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This Page has been moved: My Persian Kitchen: Jujeh Kabob, Part 2

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This page has been moved to: My Persian Kitchen: Jujeh Kabob Part 1

It has been an emotional couple of weeks filled with ups and downs. I am sad that many innocent lives have been lost and people’s voices have been silenced. However, there is a part of me that feels that things will never be the same.  I have been deeply touched and humbled by the outreach of care and love towards the Iranians who bravely took the streets in Iran.

I came across these videos tonight. Never in my life I thought I would witness such a tribute.  I have always liked Jon Bon Jovi and have been teased about it all my life about. Now, in this moment, I like them even more than ever before.  The video below is simply amazing.

Music has an amazing way of reaching one’s heart and soul.  This is simply amazing to the point where I have goose bumps all over.

This is yet another proof that the world has witnessed the struggle of the people of Iran. We may not be there with them, but they are heavily on our minds and in our prayers. We still wish nothing but their wellness and freedom.

Lamb Shank

Lamb Shank1 (Medium)

I like lamb shanks, so long as they 1) don’t smell and 2) they are not dry.  I was inspired to make lamb shank because a couple of months ago I had Baghali Polow from Shayan Market in Torrance and that’s what the polow came with. This was my very first try and I had no idea how to go about it.  I consulted a few cookbooks and  the Internet and found nothing that inspired me.  I searched deep within  my own bank of culinary knowledge and consulted with The Sous Chef, who didn’t have any knowledge on how to go about preparing lamb shank either.

Determined to make a go at it, I entered the kitchen and began “Lamb Shank Mission.”  I say mission because I  wanted to make sure that the meat would not be tough yet flavorful, yet not too flavorful to overpower the delicate polow.  I was rather impressed with myself with the results.  Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages, this experiment came out better than my wildest expectations.

So here is my way of making Lamb Shank, it is a bit labor intensive, but well worth all the steps. 🙂

Ingredients

4 lamb shanks, about 3lb

1 large onion

10 garlic cloves, crushed

4 carrots

3 dried Persian Limes

olive oil

salt & pepper

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Wash and pat dry lamb shanks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Place lamb shanks in a dutch oven and brown for a few minutes on each side to seal in flavor.

Lamb Shank5 (Small)

I know what you are thinking right now, why did she pick a small dutch oven? I have no idea.  I do have a bigger one that I love, but I guess habit took over. The one that you see in these picture is my most trusted and loved item to cook with it. If asked what I would take with me on a deserted island, my answer would be our orange dutch oven.  I also realized that you might think that we love the color orange around here. All three of our dutch ovens are orange and as you can see one of our cutting boards is also orange.  I swear, it is all a coincidence. I, as a matter of fact, do not like orange. This set of cutting boards came in various colors one of them being the one you see in these pictures. It was decided that because it was a color not well liked, it would be the designated board upon which meat and fish are cut in our house. Now, back to the recipe.

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Sprinkle lamb shanks with salt and pepper and then flip them over to brown the opposite side.

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In the mean time, crush garlic cloves. Cut onion and carrots.  If you have celery on hand, you might want to add that to the mix. It is actually great for flavoring. I didn’t have any.  PS.  please note the white cutting board used to cut non-meat stuff. I know, we are a bit anal sanitary! Bear with me.

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Remove lamb shanks from dutch oven and place aside. Add a bit of oil to the pot and add veggies.  Saute for a few minutes until onion turns translucent. You are essentially doing all the necessary steps for a braise.

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Give Persian Limes a little crush and add to the veggies.  Place lamb shanks on top. Cover with 2 cups of water and season with some salt to give the broth some flavor.  Cover the dutch oven.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees and cook for 2 hours. Half way through move the pieces around making sure that the parts exposed don’t dry up.

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This is how it should look once it come comes out of the oven two hours later.  The level of the liquid should have decreased into a delicious juice flavored by the veggies and the meat should be tender.

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Yum! Look at that delicious and juicy lamb shank! When serving with Baghali Polow you might want to pour some of the meat juice over the rice for extra flavor.  You won’t be sorry, I promise!

Baghali Polow1 (Medium)

Let me start this post by saying that I have always had trouble with making rice that is mixed with anything.  I have always found that making khoresht with white rice is the easiest thing for me to do.  I have made mixed rice a number of times but what I have always found difficult is finding the right balance between the rice and the other ingredients.  Here comes the truth, I have had some serious disasters with mixed rice. The very first time that I made Estamboli Polow, rice with green beans, it was a pathetic, pathetic sight. Here is the thing though, I am stubborn and I have not been known to back down a challenge.  So I keep trying until practice makes perfect, at the expense of my wonderful and supporting husband! 🙂

A couple of weeks ago I craved Baghali Polow and decided that it was time to roll up my sleeves and give it my best try. Additionally, I had also realized that in my repertoire of posted recipes, I had not yet graced my readers with a Polow. I am such a giver ain’t I??

You asked what Polow is? Persians refer to rice that is mixed with other ingredients as Polow. White rice is simply refered to as Chelow.

So I consulted three cookbooks for ratios for this recipe. I also decided to go all out and make lamb shank to go with it. All was good until the end. I ended up under cooking the tahdig, and and and wait for this, the rice was not flavorful enough, in my opinion.  But the lamb shank was fabulous! I will post that recipe next. I felt somewhat defeated about the polow and figured that I would have to practice some more.

Then we flew out to Seattle and the night that we got there we wanted to cook dinner for our friend Winford and his roommate/landlord Dirk as they were hosting us at their house.  We were walking through Pike Place Market trying to figure out what to make after we took a fun guided tour of the market.

Seattle 2009 032 (Small)

Winford suggested making something different that would “wow” Dirk.  He soon declared that we should make Persian food. Who am I to turn down “wowing” someone with Persian food??? After all I am the one who has a blog solely dedicated to Perisan food.  We did some brain storming and I was persuaded  into making Baghali Polow.  My resistance to the idea went to deaf ears.  I started sweating at the idea that this was going to be too much pressure. It had been a long day already. I was surviving completely on coffee as we had left our house at 5:30am to catch our plane to Seattle.  I was forced to go to Starbucks to get coffee in the morning because there was nothing else in the terminal close to gate and when I came to pour the half and half the whole lid of the flask just fell into my coffee splashing all over my pretty green linen shirt and the counter. As that was not enough once we landed in Seattle I came to use my phone and it didn’t work.  Fortunately, The Sous Chef’s phone worked so we called our friend to tell him we had landed. But I ended spending 45 minutes on the phone with Verizon until they got my phone working out of state. It is a good thing that we have a national plan…yeah. So did I really want to end the day by making a fool out of myself and my cooking skills? Hell NO!

We went shopping and bought all the necessary ingredients including the spices necessary to make Advieh along with some delicious sounding tea mixes for me!

Seattle 2009 055 (Small)

I went to work once we got home. AND ladies and gentleman, I DID IT! I decided to do a couple of things differently and the results were awesome.  I lost count of how many times Winford went back for more. And the best part of it all, he asked for the recipe. Score!

So here it is, this one is for you Winford!

Ingredients

3 cups of basmati rice

1 (14 oz) package of Fava beans (lima beans can be substituted), must be peeled

3 large bunches of fresh dill (equivalent to about 5-6 cups)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp of yogurt

1 pinch of saffron

3-4 tsp of advieh

canola or vegetable oil

salt & pepper

The first thing to do for this recipe is prepare the rice the same way you would for white rice or chelow.  Once you have placed the rice in a strainer stop and pick up from here.

Baghali Polow2 (Small)

Clean and chop the dill in batches.

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Here is my added step that made a huge difference. The first time around I didn’t saute the fava beans, I just added them to the rice.  SO, saute fava beans and garlic in some oil for about 5-6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Add saffron water to yogurt as you would for the white rice recipe.

Baghali Polow4 (Small)

Mix a couple of spatulas of rice with yogurt.

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Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. This should be a thin layer. Add 3 tbsp of  Canola Oil. Give it a shaking so that water and oil mix a little.

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Layer the bottom of the pot with rice and yogurt mixture.

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Add a generous amount of dill and then cover with a small layer of rice.

Baghali Polow9 (Small)

Sprinkle 1 tsp of advieh over the rice. On top of it add a generous layer of fava beans.

Baghali Polow10 (Small)

Then add a very generous layer of dill. Every recipe that you will read, will tell you to just layer. My grandma always used to mix the rice and ingredients a little bit. Very gently with a spoon mix the rice, fava beans, and dill. Continue layering until you are out of both rice and the rest of the ingredients.

Baghali Polow8 (Small)

Your last layer should always be rice. I like to sprinkle a little advieh on top.

Baghali Polow15 (Small)

With the back of your spatula create some hole making sure that you don’t go past the yogurt and rice mix.

Baghali Polow11 (Small) Cover and cook on high for 10 minutes. Then place a towel over the lid, as shown above, and cook on medium-low for 1 hour.

Baghali Polow12 (Small)

For this type of rice I suggest adding some butter or oil half way through the cooking process. Just melt 2-3 table spoons of butter and pour over the rice. You can also add some saffron to the butter. This will not only add a layer of flavor, but it will also give some of the rice a deep yellow color.

Baghali Polow 13 (Small)

As a bonus here are two pictures of our first dinner in Seattle. Instead of using yogurt the boys requested potatoes as part of the tahdig. This is rather easy to make. Instead of using yogurt and saffron you can layer the bottom of the pot with potatoes. All you have to do is go ahead and place water and oil to the bottom of the pan, I added 2 extra tbsp of oil because of the potatoes. Layer the top with rice making sure that you fill up the gaps between the potatoes with rice. Continue layering as shown above. The cooking process remains the same. If your tagdig doesn’t come out easily, just fill up your sink with a couple of inches of water and place the pot in there for a couple of minutes. Then try again. It should come out tout suite!

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We had ourselves a fabulous evening eating al fresco. Here are the boys setting up our dinner table. The Sous Chef was busy de-boning the fish in this picture.

Which reminds me, we bought some fish from Pike Place Market to have with our Baghali Polow. Now look at them studs below: the fine men who work at the fish market at Pike Place Market.  Have you seen this month’s (June 2009) Sunset Magazine? There is a picture of the hottie on the left in there. And I,  little nobody that I am, got to go behind the counter and take a picture with all three of them!!! Good Times!

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More on the fish that we made and ate will be shared in another post along with more pictures of the hot fishermen.  As a last note, I would like to add that generally the rice dish that accompanies fish in Persian food is Sabzi Polow, Herbed Rice. But I personally, think that Baghali Polow is also a nice complement to fish.  Enjoy!!!!

This dish can qualify as a vegan dish by omitting yogurt and butter and subsituting with canola or vegetable oil.

Now, tell me, what kind of emotions do you feel when seeing the last few moments of this video?  I don’t know if I would have it in me to be this kind…

Hundreds of thousands of Mousavi supporters gathered in Freedom Square to protest.

Hundreds of thousands of Mousavi supporters gathered in Freedom Square to protest. Source: guardian.co.uk

I had a completely different post in mind for this week’s Wellness Wednesday than what you are about to read. It has never been my intention in any shape, way, or form to talk about politics on this blog. My purpose for creating this blog was, and still is, to introduce Persian cuisine and culture to anyone who cares to read about it. However, today I feel the need to talk about something that has been heavily on my mind for the past few days. Forgive me for the long post, but there is a flood of emotions running through me.

Last week we flew to Seattle for our friend Winford’s graduation from University of Washington. I have known Winford for about twelve years. We met in an economics course while we were both pursuing our undergraduate degrees. I was there for his undergrad graduation and lucky me, I was able to be there for his graduate school graduation.

Friday night Winford had a party at his house and I was able to meet his new friends in Seattle. I enjoyed talking to every one of them, but one of the most memorable conversations was with one of his friends Jason.  I was rather surprised when he asked me if I was excited about the elections in Iran and how I felt about it. My first reaction to this question was: wow, he knows what is going on in Iran and he is not Iranian. Perhaps, I may have disappointed him when I truthfully told him that I had lost hope many moons ago about what would become of Iran. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed talking to him and learning that he has always had a fascination with Iran, follows the news about what is going on there, and that someday he would like to visit.

You see, that simple statement touches my heart in ways that I can’t describe, because it is very refreshing for me to meet people who look beyond politics and see Iranians as people. What I mean by that is the fact that we are always associated with the word “terrorist,” and people that don’t know better think that we are all a bunch of ignorant fundamentalists. Sadly, such people don’t ever take the time to reason that the views of a government are not necessarily the views of the people of that country.

I have lived the majority of my life outside of Iran and have been treated as someone from a third world country more times than I care to admit.  I find this to be a huge misconception about my people because there are many highly educated Iranians around the glob.  Additionally, in United States we are the one minority, or immigrants, who are highly educated and successful professionals. Additionally, being religious and following your religion does not in any shape, way or form make you a fundamentalist. What makes a person a fundamentalist, or a fanatic, is when they use religion as an excuse to hurt or kill others.

I would be a liar if I said that people’s reaction to my nationality have not bothered me. They have. Profoundly. In ways that I have resented being born in Iran and Muslim.  When I left Iran for the last time in the mid 80s I swore I was never going back. I planned to ask my mother to let me get baptized, and I secretly wished that I could change my last name to my step-father’s Italian last name. I never ended up doing either, because for one thing, I have never been religious enough to want to pursue a whole different religion, and well, changing my last name was too complicated.

This resentment followed me for many years and it wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties that I started feeling more comfortable with who I am, as a whole.  I came to realize that regardless of what happens in my life or where I live, I will always feel an emotional attachment to my birth land. I also started focusing on the good memories and attributes of being Iranian, verses the negative events that had shaped my life while I lived in Tehran.

I have always felt that I have been lucky enough to have left and given the opportunity to live in countries where I have a voice and freedom of speech.  Yet, at times I feel a deep sense of guilt for having had this opportunity while many others have not. In the eighties I always prayed, and let me be brave and say that I believed, that one day the fundamentalist would leave Iran because no one was happy because they made everyone’s lives miserable. By 1989, their tenth anniversary, I was left disappointed and bewildered by the fact that they had been in power for ten long years. By the time the twentieth anniversary rolled around I had lost all hope, because it had become evident to me that people in Iran had absolutely no voice and if they chose to speak they would be imprisoned, tortured, or killed, without any reservation.

This past February marked the 30th anniversary of the revolution. Thirty years of my life I have lived resenting what has become of my birth land. I have resented them for putting us through a war for eight years, brain washing people, taking Islam to a level that in my heart I firmly believe that Prophet Mohammad never intended for it to be, have killed many innocent people, and have ruined the reputation of our culture and history. And most importantly, I resent them because they punished members of my family for having worked for the previous government on both my mother’s and my father’s side. I resent them for having executed two of my aunts’ husbands on my father’s side for being high ranked in the military leaving eight of my cousins fatherless. I resent them even more for imprisoning my favorite uncle on my father’s side for having been in the military, only releasing him for poor health nine years later. Unfortunately, he left us soon after due to leukemia leaving behind two young sons. Fortunately, on my mother’s side no one died, but many were stripped of everything they worked for and humiliated.

So when I was asked what I think about the elections, these are the things that come to my mind. Ironically, I found out about the results of the elections as we were sitting on the plane waiting to take off Saturday night. I was watching CNN and they announced the results and people’s reaction. This was yet another disappointment and slap in the face. Just when you start thinking that there might be a chance, one small opportunity, it all goes up in dust.

So today, I would like to ask you to keep all the Iranians who are fighting for their vote in Iran in your prayers. It is heartbreaking to watch what is being unfold and the violence. I feel helpless, but I am choosing to be hopeful for the Iranian youth who has shown so much courage in the past few days. Statistically, 70% of the population in Iran is young; I truly believe that they hold the future of Iran in their palms. I am cheering for them and keeping them in my prayers. Of course it is easy for me to say go on, go out there and risk your life, as I am sitting here at my desk typing this post in the safe haven of the South Bay. But there is nothing I can do. All I can do is make sure that people understand that those out in the streets protesting are trying to fight for a change and demand for their votes.  The footage seen all over, either on YouTube or pictures, is gruesome. But please understand that it wouldn’t be this way if the government didn’t exercise their violent antics. The Iranians out in the streets are crying out to the world that they want change. There has been, there is, and there will be a lot of blood shed, but I am hopeful that this time it will lead to a change for the better.

In conclusion, I would like to share a couple of sources for information about the latest news out of Iran:

On Twitter:

One of my favorite Twitters with up-to-date info about Iran and all things Persian: Persian_Twitts

Selma Twitting: Salma1

Worth reading:

Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement Time.com

Fresh protest under way in Tehran – BBC

guardian.co.uk photo gallery

Last but not least, I ask you to pray for the wellness of all the protesters seeking a better Iran while leaving you with this powerful song, “Imagine, Iranian peace song. The song is in Farsi with subtitles in English within the video.