kashk-o-bademjan: persian eggplant spread (or casserole)

somehow i cooked very little persian food before i was married. the first meal i cooked for my husband back when we were still dating was an omelette, and although i’d made many (or at least a few) good ones before, i really messed this one up! as you can imagine, after tasting the not-so-perfect omelette, he thought i must be a horrible cook (this is a story he likes to tell). things could only improve from there. kashk-o-bademjan is one of his favorite dishes, and therefore one of the first ones i learned to make after we met. the first time i made it, he was pleasantly surprised and i imagine quite relieved that i could (maybe) cook after all (since he really doesn’t much).  this is a dish you have to make in stages-after frying all the different components, you simmer them together for a good half an hour which makes all the difference in marrying the flavors, and creates the desirable soft and silky texture. this all time favorite classic persian appetizer will convert the non eggplant eater to an eggplant lover:



you will need the following ingredients:

  • kashk (Persian: كشك‎)-or whey (or sour cream combined with yogurt can be substituted)
  • 6-8 italian eggplants
  • 1 small or 1/2 large organic onion (for piaz dagh-or fried onions)-see recipe to make persian style fried onions
  • 1-2 tsp turmeric
  • a small bunch of mint leaves*, chopped (or preferably 1-2 tbs good dried mint)
  • vegetable oil (olive or safflower)
  • sea salt, cracked pepper to taste
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • saffron (1/2 tsp ground or 1/2 tsp strands seeped in 2 tbs hot water)
1. peel and salt the eggplants, then let them drain in a colander for about 20 minutes prior to frying in a pan with  2 -3 tbsp (at least) of oil until they are tender and browned on all sides (see picture) or brush them with oil and bake them in the oven at 350-375 degrees until tender and browned on all sides (take care to turn them when necessary). remove from pan, and let the extra oil drain.

 

2. fry the thinly sliced onions (with a tsp of turmeric) like above, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon, and drain on a paper towel, then fry the finely chopped garlic the same way (it will take seconds-take care not to burn the garlic, it should be very slightly golden brown).

 fried garlic (left) and onions (with a touch of turmeric) draining

3. loosely mash the fried eggplants (with a wooden spatula), then add to a pan with 1/2 of the fried onions, fried garlic, sea salt, cracked pepper, a teaspoon (or two) of turmeric and dry mint (about 1 tbs). add a cup of water, mix everything together well, and let simmer for 30 minutes. *if you use fresh mint leaves, chop them and quickly fry in a little bit of oil until crispy before adding to the dish*

after simmering for about 30 minutes

4. add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of kashk diluted in (small amount of) water so that it is the texture of sour cream (or substitute with a mixture of yogurt & sour cream) as well as the saffron. simmer for another 10 minutes, then transfer to a baking dish, drizzle with more kashk and garnish with some mint (either fresh or dried) quickly fried in oil, as well as the remaining fried onions. you can also add chopped walnuts if you’d like. keep warm in the oven until you are ready to serve with some nice lavash or pita bread.

kashk and saffron added
topped with fresh quickly fried mint

 

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ash-e-reshteh: persian noodle soup

ash reshteh
the other day someone asked me to share my recipe for ash reshteh (recipe comes from my mom, by the way), and it was as if a light bulb went off in my head-i realized how much i was missing one of my all time favorite foods. this delicious and hearty noodle soup is intertwined with so many of my good memories: of new year’s day celebrations, weekend lunches at grandma’s, after ski āshdelivered warmth in the alborz mountains (shemshak for those of you familiar), and those regular childhood days at  home when my mom used her (beloved) pressure cooker (toot toot toooot) to cook the beans for this soup (i so looked forward to eating). my mom is known not only for her cooking skills, but for her efficiency in the kitchen, and the pressure cooker is probably one of her favorite gadgets. for some reason, i have yet to purchase one, but one of these days (when i get over my anxiety) i think i’ll l be cooking my beans in a matter of minutes too!
this is how wikipedia describes Ash Reshteh (آش رشته‎):one of the most famous types of āsh (thick winter soup), made commonly in Iran. The ingredients used are reshteh (very thin noodles), kashk (whey-like dairy product), herbs such as parsley, spinach, dill, spring onion ends and sometimes coriander, chick peas, black eye beans, lentils, onions, flour, dried mint, garlic, oil, salt and pepper.” looking at the ingredients, it’s clear that as usual, my family has our own version (the best one, of course) of a traditional dish-if you decide to make it, and i think you should, be prepared to spend a few hours ENJOYING the process…take your time, play some music, pour yourself a drink, and have fun cooking! as always, i  recommend cooking your own beans (although you could save time by using canned)-so you might want to get up and soak some right now (navy and garbanzo). every time i cook traditional persian food, i’m reminded of the abundance of natural and nutritious ingredients-this is real, non-processed food: good-for-you fresh herbs and vegetables, grains, beans, and spices. this “āsh” can easily be made vegetarian by increasing the “piaz dagh” or fried onions and using water instead of broth. noosh-e-jan!
{recipe below-click on read more}
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