{persian} rice pudding, or "shir berenj"

there are not too many dishes more comforting than rice pudding. growing up, my grandma cooked us “shir berenj” (which literally translates to milk rice) often as a treat when she wanted to make us happy. what i remember most other than the warm comforting smell enveloping the house is that it took a long time to cook and cool off- this meant we had to wait (impatiently) before we could dig in to a nice bowl or two. as we waited, i would lift off the lid every few minutes and peek in to see if the rice was dissolving and creating the creamy pudding we were waiting for. persian rice pudding is not sweetened, and is often flavored with a touch of rose water and ground cardamom. the sweetener of choice is poured over the pudding right before you eat. in my family we drizzle a generous amount of grape molasses (which is not easy to find) over our shir berenj. other good options include honey, pomegranate molasses, maple or agave syrup, or simply brown sugar.  no matter how you sweeten your pudding, it will be a delicious and satisfying treat-the ultimate “comfort” food. dig in.     for 4-6 servings:
  • 1/4 cup rice, washed (rinsed several times in cold water)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3-4 cups organic milk (i used 2% fat milk, but whole milk  or a combination of milk and cream will make a richer and creamier pudding)
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1-2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2-3 tbs rosewater
1. bring the rice, water, and salt to a boil in a deep pot, then reduce the heat to low and cover. cook with the lid on for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is softened.
2. add the milk (you can also add 1 cup of cream instead of 1 cup of milk for a richer and creamier pudding), and bring to a boil. reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about an hour (keep an eye on it). after about 50-55 minutes, add the cardamom and rosewater and cook for just a few more minutes.
remove the pudding from the heat and serve in individual bowls, then and allow the bowls of pudding to cool off. the pudding can be served at room temperature or after chilling in the refrigerator. serve with sugar, grape molasses (my favorite), pomegranate molasses, honey, jam, maple syrup, or sliced fruit.
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easing into spring: minty fresh taboule and a green bean salad with blood oranges

green bean salad with blood oranges and feta cheesei’ve been so obsessed with quinoa lately that i’ve neglected to make taboule the traditional way, with bulgur rather than substituting my favorite grain-seed (q-u-i-n-o-a}. at our house we really enjoy a good spicy quinoa-taboule (almost on a weekly basis), but there is something soothing and familiar and frankly more “substantial” about the original version-so, in planning the menu for a small gathering of friends last night i decided on a bowl of super fresh lemony taboule loaded with mint leaves (the way my lovely lebanese friend taught me way too many years ago in france) to go with my all time favorite chicken dish, adda’a morrocan chicken (which turned out better than ever i think- possibly because

minty fresh taboule

of the last minute addition of a cup of fresh orange juice). one of the best things about taboule is that the leftovers taste almost better the next day-which brings me to the most important factor in making a good one-the ingredients: they must be fresh and abundant (more fresh parsley, mint, and lemons than you think you need).

taboule ingredients

if you plan to make some, and you really should, because nothing makes you feel as spring(y) fresh as this dish-be ready to become pretty good friends with your favorite sharp knife….you’ll have to do some chopping, but it WILL be worth it. speaking of chopping, my green bean, feta, and walnut salad requires very little of it. it is so often my go to {delicious and easy} salad/side dish/almost-a-meal when i entertain-here i added the last blood oranges of the season for a citrusy punch and their beautiful color. it made the perfect side for the medium rare tri-tip roast i served with it. okay, now i’m hungry, and my mouth is literally watering. i’m hitting the fridge for a nice bowl of that leftover taboule~wish you could join me:-)

ingredients for 4-6 servings of bulgur (or substitute quinoa) taboule:

  • a bowl of mint fresh taboule2 large bunches of organic flat leaf parsley (about 1.5-2 cups) washed, allowed to dry, and finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch organic fresh mint leaves (1/2-1 cup), washed, allowed to dry and thinly sliced/chopped
  • 6-7 organic scallions, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 ripe roma (or 3 medium ripe) tomatoes, finely cubed
  • 3/4 cup (i prefer less bulgur-adjust amount to your taste) cooked bulgur or quinoa (boil in lightly salted water for just a few minutes then drain excess water and allow it to cool)
  • 2 lemons, freshly juiced (adjust amount to taste-but keep in mind the bulgur soaks up the lemon juice and olive oil quite a bit)
  • 3-4 tbs good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste-red pepper flakes, optional for spicy

place all the ingredients other than olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl (leave ingredients in separate piles until ready to toss). if making ahead, cover and set aside until 30 minutes prior to serving, then dress (with lemon juice to taste, evoo, and salt & pepper) toss well. taste and adjust seasoning. enjoy every bite. {see below for green bean salad recipe}

for green bean salad with blood oranges:

blood oranges in salad

  • 2-3 cups organic green beans, cleaned and quickly boiled in lightly salted water until just tender-do not overcook them. drain in a collander and quickly place in an ice bath or rinse with cold water. drain well.
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup crumbled french feta cheese
  • 1-2 blood oranges (or you can use pomegranate seeds), peeled and sectioned into small pieces.
  • 1/4 cup of my shallot vinaigrette

combine ingredients in a bowl, drizzle with dressing, toss just before serving. simple as that.

the dinner table with the famous blood oranges front and center

the dinner table with the famous blood oranges front and center

 

my chicken dish with olives and lemons just getting started (adda's morrocan chicken)

my chicken dish with olives and lemons just getting started (adda’s morrocan chicken)

 

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how to whip up a simply green {curry} sauce that saves the day {or meal}

how to make an easy green curry sauce

it’s so hard to believe the holidays are over, and as much as i enjoy the {oh so wonderful} break from routine, it often takes quite a toll on our diets and waistlines (but oh how good it was while it lasted). it took me a few reluctant days in the new year (happyhappy new year!) to realize (or accept) it was time to make changes to the way were eating. time to get back to eating more real, unprocessed, lighter, let’s just call it “g r e e n” foods. yes, that meant back to green smoothies, other smoothies, kale in (almost) everything, lettuce wraps, quinoaquinoaquinoa, salads, salads, and more salads, hello, arugula! hard boiled eggs, and endless amounts of tuna salad! but a family has to eat a nice warm meal once in a while (especially the ones who behaved over the holidays). that’s why this light and green (seriously delicious) curry sauce/paste came about to accompany the simple chicken tenders and vegetables planned for dinner. some of us enjoyed the resulting warm, satisfying, comfort-giving curry with a side of jasmine rice while others (me) had a few spoonfuls of fluffy steamed quinoa instead (not bad at all after a day of just greens). this versatile sauce can be used with any meat, fish, or vegetables to create a “curry” that will always satisfy beyond imagination. add a few kefir lime leaves to the pot while simmering to take it to another level. the smell that surrounds you while it cooks? as delicious as every bite. noosh-e-jan!

{easy, light, delicious green curry sauce for about 4-6 servings}:

blend together until smooth:

easy green curry recipe

  • 1 large bunch (1-1.5 cups) organic cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper or other hot pepper of choice (use according to taste for spiciness)
  • 1 lime, freshly squeezed
  • a chunk of fresh ginger, peeled (about 2-3 tbs)
  • 3-4
    cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 small shallot, peeled
  • 3-4 stalks of lemongrass (remove the outer rough parts)
  • 1/2-1 cup coconut milk
  • 2-3 tsp raw honey or brown cane sugar
  • 2-3 tbs fish sauce or soy sauce (or a pinch of sea salt)

sauté the meat/vegetables of choice on high for about 7-10 minutes in 1 tbs virgin unfiltered coconut oil, then add the green sauce and 5-8 kefir lime leaves. bring to a soft boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. for best results sauté (fry) the sauce separately in 1-2 tsp coconut oil for about 5 minutes on high heat while stirring before adding to meats/vegetables. sprinkle with fresh cilantro prior to serving with jasmine rice or steamed quinoa.

easy green chicken curry

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let’s make soup, shall we? butternut squash soup with coconut cream & a hint of nutmeg

butternut squash soupthere’s nothing like a good bowl of delicious piping hot {home made} soup to make you feel  like you’re right where you’re supposed to be. it warms you as it fills you up, rounds out the edges, and makes you feel balanced somehow. content. at home. or is it just me? i miss my grandma more and more each day. i yearn for her voice, her gentle touch, her quiet presence, and her warm embrace. it’s impossible for me to make a pot of soup or stew (or food of any kind, really), without feeling her warm presence around me. guiding me. making me feel  safe and whole. at home. that’s what it is-the connection i feel with soup{making}…it’s that kind of food. one of the main reasons why i make it as often as i do. The other (rather important) reason is  that i’m trying, yet again, to cut out the processed grains and things i’m told (repeatedly) do not like me or my joints as much as i seem to enjoy them. soooo, moving reluctantly towards more vegetable based soups, proteins, salads, and less grains: rice, wheat, {flour} pasta, sugar. waaaahhhhhhh! do i have to?  yesidoyesidoyesido. if this butternut squash soup is any indication, things will be just fine-it was deeeeeliciouuuussss: slightly sweet, satisfyingly creamy, and perfectly rounded with  the touch of nutmeg and coconut cream. smiling wide as i remember something important-we have leftovers!

minette’s butternut squash soup for 4-6:

  • cooking minette's butternut squash soup1 small/medium butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cubed (about 1.5 to 2 cups)
  • 3-4 stalks of organic celery, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, cubed (or 2 leeks cleaned carefully and chopped)
  • 4 cups good quality (preferably homemade) chicken broth (or broth of choice)
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (or substitute with ground cumin if you prefer)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup coconut cream (or cream)
  • 2 tsp virgin unrefined coconut oil (or olive oil)
  1. heat the oil in a heavy soup pot, then add the onions and celery, sauté for two minutes before adding butternut squash, salt, & pepper to taste. sauté on med/high until softened (while stirring frequently), about 5-7 minutes.
  2. add broth (a very important component-a good home made one will make the soup so much better), bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until squash pieces can be mashed with a fork. add nutmeg (or cumin) and simmer another 5-10 minutes (your liquid should have reduced quite a bit by now).taste and adjust seasoning. blend with an immersion blender or by pouring carefully into a blender.
  3. serve with a drizzle of coconut cream.
  4. enjoy the deliciouscreamywarmth  you are about to experience.

 

nminette's soup

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