any salad or sandwich, and their tangy goodness offers a balanced compliment to anything rich or sweet (i.e. roasted butternut squash or a creamy soup).

Besides, it takes about 10 minutes to make and the beautiful crimson jewel-toned color is gorgeous!

Full instructions are below, but you basically slice the onions and submerge in a bath of vinegar, sugar and salt. After some experimentation, I’ve come up with the perfect ratio of those elements. You don’t want the end result to be too sour, sweet or salty.

After you put everything together, refrigerate for 3-4 hours. But honestly, it starts tasting pretty darn good in about an hour. You can add aromatics like garlic, thyme and peppercorns if that tickles your fancy. But this simple 4 ingredient version will be hit without the extras.

 

 

Like the recipe? Feel free to share with us your rendition on our Basil and Roses Facebook page or @basilandroses on Instagram using the hashtag #PrettyPickledOnions 

Enjoy ya’all!

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

They say “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” 365 days ago, I took my first step and became a food blogger. It is hard to believe I am writing about the one year anniversary of Basil & Roses!  And  what an incredible year it has been. First and foremost, thank you to all the beautiful people whom have supported me. Without your love and enthusiasmthis journey would not have been the same.

As I reflect on the last year, I’m inspired by the meals I’ve shared with loved ones and humbled by the lessons I learned along the way. To be honest, I dragged my feet launching this site. I had experience cooking, but had never built a website, nor fully understood what a web hosting service was. Despite working endlessly on content, the perfectionist within me kept hesitating. I couldn’t fathom a launch unless the website was the best you had ever seen– an unreasonable expectation. And, a mistake.

Luckily I’m surrounded with wise friends and a life Sherpa who provide endless encouragement. So, I set a final deadline and just did it. I launched, with imperfections and all. It was better to roll the dice and move forward, instead of procrastinating and finding excuses to not take a risk. That was one of my biggest lessons. Don’t wait for the conditions to be perfect to begin anything. It is the act of beginning that actually makes it all perfect.

George Bernard Shaw says “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Basil and Roses is my platform of creation. It is through sharing my culinary journey with you that I have been able to grow, evolve and learn.

“Although this is only the beginning, and self-growth is a continuous, arduous process, for the first time in a long time I can say that I feel happy. Throughout my journey, I’ve learned that happiness is a kind of courage. Rumi says, “Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” Basil and Roses is my homage to cultivating that love.”

That is how I introduced myself to you one year ago. Those words mean as much today as they did then.

So join me and take a risk! Take many risks. Follow your passions, do everything you love. Throw fear out the door. Fall in love with basil. Dance without a care. Embrace what makes you smile and welcome new beginnings.

Or as Rumi tells us:

“Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.”

With love,
~ Notorious Naz

Attempting to conquer my fear of heights, Cadillac Mountain Acadia National Park Maine

 

And by the way,

In honor of a year of delicious meals, celebrations, and gatherings –  I’ll be sharing with you my favorite entertaining recipes. Whether hosting an intimate gathering or a large soiree, these dishes are excellent for any celebration in the true Basil & Roses spirit of Breaking Bread Together In Style!

We’ll start with my Spicy Thai Basil Beef. A simple stir fry served with fluffy rice. Make if for a cozy dinner for 4, or double/triple the recipe for a bigger dinner party with friends!

Nani’s Vitamin Soup

Nani’s Vitamin Soup

Fall has begun in New York and soup season is here! I love soup. It can be comforting, delicious and nutritious. And like many other popular dishes that exist in multiple cultures, soup has several origin stories. Among the most popular is the suggestion the word “soup” can be traced back to the sixth-century Latin word “suppa,” meaning a piece of bread eaten in broth. We’ll go with that.

There are endless creative ingredient combinations for a delicious soup. Here I share with you a recipe I made for my family last week when we all came down with a pesky cold. I call it Vitamin Soup! It’s rich tapestry of vegetables, herbs and spices is guaranteed to boost the immune system while providing a delicious and satisfying meal.

I strongly believe this is how we should take our vitamins. In my opinion, the health and wellness section of the supermarket is the produce section. The name vitamin soup is a fun play on words and it doesn’t just need to be limited to when we’re sick. A balanced and vegetable-rich diet complimented with healthy fats, savory spices and fresh herbs not only does a body good- but it is the best way to enjoy the fruit of the earth and maintain a healthy body, mind and spirit.

This is also a good way to use leftovers in the fridge. For example, I had a bit of rice and quinoa leftover that I just threw in there.

Customize with your favorite veggies + herbs and enjoy!

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Tangy Tahini Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower with Tangy Tahini Sauce

Cauliflower is a wonderful ingredient to cook with. This cruciferous vegetable has a mildly earthy and nutty flavor. It’s easy to cook, a nice source of vitamin C and quiet filling as vegetables go.

I try to incorporate vegetables in most meals, but once a week I like to highlight them in my Meatless Mondays. It is a simple way to not only diversify the week’s meals, but also experiment with whatever seasonal vegetables tickle your fancy at the moment.

The are many ways to cook with cauliflower. Simply roasting with olive oil, salt + pepper will result in a nice gold brown texture which enhances the nutty flavors. Combined with the sweetness from the caramelized onions and the tangy tahini sauce- you have yourself a flavor explosion made from a few simple ingredients.

 

Check out this page  for the Tangy Tahini Sauce Recipe.

Panko-Crusted Dijon Cod & Fragrant Mediterranean Salad

Panko-Crusted Dijon Cod & Fragrant Mediterranean Salad

Over the years I’ve enjoyed many delightful meals with my friend, Anjali. We both like beautiful and healthy food but never compromise flavor! So we teamed up for our next video to cook a delicious menu of panko crusted Dijon Cod fish and a fragrant Mediterranean salad with fresh herbs.

The fish is light and flaky with a tang of Dijon and cooks in a snap. The cucumber-tomato-feta salad is savory, fragrant and colorful.  Pair that with a chilled  Rose and fantastic company and you got yourself a fabulous meal!

 

Make The Best Steak Of Your Life!

Make The Best Steak Of Your Life!

Hi Friends,

I’m excited to introduce the first video of our Basil and Roses YouTube Channel!

I team up with my cousin Kam to make the best steak of your life. Impressive doesn’t have to mean fancy. All you need is great ingredients and technique, fabulous company and wine doesn’t hurt either.

The recipe is below. Check us out and feel free to comment, share, try the recipe and give us feedback.
Happy cooking!

 

 

 

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.

Tahran, Iran circa 1970

 

Most cultures have some form of grilling tradition which usually results 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!