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Category: Gorgeous Greens

June in the Garden

June in the Garden

Yesterday was a full day of work in the garden, feeding and pruning the kids. But, it’s all worth the hard work as June is one of the loveliest months in the garden.

The roses are gloriously perfuming the oasis. The hydrangeas are in early stages of color while courting the bumble bees. The marigolds echo the scent of the earth while murmuring the colors of the sun. The day lilies are bursting with gold while flirting with the wind. The regular lilies are starting to grow under the fallen blanket of white dogwood petals which retired in spring. And the herb garden is erupting with aromas of basil, sweet mint and French lavender.  The butterflies are ecstatic and so is this humble gardener. There is something especially satisfying in seeing your hard work literally “bloom” into beauty.

“We bury our seeds and wait,
Winter blocks the road,
Flowers are taken prisoner underground,
But then green justice tenders a spear.”
~Rumi

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.

 

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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Persian Cucumber Salad with Red Onion & Thai Basil

Persian Cucumber Salad with Red Onion & Thai Basil

This salad is light n’ lovely. It’s aromatic and refreshing. It’s also a great choice when you need lots of flavor but don’t have a lot of time. I use Persian cucumbers because the fresh and fragrant taste is  an important part of the success of this dish. The basil’s slightly sweet, lemony and minty aroma delightfully compliments the green and fruity fragrance of the cucumber.

If you don’t have Thai basil, sweet basil works great too.

 

 

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Green Garden Herb Basmati Rice with Basil, Mint, Chive + Rosemary (and an unexpected virtual trip home)

Green Garden Herb Basmati Rice with Basil, Mint, Chive + Rosemary (and an unexpected virtual trip home)

Rice is the ultimate comfort food. It has been farmed by people for over 10,000 years.

In the Hindi language “Bas” means “aroma” and “Mati” means “full of.” Growing up in a Persian family, that beautifully fragrant and earthy aroma  is part of the essential scents of home. The cue of happiness and an eternal symbol of family dinners, celebrations and tradition.

Cooking traditional Persian rice (with tahdig of course) is truly an art form. For how to create such a saffron scented masterpiece check out Persian Mama’s great recipe here. For a simpler and quicker recipe, I use a rice cooker. Not all rice cookers can deliver the crunchy and golden bottom of the pot goodness. Generally the Pars Brand rice cookers do the trick.

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In this rendition, I highlight herbs in the garden using basil, mint, chive and rosemary for an aromatic rice dish guaranteed to feed the soul (nousheh jan...). I was recently in Philadelphia and ate at one of the best restaurants on the scene in recent years: Zahav. Here Chef Michael Solomonov beautifully highlights modern Israeli cuisine. I was greatly inspired by his vision, the story behind his culinary ventures and the flavors of the amazing meal we had that October eve in the city of brotherly love. The Zahav menu excited my senses and my palate was dancing, curiously processing the familiar and the new. As you looked around, most diners had a sense of exploration, discovering the colorful melody of flavors and layers in each dish. Simple, humble and deep flavor that payed homage to the chef’s roots and to the beautiful simplicity of the pleasures we can receive from the fruit of the earth.

For me personally, what resonated the most in this culinary adventure were the familiar flavors of home in the smoky eggplant, the coriander, the homemade bread, the grilled meats and the pomegranate. But most notably-  in the herbed basmati rice. The Al’Haesh dishes (grilled over coals) are served with a side of the basmati rice that was not only delicious, but momentarily took me home. This humble side dish became the center of what all the other plates harmoniously danced around. This beautiful little pot of rice had the power to transform me to another place and time. To the familiar places where we feel safe, comforted and loved. To where I remember being happy. To the quite corners of memory,  to our mother’s cooking and the taste of my grandmother’s love in an old kitchen in Isfahan.  Maya Angelou  says “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” I found myself at home in this beautiful experience, and I hope you do too by trying my basmati rice recipe.

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Ingredients:
3 cups uncooked basmati rice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large white onion
1 1/2 cups chopped chives
5 tablespoons chopped mint
3 tablespoons chopped basil
1 cup chopped cilantro
1-2  tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/ 1/2-2 teaspoons black pepper (adjust to taste)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt (adjust to taste)

Directions:
Wash and drain rice.
Place rice in rice cooker. Cover with approx 1 inch of water above rice.
Add olive oil, onion, basil, mint, chives, cilantro, rosemary and salt + pepper.
Mix and turn on rice cooker. Continue to mix ingredients a couple of more times in the first 3-4 minutes if cooking so all ingredients are evenly spread throughout.
Let rice cooker do it’s magic!
Cook rice for approximately 1- 1 1/2 hours, or until the indicator lets you know the cooking is completed. A smaller rice cooker may only take around 45 minutes. The timing can vary depending on the size and model, but trust their settings. I’ve never had an issue.
Once cooking is finished, remove lid and place a plate on top of rice cooker bowl. Holding the sides with oven mitts, flip the golden rice cake with confidence!
Valiantly demonstrated by my cousin Payam, here:
If you don’t have a rice cooker, see here for instructions on how to cook in a regular pot.

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Musical Inspiration:

The Idan Raichel Project

http://idanraichelproject.com/en/

 

 

Rosemary Skewered Chicken

Rosemary Skewered Chicken

This recipe is simply delicious, healthy and fun to make!

The rosemary stems replace regular skewers for a beautiful presentation while adding another layer of flavor. Just add chicken and veggies to the skewers, bake and voila! A healthy meal awaits.

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Remembering Rosemary

Remembering Rosemary

Ahhh Rosemary… One of my favorite herbs. “Rosemary” is derived from Latin words “ros” and “marinus”, which mean “dew of the sea” or “mist of the sea”. It refers to the coastal region that is occupied by this plant in it’s wild form.  As the days get shorter and the warm temperatures dwindle in early fall, the Rosemary in the garden is still going strong and one of the last herbs to continue giving to my garden. My inner poet can’t help but consider it the most royal of the garden, growing and giving until the very end. Perhaps this is why Rosemary is a symbol of loyalty and love. In certain parts of the world, bride, groom and their guests wear branches of rosemary during wedding ceremonies. During the English Tudor era, Rosemary symbolized fidelity, and brides would give sprigs of Rosemary to bridegroom as a tradition.

The history of Rosemary is fascinating and for centuries it was used to enhance memory. Recent studies suggest rosemary may sharpen memory and brain function and suggest it’s use for Alzheimer’s patients. Shakespeare may have agreed. In “Hamlet,” Ophelia waxes poetic about rosemary as she descends into madness. There’s Rosemary, that’s for Remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.” It’s also believed ancient Greeks wore rosemary in their hair to fortify their memory. The association between rosemary and memory has persisted throughout history. Personally, I love the the poetic history of the mist of the sea.  Sir Thomas More wrote: “I lett it runne all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it, but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and therefore to friendship.”

For the last harvest of our historical herb, I wanted to celebrate this beautiful woodsy herb with the bittersweet nutty flavor and create a menu that highlights it’s fabulous fragrance!

Coming soon:

Rosemary skewered chicken

Green Garden Herb  basmati rice with mint, chive + Rosemary

Orange blossom Rosemary Gin Cocktail

Chopped kale salad with tomato, avocado, onion and lemon

Rosemary infused olive oil

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My Little Scarborough Fair

My Little Scarborough Fair

Many of the dishes and cocktails of the summer are inspired by what’s in bloom in my herb garden. Once upon a time my Father built a beautiful bed with nutrient rich soil to plant herbs + veggies in. I’ve continued that tradition and every spring I plant the staples; parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme… and mint and cilantro and chives and sweet basil. These aromatic but humble herbs elevate pretty much every breakfast, lunch and dinner compilation.

They’re easy to grow. I buy the spriglings in Home Depot and just add water and sunlight. There is something very satisfying in always having these items available to enhance the flavors of any meal. If you don’t have a garden, you can use planters and any window with sunlight will do!

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;

Remember me to the one who lives there,

For once she was a true love of mine

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Garden Goddess Cocktail

Garden Goddess Cocktail

Fresh herbs from my garden often inspire tasty dishes that also look beautiful and this light and lovely cocktail is no exception. It’s light and you can adjust the alcohol to your preference. It also makes a nice non-alcoholic beverage.