are you thirsty? drink this: {sharbat-e-sekanjebin}

over the week end i found myself (a spectator) at a water polo tournament in 100 degree (f) heat, and all i could think about was how much i was craving sharbat-e-sekanjebin, or vinegar{!!} syrup sherbet with grated cucumbers & mint. growing up in tehran, this refreshing drink was often served along with sour cherry sherbet on hot summer afternoons. i remember how much i liked watching it being prepared because of the lovely aroma the grated cucumbers and fresh mint created in the kitchen. when we had guests, tall glasses of these beautiful green and red (sour cherry) sherbets with crushed ice would be lined up on trays and served along with watermelon, dried fruits and nuts, and pastries. i liked watching people gently mix the syrups at the bottom of their glasses with long spoons as their drinks slowly changed colors. having lunch at a thai restaurant yesterday, i was served a delicate “salsa” made with cucumbers and red onions in a sweet & sour sauce reminiscent of sekanjebin. when i asked about the ingredients i was told it was made with white vinegar and sugar! these are the two main components of sekanjebin syrup- – – i decided it was time to make some…go ahead, try it for yourself-you won’t be disappointed!

for 1 cup of syrup {which is also often served as a dip for romaine lettuce}:
  • 3 cups sugar (i use unrefined cane sugar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3-4 sprigs of mint
1. in a saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil together and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sugar has fully dissolved.
2. add vinegar and boil  for about 20-25 minutes longer until you have a thick syrup.
3. add the mint sprigs to the syrup and allow them to seep while the syrup cools. remove the mint from the syrup when it is cooled and pour in to a glass jar with a tight lid or cork.
for sharbat-e-sekanjebin:
grated cucumbers and a chiffonade of mint
add to the syrup the following:
  • peeled & grated persian cucumbers (1/4 to 1/2 per glass)
  • a few thin slices of cucumber for garnish
  • 1/2 -1 tsp per glass freshly squeezed lime juice, plus a few thin slices for garnish
  • fresh mint leaves
  • crushed ice
combine 1 part syrup to 3-4 parts water or fizzy water {you can either mix ahead in a pitcher or use individual glasses and leave the syrup at the bottom of the glass to be mixed before drinking). i like my sherbet with plenty of grated cucumbers, so i add about 1/2 of a grated persian cucumber per glass. a small squeeze of lime juice adds that extra citrus freshness. this drink is always a refreshing reminder of how much i love summer-enjoy.
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khoresh-e-karafs: persian celery stew with braised beef, parsley, and mint

IMG_3635koresh-e-karafs is a staple meal at our house. once in a while we forget about it for several weeks-then it starts to feel like we’re missing something, and soon enough, some one will inevitably request it typically on {persian food} sundays. i’m not really sure why we (all) enjoy it so much, but that is the biggest appeal of this dish-everyone is happy when it’s on the menu-for us, there are few things more welcoming than the minty smell of this stew combined with the aroma of steaming basmati rice to welcome you home on a sunday afternoon. there are two ways to prepare it-and there is often discussion (and disagreement) about the right or best version. in my family it was always prepared the green (sabz) way-with lots of fresh parsley and mint. some people make the red version, with tomato sauce and saffron. i (much) prefer the green version-it reminds me of my childhood home and makes me feel warm and fuzzy each and every time.
ingredients for 4-6 servings:
  • 2 pounds grass fed (organic) beef or veal (stew meat)
  • 2 heads of organic celery, cleaned and cut in 2-3 inch pieces
  • 3 bunches flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 bunches fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 large (or 2 medium) onions, thinly sliced-some as {piaz dagh}
  • 1-2 tsp ground saffron (or 6-7 saffron threads seeped in warm water)
  • sea salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tbs turmeric
  • 3-4 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice (or sour grape juice-ab ghooreh)
  • vegetable oil (avocado, safflower or  oil of choice)
  • 2 cups basmati rice (brown basmati rice, or steamed quinoa for a healthier option work well)
let’s start with the stew beef, which should be trimmed and cubed:

1. cook the beef in a deep pot with 1 tbs vegetable oil, 3/4 of an onion, thinly sliced, sea salt, ground pepper, and 2 tbs turmeric-sautee the beef on all sides on high heat for about 5-7 minutes, then add 1 cup water, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. simmer for at least an hour-until the beef is tender, but still has some juices left.

2. add 1 tsp saffron about 10 minutes before the beef is ready (after at least 50 minutes), simmer for 10-15 minutes more, then remove from heat.

3. while the beef is cooking, sautee the cut, cleaned, and drained celery with 2 tbs vegetable oil, 1 tbsp turmeric,  & sea salt in a skillet on medium/low heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until it is tender and slightly “golden” (fried).

4. remove the celery from the skillet, set aside, then add the chopped parsley and mint to the same skillet with 1 tbs oil and fry (or sautee) on med/low heat for about 5-7 minutes-there should be very little moisture left in the herbs (see photo below).

5. add the “fried” celery back to the skillet, and combine with herbs.

 

6. add the cooked stew beef to the celery & herb mixture, combine carefully, then add lemon (or sour grape) juice, sea salt, pepper, the rest of the saffron, and 1/4 of the sliced onions, fried separately (see piaz dagh (fried onion) recipe), plus a 1/4-1/2 cup filtered water. allow the stew to simmer on low heat for about 40-45 minutes, and up to an hour. as the stew cooks, taste it and adjust the salt and lemon juice as needed.

7. you should start cooking the rice about 1 1/2 hours prior to serving. see steamed rice recipe here.
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