About cooking minette

i spend a good portion of every day thinking about, reading about, and talking about whole, unprocessed, real FOOD, and preparing meals for my family. i believe what we eat is directly related to our physical and emotional well being. my romance with food (and my love for cooking) began as a child in my grandmother’s kitchen in tehran, became more refined (i’d like to think) in the south of france, and continues to evolve in southern california. i’ve learned a few things along the way I’d like to share. - See more at: http://cookingminette.com/about#sthash.ziYbGpuD.dpuf

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


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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.
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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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ghormeh sabzi ~ persian fresh herb stew with dry omani lemons

ghormeh sabzi black eyed peas

cooking ghormeh sabzi: to celebrate our beloved grandma, my sister and i did the one thing we knew would most closely connect us to her in our sadness. we cooked. we cooked all day. we prepared many of the favorite dishes she had so lovingly made for us over the years. we stood side by side and quietly chatted while we chopped, sliced, fried, and simmered our stews. as the familiar aromas surrounded us, we remembered, and we felt the connection-to her, and to the past that is so much a part of the present and the people we have become today. the way we live, love, and feed our families. there was sadness, for sure, but there was also an incredible sense of hope and responsibility towards the next generation and the huge legacy we have to live up to. at the end of the day, we gathered with our loved ones around the table,  said our prayers, and enjoyed the foods we only know how to cook because she taught us so well. we laughed and cried, but mostly we felt enormous gratitude for having been so lucky to call her our mommoni (grandma) for so many years.ghormeh sabzi recipe

ghormeh sabzi is my favorite persian stew by far, and i requested it pretty much every time mommon asked me what i wanted to eat. since i didn’t like stewed meat, she would make tiny little peppered meatballs (infused with grated onions) and add them to the stew for me. to this day ghormeh (deep fried meat they preserved in oil for the winter months) sabzi (greens-or fresh herbs) does not hit the spot without the little delicious meatballs. mommon also went against general consensus and used black eyed peas instead of the typical kidney beans that most people use in their stews. this is a stew that requires a good bit of time and patience to prepare, and even more time to cook (slow simmer/braise) for the flavors to really build up to where you want them to be. please don’t let the time factor prevent you from trying it. it is worth every millisecond that you spend on it and more. promise, & noosh-e-jan!


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tomates farcies: beef & vegetarian stuffed tomatoes {and a bonus quinoa salad}!

if you follow this blog you know by now how much i love tomatoes. i have for as long as i can remember. as a kid, if we were having something i didn’t like for dinner, i would just chop up a tomato and eat it with white rice (didn’t know about the no-no carbs back then) or flat bread (same thing) or bite in to a whole salted tomato or two! there are always ripe tomatoes sitting in a bowl on my kitchen counter- i never refrigerate them-i was told by a local chef a few years ago that it changes their chemistry (and flavor). when my son visited his friend’s grandparents in the french country side a few years ago, he came home raving about the incredible stuffed tomatoes he’d been served. naturally, i made my own version for him with ground beef and rice (persian style)…he liked them, but they were nothing like the tomates farcies he’d tasted in france. when i came across these amazing organic tomatoes at the market (they are in season and i am so happy) yesterday, i decided to make french style “tomates farcies“. i also made an experimental vegetarian version with quinoa and fennel which was arguably better than the meat variety. some of us had three or four (!!) of these….happy happy tummies!
ingredients for beef stuffed tomates farcies for 6-8:   {scroll down for the salad recipe}

  • 1 pound grass fed organic lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, finely cubed
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
  • 8 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • 1 small bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tbs good quality (preferably home made) bread crumbs
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & cracked pepper to taste
1. cut the tops off the tomatoes, then carefully empty the insides with the help of a small paring knife and a small spoon (be careful not to pierce them). save the softer pulp and juices from the insides in a bowl. allow the empty tomatoes to drain, and keep their lids near them.
2. in a heavy pot heat 1 tbsp olive oil and sautee the minced garlic and onions until softened and golden, then add the beef, sea salt & pepper to taste to the pot and brown on high heat. break up the beef pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula. chop up about 1/2 of the tomato pulp (from emptying the tomatoes) and add it along with some of the juices to the browned  beef-simmer on med/low heat until most of the liquid is absorbed. turn off the heat, let the mixture cool slightly, then add all of the finely chopped herbs and mix well.
3. add about 3 tbs of good quality bread crumbs to the beef mixture (off the heat) and combine well. taste for salt, and adjust.
4. with a small spoon carefully fill the tomatoes with the beef mixture all the way to the top and cover loosely with lids. place tomatoes tightly in a baking dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, then bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes-up to an hour. scroll down for vegetarian recipe.

for vegetarian stuffed tomatoes (for 6 and a bonus salad):
  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked in lightly salted water
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely minced (small cubes)
  • 2-3 green onions finely chopped, or a small bunch of chopped chives
  • 1 small bunch chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 small bunch chopped fresh dill
  • 6 ripe roma tomatoes (or tomatoes of choice), emptied, soft insides & juices set aside
  • sea salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
additional ingredient for salad:
  • juice of 1 large lime
  • 1 cup baby heirloom (or cherry) tomatoes, sliced in halves or quarters
  • 1/4 cup or so chopped dill
  • fennel greens from the bulb
1. combine the cooked quinoa with all of the chopped herbs, green onions, very finely chopped fennel, sea salt, pepper, and olive oil. finely chop up the remaining tomato pulp that was set aside (from emptying the tomatoes earlier) and add to the mixture without too much of the juice.
2. carefully fill the tomatoes with the mixture, put the lids on loosely, and drizzle lightly with olive oil and sea salt. bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. ** you can also add 2 tbs of good quality parmesan cheese to the mixture for additional flavor**fresh quinoa salad with fennel:  after filling the tomatoes, you should have some mixture left over. add to this the lime juice, baby tomatoes, fennel greens, more chopped dill, and a dash of extra virgin olive oil. serve as a quinoa salad!



dinner is served:
small sweet melons, tomates farcies, salt & pepper, baguette, green salad with rocket & avocado,
quinoa salad, rose wine
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