Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Green Persian Spring

This post is a little bit late, but may I wish you all a happy welcome to Spring and a happy Nowruz.  The first day of Spring is also the first day of the new year according to Iranian tradition, hence “Nowruz.”  Dear Iranian friends first introduced me to the holiday in southern California, and since then we always celebrate it at home.  I also celebrate this holiday in my anthropology of food classes where we make our own version of the traditional Haft Seen table, or table of seven S’s that symbolize best wishes for the upcoming new year.  It’s a great excuse to get people thinking good thoughts for everyone around them, as well as focusing on the upcoming greenery that is (hopefully) starting to peek out of the dirty snow banks and brown, crinkle grass yards and fields.

If I could pull it off, I would have a massive Persian feast on Nowruz, and in the past I’ve done that using it as an excuse to have friends over to celebrate over good food and new friends.  However, as with many things in life with kids (or kid), I’ve scaled things down a bit.  At least for this year.  If there is ONE dish that I simply must have when this time of year comes around, it is Ghormeh Sabzi or Green Persian Stew.  “Ghormeh” in Persian means stew and “Sabzi” is the word for green or in this case green, leafy vegetables.  Ghormeh Sabzi is a rich, beef and bean stew with a sauce brimming with slowly simmered, finely chopped Springtime greenery.  The slight citrus acidic kick cuts through the richness of the stew itself and ties everything together.  Just writing about it makes me want to simmer up another batch, and in fact I might just do that this weekend.  Hmmm… We are having guests…

But back to Ghormeh Sabzi…  I know that the name is likely rather foreign to many of you, but as we make this transition from frozen, cold whiteness into the chilly freshness of Spring, this is the perfect stew whether the name sounds familiar or not.  It bridges both the desire for comforting warmth and the desperate need for all things green and full of life.  And frankly, what better time to try something new than a new year, whether or not you start the new year in January or March?  I hope that you all have a fantastic Nowruz (new year) and a gorgeous Springtime.

Ghormeh Sabzi - Green Persian StewGhormeh Sabzi (Green Persian Stew)

Ingredients
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 leeks, split in half lengthwise and well washed
1 bunch cilantro, well washed
2 bunches parsley, well washed
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 tsp. tumeric
3 tsp. salt
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. water
¼ c. lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

IMG_9959Directions

  1. Put the rough chopped onion in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Put the onion in a small bowl and set aside.

    A roughly chopped onion ready to be sublimely and finely chopped.

    A roughly chopped onion ready to be sublimely and finely chopped.

  2. Roughly chop the cleaned leeks and add them to the food processor. Pulse them until chopped finely, then put them in a medium bowl and set aside.
    Halve the leeks lenghtwise, keeping the root end intact.  Then hold them under running water, fanning out the layers as you go, to rinse out all of the grit.

    Halve the leeks lengthwise, keeping the root end intact. Then hold them under running water, fanning out the layers as you go, to rinse out all of the grit.

    The rough chop waiting for the food processor magic.

    The rough chop waiting for the food processor magic.

    I love my food processor.  Finely chopped leeks, perfect for this stew.

    I love my food processor. Finely chopped leeks, perfect for this stew.

  3. Add the cilantro and parsley to the food processor and chop finely. Add them to the leek bowl and set aside.

    Cilantro and parsley finely chopped in seconds.

    Cilantro and parsley finely chopped in seconds.

  4. Pour 1 tbsp. of olive oil into a Dutch oven and heat the pan over medium high. When the oil is hot add the onions and sauté until browned on the edges.

    Browning the onions.

    Browning the onions.  I seem to have a number of “steamy” pictures for this recipe.  Is there a special benefit to hot onion facials?

  5. Add the stew meat to the pan and brown the pieces on all sides.

    Adding the stew meat to the pot.

    Adding the stew meat to the pot.

  6. Add the turmeric and salt, and stir to combine.

    Turmeric and salt ready to go.

    Turmeric and salt ready to go.

  7. Add the leeks, cilantro and parsley to the pan, along with the kidney beans, water, and lemon juice. Bring the stew to a simmer and let it bubble away gently for 1 ½ hours. Taste to adjust seasonings.
    The amount of raw greenery can look daunting in your stew pot, but it will become something magical.

    The amount of raw greenery can look daunting in your stew pot, but it will become something magical.

    Adding the beans and remaining ingredients.

    Adding the beans and remaining ingredients.

    Everything looks a bit raw when first added to the pan, but after the long simmer...

    Everything looks a bit raw when first added to the pan, but after the long simmer…

    After the long simmer, all of the flavors come together and this stew is the perfect cold Springtime dinner.

    After the long simmer, all of the flavors come together and this stew is the perfect cold Springtime dinner.

  8. Serve over steamed basmati rice. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Ghormeh Sabzi (Green Persian Stew) recipe.

I like how the Piggy Bowl seems to strut its stuff for a number of the food glamor shots.

I like how the Piggy Bowl seems to strut its stuff for a number of the food glamor shots.

 

Birdsong

Recently I’ve been getting caught up with special archaeologist friends and reminiscing about our days in Turkey.   I shared with them the post about our soccer adventures (Taking One For the Team) and was reminded that our team name was the Bismil Eşekler.  Bismil is the village where we stayed and eşekler translates to “donkeys.”  You can put the two together nicely.  I was also reminded of the way we all felt completely stunned, stopped in our tracks, when we turned the corner of the little field expecting to see our normal, slightly dusty, excavation workers and instead were met with a professionally outfitted team moving through their confident warm up routine.  As my brother would say, we were gob smacked, mouths open, stunned.  The other team smiled.

Inspired by these memories, I looked back into my emails written home from this time and found an entry that I’ve called Birdsong.  This isn’t at all like Taking One For the Team, but simply holds one of those moments in your life when you want to look around and remind yourself to not forget.  To remember the sound, smell and look of everything happening around you.  I don’t have the picture that I’ve been looking for to include here, but I did find one of our rooftop beds.  I’ll tell you another story that goes with that picture later.  I don’t have a spiffy recipe for delicious Turkish inspired food, though one will be coming soon.  But I do have a wistfulness for the moment of peace captured here, and the hope that we can all have such a moment again.

BIRDSONG

The weather here is finally getting to the Turkish weather that I remember and love… meaning really hot and dry. I feel like my bones are finally thawing and drying out from the last crazy Binghamton winter. We will probably start getting up an hour earlier for the fieldwork, meaning that we’ll get up at 4am so that we’re at the tepe (excavation site) working by 6am when the sun comes over the horizon. The minute the sun peeks over the Tigris River, you feel the heat wash over you like a wave. We will also have to leave the tepe an hour earlier (around noon) to avoid a bit of the intense heat of the afternoon where it easily tops 110º Fahrenheit in the shade.

The fields that have been a rolling deep green are now a beautiful golden and when the wind moves across them it looks like a sparkling golden ocean. Where my new trench is on the back of the tepe there are these gorgeous green birds and a small stream edged by green with singing frogs. If we could just get rid of the thousands of little flies from the millions of sheep and goat pellets that would be nice. Our days are punctuated by one of us (myself, my workmen or another crew member) choking on a bug as it goes straight down our throats or up our noses in their own desperate search for moisture. Who says archaeology isn’t glamorous? Bet you never say Indiana Jones hacking on a fly… We all now joke about the tasty bugs.  Makes your coat glossy.

The other day was a special evening at the dig house; I hope I never forget it. Our dig house consists of the 4th and 5th floors of a six-story cement apartment building. I had gone up to the roof where we sleep, and where it was cooler. It was still light out so I wanted to get caught up with some of my trench journals. I was there by myself, listening to the ethereal music of the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack (the remake, not the original). The sun was just setting behind the other houses in the village, and at this time of year that means a crazy sort of pinkish opalescent color all across the sky. It affects the rest of the light so that everything is bathed in this pinkish glow. It even makes Bismil (the locals call our village Pis-mil, and “pis” in Turkish means “dirty,” so when the locals rename your down as dirty…), with its piles of dung cakes and wandering donkeys beautiful. As long as you don’t inhale too deeply.

I was enjoying the light and the music and the space to think and write up my journals when suddenly there were dozens of sparrows flying everywhere. I guess that the bewitching hour is also when it’s cooled off enough for lots of tasty bugs to come out. These sparrows and a few bats appeared out of nowhere, and suddenly I was surrounded by beautiful birdsong and these birds and bats swooping and diving everywhere. It was stunning. The journals were set down and the music discarded. I laid back on my little bed on the rooftop and simply watched and listened. I never want to lose this memory…

Dave trying desperately to fight the sun and sleep longer.  The rest of us already caved to the sweaty 6am heat, but it will take a daring bird to remove this sleeper from his roost.

Dave trying desperately to fight the sun and sleep longer. The rest of us already caved to the sweaty 6am heat, but it will take a daring bird to remove this sleeper from his roost.

More Thoughts on Hummus

Like I mentioned in my last post, hummus is one of those versatile recipes that can be used a dozen different ways.  When I made the batch for the Request for Hummus post, I wanted to use the hummus for more than just a meze (a Turkish or Greek… why does it make me nervous to type both of those names back to back… dip or snack food), but as a part of a larger meal.  What came to mind was a sandwich that I’d fiddled with before, but hadn’t yet perfected.  What it needed was a silky layer of hummus to really pull all the flavors together, and voila, the Mediterranean Tuna and Hummus Sandwich was created.  You’re really going to like this one.

Mediterranean Style Tuna and Hummus Open Face SandwichThe sandwich has three main components, the flat bread, the hummus and a Mediterranean-style Tuna Salad.  The flat bread could be bought from your local store, or substituted out for a nice crusty roll, OR you could use some of the fantastic Whole Wheat Pizza Dough that I wrote about for stocking your pantry.  As I’ll describe below (or click here for a “how to” recipe for Using Frozen Pizza Dough), you simply roll out the dough, season it with whatever dried herb mixture you prefer, and bake it until crispy.  It’s delicious!  The hummus, while you could buy it from the store, is so easy to make at home that once you get this recipe (Marie’s Hummus) down you’ll never look at the pasty stuff from the grocery store in the same way again.  The last part, the Mediterranean-style Tuna Salad, is included here.  If you’re not a big fan of the traditional mayonnaise-based tuna salad, this one is for you.

While I actually am a fan of a good, rich, mayonnaise-based tuna salad sandwich (in fact I think that’s what we’re having for dinner tonight) there are times when I want something a bit different, and that’s when I use this Mediterranean-style Tuna Salad recipe.  It has a nice, briney bite from kalamata olives, a little feta cheese gives it a creamy-richness, and there’s plenty of crunch from vegetables like onion and celery.  In fact, you’ll be surprised by how much salad one little can of tuna can create since it is well supported by a crunchy cast of characters.  The salad is a cinch to toss together, the flavors get better if they have a chance to hang out for a bit, and it’s great to serve over lettuce for a large salad, or you can serve it with crackers for a snack or appetizer, OR even better you can serve it as a part of a great, layered open face sandwich like the one shown here.

Mediterranean-Style Tuna Salad

Ingredients:
3 eggs, hard boiled and separated
1 can tuna in water, drained
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
¼ cup feta, crumbled
¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and diced
1 cup English or hot house cucumber, diced
½ small onion, diced
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. herbs de Provence, or other dry herb blend
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Separate the egg whites from the yolk, and discard two yolks. That is where most of the fat and cholesterol reside. Use them if you want, the salad will be even more delicious. I discard them here to lighten the salad. Finely dice the remaining yolk and whites. Add them to a large bowl.
  2. Add the tuna, celery, feta, olives, cucumber and onions to the bowl and toss to combine.
    The salad ingredients

    The salad ingredients.

    Tossed to combine

    Tossed to combine

  3. Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl to combine.
  4. Toss the salad with the dressing and enjoy!

Click here for a printable Mediterranean Tuna Salad recipe.

Mediterranean-Style Tuna and Hummus Sandwich

Ingredients:

One portion Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
1 cup Marie’s Hummus
1 batch Mediterranean Tuna Salad
1 tsp. Herbs de Provence blend
1 cup salad greens or arugula
Olive oil to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
  2. Roll out the dough into a wide oval, about ¼ inch thick. With a fork (or docking tool) poke holes all over the surface of the dough. This will keep it from bubbling up and distorting. Brush the dough lightly with about 1 tsp. of olive oil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and the Herbs de Provence over the dough. Either slide the dough directly onto a pizza stone in your hot oven, or place it on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and then into the hot oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until just browned in spots. Remove the crust to your work area.
    The prepared dough for flat bread.

    The prepared dough for flat bread.

    Note that the shape of the dough changed significantly.  :)  This is what makes it "rustic"... When things don't go as planned just call them "rustic" and they'll still taste as good.

    Note that the shape of the dough changed significantly. 🙂 This is what makes it “rustic”… When things don’t go as planned just call them “rustic” and they’ll still taste as good.

  3. Spread the hummus in a thin layer over most of your crust, leaving a 1 inch border around the edges.

    Leave a thin border around the edges for a good place to hold onto your open faced sandwich.

    Leave a thin border around the edges for a good place to hold onto your open faced sandwich.

  4. Mound the Mediterranean Tuna Salad on top of the hummus, leaving a narrow border around the edges so that the hummus is visible.

    Each added "layer" should leave a little of the previous layer visible so you can see a bit of everything.

    Each added “layer” should leave a little of the previous layer visible so you can see a bit of everything.

  5. Mound your salad greens or arugula on top of the tuna salad and drizzle it lightly with olive oil.

    I used hearts of romaine here for the last layer, but my favorite is arugula.  Water cress would be great too!

    I used hearts of romaine here for the last layer, but my favorite is arugula. Water cress would be great too!

  6. Cut into “slices” and serve. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable Mediterranean Style Tuna and Hummus Sandwich recipe.

If you want to find an easy “recipe” for using your frozen from scratch pizza dough, click here: Using Frozen Pizza Dough.

 

One delicious open face sandwich.  You can make smaller sized ones for individual portions if you want to be fancy, or make one large one like this and cut it into quarters or long slices to serve family style.

One delicious open face sandwich. You can make smaller sized ones for individual portions if you want to be fancy, or make one large one like this and cut it into quarters or long slices to serve family style.