tah chin-e morgh: baked saffron yogurt rice with chicken

tah chin (which literally translates to “arrange on the bottom”) is one of those dishes that has definitely grown on me with time. when i was young it was one of my least favorite {persian} dishes-i’m not even sure why…i think it may have had to do with the eggs that are involved, because at the time, i didn’t like eggs much either. sometimes i wish i was still that same picky eater my mom talks about who would order an ice cream cone and let it drip all the way down her arm without ever taking a bite. but i’m not-these days, i find myself with the opposite problem….i like too many things, and often have to restrict myself. as you can imagine, i don’t make tah chin-e morgh very often, because when i do, i eat too much of it-trust me, if you’re looking for a meal that’ll make you feel content and fully comforted, give this one a try.

ingredients for 6-8 servings:
for the rice

  • 2.5 cups plain yogurt
  • 3 organic eggs, yolks only
  • 1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 3-4 tbs warm water
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt
  • the ingredients above make up the yogurt mixture
  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable) and 1/2 cup melted butter  (or 1 full cup of butter)
  • 2 tbs coarse salt for boiling rice
  • 3 cups long grain basmati rice
  • a mixture of 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1-2 tsp toasted cumin seeds, 1-2 tsp gol-e-sorkh (rose petals)-OPTIONAL

for the chicken:

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 whole cut up organic chicken, skin removed (or 8-10 pieces of choice)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground saffron
  • sea salt to taste
  • 1-2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil

1. cook the chicken first using this recipe– {or use uncooked chicken marinated in part of the yogurt mixture from above for about 2-3 hours, then arrange at the bottom of the pot before adding the boiled rice (see instructions below) to the top}

2. tah chin can be made in the oven in a pyrex baking dish or on the stove top in a non stick pot-if you are using the oven, preheat it to 350 degrees.
3. clean and rinse the rice until the water runs clear. bring 8-9 cups water to boil in a large pot with 2 tbs coarse salt. add the rice to boiling water and boil briskly for 7-9 minutes (stirring gently a few times). drain the rice after the 9 minutes (at most) are up in a fine mesh colander and rinse with warm water. set aside.

4. combine the yogurt mixture and mix well-heat 1/2 cup of oil in a non stick deep pot or in a pyrex baking dish, then add the yogurt mixture and a few spatulas of rice to the pot/pan combining the rice and yogurt mixture together carefully so as not to break the rice granules.
5. if using raw chicken, arrange the marinated chicken at the bottom of the pot or baking dish-if not add the braised saffron chicken (with juices) over the first layer of rice and yogurt mixture, and press them down carefully. cover with more layers of rice and the spices (if you want to add the spices).

6. when all the rice has been added, press down carefully with a spatula and pour the 1/2 cup of melted butter (plus 2-3 tbs warm water) evenly over the top. cover with the lid (or if a pyrex dish tightly with aluminum foil).

7. in the oven: place baking dish in the pre-heated oven and bake for 1.5-2 hours, until the bottom of the rice turns golden brown. remove from the oven, and allow the covered dish to cool slightly on a damp towel for 10 minutes-loosen the rice from the sides with a knife, then place a large platter over the dish and carefully turn upside down (as you would with a cake).
8. in non stick pot: cook covered on high for about 6-8 minutes (stay close to the pot), reduce the heat to med/low (closer to low) after at most 10 minutes and allow the tah chin to cook for 1 to 1.5 hours (if using uncooked chicken) with the lid tightly on. remove from heat, allow the pot to sit for 4-5 minutes, then turn upside down on to a platter like a cake.

cooking minette’s lasagna!

(this is a repost from a previous date)

why is it so hard to decide what to cook for dinner? even though i actually enjoy cooking, i often find it so hard to choose our menu-and my family is not much help! when i ask them for ideas they rarely come up with any good suggestions or agree with one another, for that matter. one will feel like a light simple dinner while the other is super hungry, or one will ask for a dish the other vehemently dislikes-or better yet, they ask for the impossible-complicated dinners that need hours to prepare or ingredients we don’t have available. sound familiar? thought so. i was completely out of ideas yesterday when i hesitantly asked my “consumers” for suggestions. to my surprise, there was consensus: lasagna! i realized it had been ages since i’d made an actual lasagna. even though i try hard to avoid it (for obvious reasons), it’s one of my favorite dishes, and even the thought of it makes my mouth water. much to my relief (and with a good dose of excitement), dinner was decided-not the brown rice noodle vegetarian kind (which is quite good too), but the real thing-with a good home made bolognese sauce smothered in creamy béchamel! this is by no means a light dinner-i kept my portion on the smaller side (maybe) and enjoyed (understatement) it with a large bowl of salad. such a comforting dinner. Continue reading

yasmin’s german apple "pancakes" (more like crepes)

my good friend from high school became my room mate in college when i was living in los angeles back in the 80’s. we shared a one bedroom condo in brentwood, and i remember us shopping for food, making a (very) few good meals in our tiny kitchen, lots of take out, many disagreements (some times not the best idea living with a good friend), but most of all, i remember her making me her uma’s german pancakes. we had them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight snack! there were two reasons for this: 1. they were simply delicious every time  (1.5. they were cheap to make) 2. we (almost) always had the ingredients:

  • flour (now i’ve substituted organic whole wheat)
  • eggs  (organic)
  • butter
  • salt
  • milk (organic)
  • apples
  • sugar (brown organic sugar, agave or maple syrup)-
{the one above was made with a ripe white peach}

to this day, these “pancakes” are a staple at our house, and i make them for my daughter often- me? i only eat them on special occasions…the reason is clear if you look at the ingredients. smiley face.

for one pancake whisk together:
1 large organic egg, 3 tablespoons of ww flour, about a 1/4 cup of milk, and a pinch of sea salt -i eyeball it-so this is the consistency you want (in the picture), pinch of sea salt.
peel & core your apple of choice (or organic strawberries, blueberries, bananas), melt 1-2 tsp butter in a (small to medium)  non stick skillet, line up the fruits as you wish in the pan, and cook for about 2-3 minutes until just softening [OR, make the pancake, then quickly stir fry the fruit and top it over the plain pancake-this is the easier option}. pour the batter carefully over the fruit starting from the outside edges.
let the pancake cook on medium-high for about 2-3 minutes before flipping-now this is the challenging part if you want to keep it in one piece-you can do it with the help of a large spatula or in stages with your plate-cook one side until the edges begin to separate, carefully detach the pancake with a spatula and slide on to a plate. cover the pancake with the skillet and carefully flip it over. the uncooked side will now be facing the pan. this time i used strawberries, and they were delicious, but the final result was not so picture worthy!
this (below) is what happens when the “flipping over” doesn’t work so well….
and this one is the famous apple pancake that made it to the plate in one whole piece!!
the easier option: a plain pancake topped with fruit and a sprinkle of brown sugar


this one’s dedicated to my lovely Noosi: summer peach {german} pancakes

i know i’ve been away for a while, and i’ve truly missed being here. truth is, my grandma is not well. she is really not well at all, and i’ve been sad. she is too far away from me, and it’s been really hard to come here and talk about food, when all i can think of is being with her. she is the reason i love cooking and eating, the reason i know anything about flavor, the reason i actually enjoy slicing and dicing and generally all manners of “playing” with fruits and vegetables, the reason i love to feed my family more than anything, the reason i am obsessed with a certain standard and order in my kitchen, and more than anything, the reason i enjoy the simple pleasures-the little things she taught me to appreciate. when a bird sits on the windowsill i think of her, as she always pointed them out, talked to them tenderly, and believed they brought good luck. when i see fruits on trees or soft grape leaves i think of her, because she could never walk by them without picking some for us to taste (the leaves she used to make the most tender and delicious dolmas).
my cousin calls her “hastash” which translates to the pit, (as in the cherry pit) because she would so often feed us cherries from her trees and not let us go until we spit out the pit saying “hastash ro bedeh” or “spit out the pit”. she would get down on her knees and show me ant hills and wiggly worms and let me pick radishes and carrots and plant seeds and water the fresh herbs she was growing. she let me secretly keep the baby kittens we found in the attic (even though my parents were against it), bought me little yellow baby chickens, sang for me and made me dance for her…ramdari rimdam ramdari rimdam, lied down with me until i fell asleep, washed my hair and scrubbed my back, and cooked me anything i asked for, let me make the biggest mess in her kitchen, taught me her prayers, gave me love without abandon and taught me the importance of being gentle, kind, and giving, of loving your family, of dreaming big, and most of all of feeding them well. she generally spoiled me rotten, and i am so much the better for it. as my sister says every memory of our childhoods begins and ends with her. she is the strongest and most special woman i have ever known (my mom comes a very close second). whenever i face a problem i think of her strenghth, her hopefulness, her faith, and her boundless enthusiasm. mommoni-e-man, Noosi, you are the sun and the moon and everything good i know in this life. i love you. you are with me every time i cook anything. i made my kids a light peach pancake (click here for the pancake recipe) this morning thinking of you and your talents as i laid down the peach slices. thank you.

one heavenly meal: chelo-kabob {persian style steamed basmati rice with grilled beef kabobs & tomatoes}

kabobs on the grill (manghal)

chelo kabob tablechelo-kabob (iran’s semi-official national dish)  is single handedly responsible for bringing me back from being a vegetarian to (mildly) eating meat again.  years ago, shortly before leaving home for college, a family friend shared a book with me that changed the way i ate and looked at food forever. i became acutely aware of how our food consumption directly affects our health and well being, and much to my parents amusement,   became a vegetarian. i began questioning the quality and source of the foods we were eating, and consumed endless amounts of the delicious lentil patties my mom invented in order to add some form of protein to my diet.tomatoes and peppers on the grill

living in southern france at the time, we were exposed to an abundance of seasonally fresh produce in the local markets. oh how we loved those morning farmers markets! my sister and i spent so many hours wandering through the stalls (especially in the summer months) and taking it all in. with the smell of good cheese, melons, lavender, and juicy peaches in our nostrils, we ate warm chocolate croissants still oozing with soft chocolate (as well as the crusty  tops of the baguettes we were taking home to mom), and eventually carried our heavy basket loads back home. i remained a vegetarian for about two years until i broke down:

the smell of the grill at my uncle’s (after my grandma, the best kabob-maker i know) house in los angeles finally did me in! watching the family dig in while i “enjoyed” my rice, grilled tomatoes, and salad, and realizing i could never really give chela-kabob up for good because it was too much a part of me.  the smell of grilling kabob takes me right back to my childhood years and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.  It makes me nostalgic for the lovely family gatherings at my grandmas: a beautifully set large round table covered with neatly lined up slices of butter, bowls of  sumac, fresh herbs, and raw egg yolks in their half shells, all waiting for the piping hot fragrant steamed rice (see recipe-omit all spices but saffron) and glistening kabobs my grandma had so lovingly prepared.taking kabobs off the skewer with lavash bread

it was one of my favorite thing to do; watching her skewer the tender beef with her skilled hands, lining them up in perfect rows on trays going out to the grill, or “manghal” (more of a charcoal tray than a grill-the meat should not sit on the grill, but directly above the fire) as we call it. i could’nt be happier when my sister sent a text this past sunday saying “last minute chelo-kabob at our house-moms coming to help-be there at 1:30”. i got dressed quickly, grabbed my camera, and practically ran out the door-i wanted to be there for the preparation, of course!

a nice plate of chelo-kabob!

a disclaimer of sorts: my mom and sister weren’t too happy i’d picked this particular day to take pictures for a post about chelo-kabob…they had decided to do it all very “last minute” and weren’t happy with the look of things-the filet kabob was not the typical “barg” (translates to leaf) flattened style we make but more of a “chengeh” or chunky style, and the koobideh (ground beef kabobs) were not as perfectly lined up (as in matching and all pretty looking) as my mom would have liked due to lack of time-but let me tell youdeliciously grilled kabob koobideh-it really didn’t matter…it was all way beyond delicious! we had quite a feast. the perfectly spicy  drinks my sister served while we waited? i’ll have to ask her for the recipe. {click on (CONTINUE READING) for recipes & inspiration…}

Leili's bloody mary

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