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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.

 

 

Muffin Tin Egg Frittatas

Muffin Tin Egg Frittatas

These flavorful muffin tin frittatas are fun, easy to make and a good solution for quick make ahead breakfast. Make your weekdays easier by making a batch over the weekend. It’s also a great way to prepare eggs for a group.

There are countless filling options. I used tomato, basil, spinach & cheddar but you can incorporate your favorites. Note- this also a good way to utilize leftover salads and veggies. Get inspired by your favorite omelettes. Either way, the end result is simple & delicious!

Other combo ideas:
-Mushrooms, peppers, onions, cheddar
-Spinach, tomato, feta
-Asparagus and cheese
-Goat cheese, spinach and tomatoes
-Spinach and ricotta
-Chive, tomato and goat cheese
-Smoked mozzarella, sun-dried tomato, basil pesto
-Onion and mushroom
-Mushroom and sausage



 

Of course, you can never have enough egg recipes. For further inspiration check out our Scallion & Turmeric Mushroom Omelette , Elegant Egg Salad or Exquisite Hard Boiled Eggs

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

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!