What I'm up to
  • Oxo Good Grips Small Wooden Spoon
    Oxo Good Grips Small Wooden Spoon

    everyone needs these, many of them.

  • Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-inch Round Frying Pan
    Mauviel Cuprinox Style 8-inch Round Frying Pan

    Scarily, I can say I have enough copper. Not many people can utter those words.

  • Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red
    Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Red
    Le Creuset

    The same thing could be said for Le Creuset, but still. Great for braising and soup making.

  • The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
    The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century
    by Amanda Hesser
  • Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13 X 18 X 1
    Nordic Ware Bakers Half Sheet, 13 X 18 X 1
    Nordic Ware

    What did I do before I started using this half sheet? Cry.

flora and flying. Get yours at bighugelabs.com


In celebration of meatless week - Addas polo


Every culture has its beans and rice dish, some bring you good luck, some keep you from bouncing checks and some just taste good. This week, I am trying to go meatless, and like anything, when you don't have it, you want it. All I can say is that it's pancetta I've been fantasizing about all week long. 

If you read my about me page, you will realize that I was a vegetarian with minor lapses into smoked salmon for about ten years. Those years were great. No one put a gun to my head and told me to eat tofu. I did it by choice. I also stopped eating tofu by choice. Occasionally a tub will fall into my shopping basket. I can't really remember what I ate back when I was a vegetarian. I know it had a lot to do with the Mollie Katzen's Moosewood series of cookbooks, the first one and the Enchanted Broccoli Forest.  Every dish either had dill or cumin, but blessedly never both at the same time. I remember eating a lot of popcorn and baby carrots, but that might have been grad school more than being a vegetarian.

When I was thinking of a suitable vegetarian dish to share this week, I immediately thought of addas polo or lentils and rice. It was one of my favorite dishes growing up. I loved its meatiness, especially when my mom would add extra lentils. I loved it even better with catsup and hot dogs. My palate is more refined these days, I prefer my addas polo with barbeque sauce and cutlets.  It is also my father's stand by dish when he's by himself. Its super easy to make and like most things, is pretty tasty the next day.

This recipe is a little different than my dad's version.  It adds sauteed dates and raisins at the end to give a it nice finish, slightly sweet and a bit more substantive and fancy.

Addas Polo serves four Americans, or two average Iranians

1/2 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed

2 cups water

1 cup basmati rice, rinsed with fresh water and drained

1 t salt

2 T butter

1/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup dates, chopped

1/4 cup sliced blanched almonds (optional)

Place lentils in pan with water and simmer until lentils partly cooked, al dente, but not mushy approximately 10 minutes.  Drain the lentils, reserve lentil broth and add water to lentil broth to bring the volume back up to two cups.

Add water back to pan, add rice and salt, bring to a boil, add lentils back in and cook the rice/lentil mixture with the lid off for approximately 10 minutes, or until the water is nearly done. Turn down heat, place lid on pan and steam for approximately 10 minutes.  During the steaming, melt butter in saute pan, add raisins and chopped dates, and optional almonds and saute until they are warmed through anc coated with butter, remove from heat.

When rice is done steaming, remove lid and spoon rice onto a warmed serving plate, garnish with raisins and dates and serve. 

Suggested accompaniments include: a nice low fat plain yogurt, baked chicken legs, persian cutlets and a healthy dose of KC masterpiece barbeque sauce.



Carrot and Cardamom salad 


Carrot salads of my youth featured too much mayonnaise and raisins and not enough oomph, they were sweet, pale and overly dressed. I was not impressed and stuck to the not seen in nature colored potato salads.  Later in my life, I would buy bags of "baby carrots" which were sort of slimy out of the bag with a strange plastic odor.  However, these babies got me through grad school, when diet coke, coffee and baby carrots were staples of my diet.  To this day, I cannot walk by a display of baby carrots without thinking of my large scale construction class.

When I started growing my own food, I fell in love with the home grown carrot - not perfect, slightly sweet and tasting of the earth. I know gardeners who believe that carrots left in the ground after the last frost are the sweetest. I have never had any left to test this hypothesis.

In Persian cooking, carrots are used for savory and sweet dishes.  They turn up in savory stews, rice dishes and in desserts.  They are a multipurpose vegetable that lends itself to all sorts of uses.  My TH makes an amazingly simple soup of carrots, a bit of sauteed onion and chicken stock.

I never think to use carrots as the focal point of a salad.  They are the curlicue garnishes and sometimes the disks that end up at the bottom of the bowl.  Most of the time they are relegated to the vegetable tray, where they may or may not be consumed and then end up sitting out on the conference table until someone finally throws them out, three days later.

I have had a few good carrot salads in my time, PCC markets used to make a Morrocan carrot salad that features slightly cooked carrot rounds, lots of cumin and paprika.  I'm not sure they make it now. My friend M makes another salad that has the cumin, but not the paprika and uses shredded carrots. At cookbook club, @kairuy made two salads out of Falling Cloudberries, both were good, but the carrot salad made me swoon.

When was the last time a carrot made you swoon?

Like with many of the recipes in the book, the quantity of the ingredients is questionable and the procedure a mystery, but the premise of adding the sweet scent of cardamom and ginger to carrots got to me.

This salad is delicious as soon as you dress it, but like the chickpea/cilantro salad, it improves with an overnight stay in the fridge, if you can stand waiting that long.

Carrot and Cardamon salad (adapted from Tessa Kiros' "Falling Cloudberries")

serves six as a side dish, or one of me with some leftovers

eight medium carrots, 3/4" in diameter, 10" long (ca. 1 1/2 lbs)

one half a red onion, chopped finely

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1/2 t cardamom

1 1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated (didn't have this, used 1/2 t ground)

1 t sugar (optional, but I think you should try a little if your carrots are not at their tip top sweetness)

1/2 t salt (the original recipe called for 2t, that is a bit excessive unless you plan to draw the water out of the carrots, which you don't)

juice of 2 lemons

1/2 cup olive oil (I used half of this)

10 mint leaves, chopped or torn

pepper to taste


Grate carrots using a box grater, a Cuisinart with the shredding disk, or cheat and buy them pre-shredded at Trader Joes. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add diced onion and parsley and mix to combine. In another small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, salt, sugar, cardamom and ginger together. Pour the dressing over the salad. Mix thoroughly until dressing coats all the carrots, you may have some dressing at the bottom of the bowl. Season to taste with pepper or more salt if you wish and garnish with chopped or torn mint leaves.

Refrigerated until served, which could be five seconds depending on your guests, but it does get better with a little marination.


Chickpea, cilantro and feta salad 


My mom called me on Sunday to tell me she had made a tabouli salad and kindly saved some for me.  If I hadn't been completely stuffed to the gills from Cookbook Club and the recipes from Falling Cloudberries, I would have picked up the keys and driven over because I love my mom's tabouli.  However, this post is not about tabouli, it is about the fact that soon it will be outdoor potluck weather and soon we'll be wishing we had opted to make a salad instead of a casserole.

Let me tell you something else about tabouli - everyone loves tabouli, and thinks that they will be exotic and daring and make it for a potluck.  Last year, I attended a summer solstice event at my parent's community garden where four tabouli salads turned up to feed  twenty people.  The same could be said for insalata caprese, its innocuous and frankly, not that exciting.

This week I made three different cold salads, ones that require minimal stovetop use and like most marinated things - tastes better the following day. While the weather has been unseasonably cool, you might as well plan ahead and try and tweak these recipes to your liking.   Here is the first. I love this salad and have made it three times for different events. It is hearty and packed with protein. The parsely and cilantro give it a nice springy taste and the jalepeno, a bit of a kick. I have varied the types of feta cheese in this recipe. If you have picky eaters on your guest list, go for the milder varieties of feta.

Chickepea, Cilantro and Feta salad - adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros

1 14 oz can of chickpeas, drained

1 small red onion, chopped finely

1/2 jalepeno pepper, cut in a fine mince, remove seeds if you want

2 cloves of garlic (the original recipe calls for five, this was plenty)

1/2 cup olive oil (yes, I said 1/2 cup, and that is an adjustment down from the 1 cup specified)

1 1/4 cup chopped parsely

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 to 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I used both light and the real stuff - both worked fine)

2 green onions chopped (white and light green parts)

1 lemon, juiced (I will admit to adding more than that, I like things tangy)


Saute onion in 2 T olive oil until soft (7 minutes for me), add garlic and chopped jalepeno and cook until you can just start smelling the garlic (ca. 2 minutes), remove from heat and let mixture come to room temperature (Note: you could do this ahead of time if you were more prepared than me).

Assemble the rest of the salad while the onion mixture is cooling.

Place chickpeas, parsely, cilantro, green onions in a bowl. Add cooled onion mixture and mix to combine.  Next add crumbled feta cheese to mixture and again, mix to combine.  Lastly add remaining olive oil and lemon juice mixture until it is well distributed.

Season to taste - add more lemon if you want, add salt and pepper, but the feta is a salty cheese and you many not need to add any.  Garnish with remaining parsely.

Refrigerate until served. This salad is delicious right out of the bowl or a few hours or days later. 

Props to Maggim for allowing me to use her lovely picture. I could not do this salad justice.



Pie Plant gets a make over - khoreshte rivas

When I think of rhubarb, I think of spring, red, tart and pie and cobbler. Most of the recipes you find for rhubarb are for lovely sweet things – desserts mostly, with a few jams and chutneys thrown in for variety. Rhubarb is the first thing to emerge from the garden’s long winter’s sleep. I like to use new rhubarb as much as possible for two reasons – the more you pick rhubarb, the more it produces (with a little compost dressing on the side) and that early rhubarb is tenderer than mid season tougher stalks.

Last year I was talking to my mom about rhubarb and she mentioned that she grew up eating a rhubarb stew. Rhubarb in a savory stew was something I had never heard of. Doing some research, I see that there are lots of variations of the savory rhubarb stew from the Middle East region, some are very simple – meat and onions – stewed with rhubarb added at the last minute. My mom’s version is a bit more complex. Most Persian stews rest on a base of seasoned meat that you can adapt to your pickier eaters. Once that stew base is created, you can add variations of herbs, vegetables and legumes to create several different tasty stews.

The stew base requires a bit of time – you can’t start a khoreshte at 5 pm and expect it on the table at 6 pm. I remember coming home from school to a house filled with the smell of stewing beef and realizing that dinner that night would be a khoreshte.  If you are a more organized person than myself, you can make the stew base ahead of the time, freeze it and take it out to thaw in the morning and then add the other ingredients and let it simmer until ready to serve.

Like most stews, this will taste better the next day, but don't over cook the rhubarb - you want to see the pieces not a mush.


Basic Khoreshte base (iteration number one)
Serves 6 Americans or 3 Iranians

1.5 lbs of stewing meat – chuck or top sirloin, trimmed of most of the fat and cut into 1” cubes
2 onions - sliced
2 T butter
4 c water
5 T olive oil
2 T tomato paste
Salt and pepper to season
1 t turmeric

The rhubarb part

4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1" sections. If rhubarb is big - slice stalks in half and then cut into 1" sections.
1/2 cup fresh mint chopped
1 cup fresh parsely chopped
1 T lemon juice
Salt to taste

Heat butter and  2 T olive oil to frying pan at medium heat. Add meat and begin browning the cubes turning to make sure all sides have been sealed , this should take about 7 to 10 minutes. Make sure you don't crowd the meat in the pan. Remove from heat and set aside. In the remaining olive oil, saute the onions on medium heat  until soft. Remove from heat. In a heavy pot - I use a le creuset small dutch oven, place seared beef and onions. Cover with water. Add tomato paste and tumeric and cook for one hour on low heat until meat is cooked and the flavors have blended. Season with salt and pepper. There should be about 1.5 cups of stewing juices remaining in the pot. Turn off pot for now.

In a medium sized saute pan, heat the remaining 1 T of olive oil.  Add mint and parsely and saute for five minutes, until crisped, but not browned. 

Turn stew pot on to low heat, add mint and parsely and stir until blended. Let simmer for ten minutes to marry flavors. Add rhubarb and let cook for another ten to fifteen minutes, until rhubarb is tender,but doesn't fall apart.

Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice. Season with a little more salt and pepper.

Serve with over hot polo - steamed rice. 






Biscotti for a good cause

My mom likes to take recipes and tweak them. I don't know how she started making biscotti. Maybe it was when they became popular in the early 1990s. I remember her buying them once in a while as a treat for us from Delaurenti's. I think it was when TH bought her the Williams Sonoma Cookies and Biscotti book for Christmas is when she really started playing with the basic recipes.

My biscotti recipes come from a tattered photocopy from an early 90's issue of Gourmet and Great Good Food - the low fat Silver Palate cookbook. While they have the crunch of a good biscotti, they lacked the mouth feel of a rich biscotti. This is probably due to the lack of butter in any of these recipes. They are all good, but they are from a time in my life where egg whites ruled.

My mom took a standard almond biscotti recipe and created at least six different varieties of biscotti flavors without involving too much chocolate. Over the next few days I will be sharing them with you.

If you wish to sample them yourself, they will be available for sale this Saturday, April 17th at the Uptown Metropolitan market as part of the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale. The Bake Sale benefits Share our Strength.  There are lots of awesome bloggers that will be showing off their stuff - come on by and pick up Saturday night dessert or Sunday morning muffins. I tell you, based on the list I have seen, it is going to be great!

Banamak.org will be featuring five to six different flavors of mom's biscotti for you to sample.

Biscotti are pretty easy to make - they hold forever and can be tarted up with nuts, spices and chocolate. Their name comes from the fact they are bis (twice) cotto (baked/cooked).  The second baking is the most important - that is when the moisture is drawn out of the biscotti and it gets its crunchy goodness. I recognize there are two camps - those who like them soft, and those who like them hard. Put me in the hard biscotti camp.

Mom's master recipe - makes 36-48 depending on how you slice them.

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cup all purpose unbleached flour

2 eggs (large)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 t vanilla

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

1 T lemon zest

1 T orange zest

1 cup unsalted pistachio meat (the greener the better)

Working directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In one bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pistachio meats.

In your mixer, cream butter, add sugar, vanilla, zests together.  Add eggs one at a time to the wet ingredients until combined.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix until well blended, but do not over blend. Mixture may be sticky - add a little more flour if it is unworkable.

Take the dough and place on a well floured cookie sheet. Knead a few times.  Divide dough into three parts and form into logs.  You may still have flour on your log - this is good.

Place logs onto a parchment lined baking sheet and Flatten the  logs - about 12" long and 4 inches wide.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.  The biscotti will be a bit spongy, dry to the touch, but not too dry.  Turn off the oven.

Remove from oven and let biscotti cool.  When cool enough to cut - cut the logs on a diagonal - with the nuts its imperative your knife is sharp and your knife skills good enough that you can cut through the biscotti and not have them crumble on the nuts.  Put newly cut biscotti on cookie sheets.

Preheat oven again to 350, place biscotti back into oven and turn oven off. Let biscotti dry for 2-3 hours in the cooling oven.  If you are doing this in the evening, you can leave them in the oven over night.

When the drying process is over - store in an airtight container. Biscotti should last up to a month, if they last that long.

Coming next - some more variations.