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Cauliflower “Parmesan”

Cauliflower “Parmesan”

Oh glorious cauliflower, how we love you so. A blank canvas which you can do so much with- from roasting, to sauteing, to ricing and beyond. Because of the relatively mild flavor, cauliflower works nicely with vibrant flavors like lemon, caper and herbs, as in our favorite Chimichurri sauce or our golden roasted recipe with a tangy tahini sauce.

On any given week, roasted cauliflower is on the dinner menu as a side dish in our home. But this humble vegetable can be the star, especially all dressed up in spicy tomato sauce and bubbly, melty cheese.

One of my personal favorite recipes, I present to you the Basil & Roses Beautiful Cauliflower Parmesan! It’s our healthy take on an eggplant or chicken Parm. Flavorful and satisfying with a lovely presentation for a feast for your eyes.

The presentation of this dish is simple but stunningly beautiful. Pair with a lovely Italian red wine like a Chianti Classico or Montepulciano and enjoy with someone special- or just make it for your own fabulous self and relish in the simple elegance of perfectly paired ingredients.

Ingredients:
1 whole head cauliflower
1 1/2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce ( I like Dave’s Gourmet Spicy Heirloom)
2-3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried garlic powder
1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
Kosher salt + pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425°.
Carefully cut cauliflower into 3 thick pieces, holding carefully so florets don’t crumble.
Lay flat on cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano and garlic powder.
Roast for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden.
Remove from oven.
Sprinkle a thin layer of Mozzarella cheese.
Generously cover with Marinara sauce.
Sprinkle with a pinch more dried oregano.
Sprinkle remaining shredded Mozzarella cheese on top of sauce.
Place back in the over until cheese melts and is nice and bubbly.
Remove from oven, serve with grated Parmesan cheese and freshly gated black pepper.

Skillet Chicken Thighs With Shallot, Lemon & Herbs

Skillet Chicken Thighs With Shallot, Lemon & Herbs

A sophisticated yet humble approach to cooking is all you need for this recipe. It is about technique. A simple one which delivers results fabulous enough for a gathering, yet quick enough for a weeknight dinner.

I have always enjoyed the down-to-earth-ness of cooking with cast iron skillets. But in the past few months, I’ve learned it is more than a look or a feel. This tool delivers fantastic results- mainly because it retains heat within the metal, cooking food uniformly at hot temperatures, and leading to superior flavors.

They are heavy in weight and require small maintenance (mainly to avoid rust), but the minor care is well worth the end results. I became a believer after making our “Best Steak of Your Life” recipe in a cast iron skillet. I’ve made many fantastic recipes since and my favorite go-to dish is Skillet Chicken Thighs! Regardless of what aromatics you use, the technique of cooking the chicken skin side down to render the natural fats, make the skin crispy and draws out phenomenal flavor!

In this rendition I use shallots, rosemary, thyme and caramelize lemons. But this recipe is infinitely customizeable. Swap the rosemary for oregano, add mushrooms or sweet tender peas. Zucchini and squash take well to this rustic recipe as well. Get creative with your favorite veggies and herbs, you can’t mess this up!

Note- My favorite skillet is the Lodge Seasoned 12″ pan found here. The supplier Quiverr provides excellent customer service on how to best care for your cast iron.

Ingredients:
6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (approximately 2.5 pounds)
1 large or 2 small lemons, sliced
1-2 small shallots, sliced
1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes (adjust to taste)
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary and thyme (if you don’t have fresh herbs, dried oregano works well too)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 425°.
Pat dry chicken with a paper towel (any water will cause messy splatter).
Season chicken generously with salt + pepper on both sides.
Slice the lemon, reserving some juice for later.

Heat skillet to medium after coating with 1 teaspoon of grape seed oil or any vegetable oil with a high smoke point. You can use olive oil, it only means you’ll have more smoke while cooking.

Add chicken skin side down and listen to the sizzle as the skin browns while the natural fat is rendered.
Cook chicken this way for 8-10 minutes or until halfway cooked through.
Transfer chicken from skillet to platter.

Layer 1/2 the lemon slices on bottom of skillet, add chicken back on top of lemons (skin side up), and add remaining lemon slices among chicken thighs.
Lemons on the bottom will beautifully caramelize while top lemons soften.
Transfer skillet to oven, allowing chicken to cook through (approximately 8 minutes).
Remove skillet from oven and move caramelized lemons and chicken to a plate.

On medium heat, add shallots, garlic, herbs and red chili flakes to the soft lemons in the skillet.
Stir frequently for 1-2 minutes. The aromas will we wonderful at this point.
Add the wine to skillet to de-glaze the plan, scraping flavor-packed brown bits from bottom of pan.
Squeeze remaining lemon into sauce and season with salt + pepper.
Return chicken to skillet and nestle in the delicious sauce you just created.
Make sure thighs are not submerged in sauce to maintain crispiness.
Top with caramelized lemons and serve!

 

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.

 

 

Spicy Thai Basil Beef

Spicy Thai Basil Beef

For the one year anniversary of the blog, I wanted to create a new recipe which was festive, simple, colorful and fun. It was a celebration after all. Earlier that week, I had discovered the amazing flavor combination of Serrano chili and garlic while cooking dinner with my friend Anjali in Brooklyn. We made a classic Thai Basil Chicken (Pad Grapow) and I learned about the garlic/Serrano punch there.

That wonderful dinner in BK organically became the inspiration for the Basil & Roses anniversary recipe. We had lots of Basil and Rosé, toasted to a fun year of fabulous recipes and enjoyed a spicy meal followed by dancing and laughter. It was a good night.

This recipe uses Beef but you can use any protein you like- chicken or tofu work well. You can also adjust the heat level by either reducing the amount of chilies or removing seeds and veins from the peppers.

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

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)