About Joojeh Kabob (Persian Style Chicken Kebob)
Although, Iranians don’t have a tendency to make joojeh kabob very often for their daily meals, for the rest of the world, kabobs are known as the premier Persian cuisine, and people like to go to Persian restaurants for their delectable chicken and meat kebobs paired with grilled vegetables over beautiful jewel rice.
As for us Iranians, our go to meals for every day are khoresh (stews), Āsh (thick soups), khorak (braises), and polo (assorted rices). Even though back home (Iran), kabobs were prepared all year round, now days, traditionally made kabobs are mostly done for special occasions or family gatherings.
An authentic kabob is expected to be done over a manghal (portable wood-charcoal grill) which allows the metal skewers to be laid directly over an open fire. However, these days, kabobs are mostly prepared on gas grills. Some families including my parents, have replicated the open fire concept on a gas grill. Basically, they use regular outdoor gas grills, but they take off the cast iron parts to lay the metal skewers on a direct flame.
In the pictures below, I'd like to take the opportunity to show the different vegetables that can be grilled and served with kabobs. Usually, tomatoes are must-haves, but grilling onions, green bell peppers or green hot peppers are very common too. On the left, we have joojeh kabob being done over an authentic manghal, and on the right, kabobs and vegetables are being grilled over a transformed gas grill, all courtesy of my lovely mom and dad!
More over, it is the tradition to place the cooked kabobs and vegetables between layers of fresh lavash bread over a platter and bring them to the table that is already set with complementary spreads. Usaully the other things that go well with kabobs are seasoned yogurt, pickle, and freshly assembled herbs like basil, mint, arugula, scallions, and radishes. Last but not least, in hot summer days, ice-cold doogh (yogurt drink) is served to complete the manifestation.
Sadly enough, a lot of times, I can't do any of the above preparations. It is so much work for me, and I just grill my kabobs on a stove top grill or on the top of a regular barbecue grill. I also make sure to grill tomatoes and onions to keep that great flavors happening. At this point, I rather have non-traditional joojeh kabobs ever so often, than waiting months to have a real one, and I’m kind of a sure my Iranian peeps every where feel the same way.
5 lb. of boneless and skinless chicken breast, rinsed and pat dried
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
1/2 tbsp lemon and pepper seasoning salt (recommended: McCormik)1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp onion powered, (recommended: Sadaf)
1/2 tsp powdered saffron, dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp butter, melted in the microwave for 15 seconds
Cut chicken breast into large bite-size pieces. Place the cut pieces and sliced onions in a mixing bowl and lightly toss them together.
Make the marinade. In a small mixing bowl, combine the kosher salt, Aleppo pepper, black pepper, dissolved saffron, lemon juice, and the olive oil, stirring well with a whisk.
Pour the marinade over chicken and onions. Mix well until all the chicken and onion pieces are fully coated with the marinade.
Trim the ends of the wooden skewers to fit inside your stove top grill and soak them in water for 10 minutes.
Next, remove the chicken pieces from marinade, and skewer them. Brush both sides with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the skewered chi on the preheated stove top grill. Grill them on medium-high for about 4 minutes per side or until tender. Serve with grilled tomatoes and onions over lavash bread or steamed basmati rice.
About Loobia Chiti
If you’ve never had pinto beans prepared in a Persian style before, I don’t blame you for underestimating and looking down at pinto beans. This particular dish in Persian is called “Loobia Chiti” as “Loobia" meaning bean, and “chiti" is the Persian name for Pinto. In Iran, Loobia Chiti is considered a vegetarian meal, side dish, appetizer, or even a salad when served cold.
This dish is one of the most unpretentious and yet a desired one throughout the country(Iran), and I would assume it is the best selling can food to this day. Everyone I grew up with loved this dish, as much as they made fun of it! Yes, every body made fun of it, because it gives the body gas and bloating! but the taste is so worth it.
Speaking of which, I strongly recommend soaking overnight or even better, soaking for 24 hours. When the beans are soaked long enough, couple of good things happen. One, they cook faster. Two, their texture after cooking is really soft inside-out; not soaking long enough will results in beans that are too soft outside and stiffy inside. Third, soaking does help reduce bloating but not drastically, I guess we just have to accept to appreciate beans for what they are.
1 lb pinto beans, picked over, rinsed and soaked overnight or up to 24 hours
1 large carrot, chopped to 3 pieces
6 cloves garlic
2-3 pieces bay leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 medium yellow onion, small diced
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar or raw cane sugar
Drain the soaked beans and place in a large pot. Fill the pot with 6 to 7 cups of water. Add the quartered onions, carrots, garlics, and bay leaves. Bring the water to boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with lid and cook until beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring it occasionally. Midway through its cooking (after 30 minutes), add kosher salt to season, but do not over season.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan, and add the diced onions. Season with salt and black pepper, and sauté until lightly golden about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato paste, turmeric, and cayenne pepper, stirring everything together and sauté for 2-3 more minutes to cook the raw tomato taste. Set aside.
When the beans are tender, add the onion mixture, vinegar, and sugar. Stir every thing together and with no lid, let it simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. When the texture of the dish thickens, taste for additional seasoning. Serve hot with steamed basmati rice or fresh bread.
About Grilled Pork
In the world of grill and barbecue, for me, it’s all about pork. When I crave those sticky ribs slapped with nice tangy-spicy sauce, there is nothing else I can really think of, but to get my hands on one. Indeed, pork has the best flavor when barbecued.
While barbecuing pork at home is not an easy option for a lot of households, a good grilled pork will get you close. It is so easy to prepare a super moist and delicious grilled pork, and it is very easy to dry them by mistake.
There are some important factors worth taking into account when grilling pork.
3 lb. thick-cut pork loin, trimmed, cubed 2”x2” or a little bigger
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, smacked and chopped
1 tbsp lemon & pepper seasoning salt (recommended: McCormick )
1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sriracha hot chili sauce
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup low sodiums soy sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
First, make the marinade. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, lemon pepper seasoning, Aleppo pepper, salt, sriracha hot souse, turmeric, black pepper, vinegar, soy sauce, and olive oil, stirring well with a whisk. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl or on top of your chopping board, mix the cubed pork pieces with the sliced onions. Make sure onions are well distributed. Transfer the pork and onion mix into a zip top bag and pour the marinade over it. Get the extra air out and close the bag. Gently, shake the bag until all pork pieces are coated with marinade. Place the bag in the refrigerator, and marinate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight, shaking the bag often.
Remove the pork pieces from the marinade and allow them to come about room temperature.
Preheat the stove top grill on high. Brush the pork pieces with some cooking oil and season them with a little salt and black pepper. Place them on the hot stove top grill and after one minute, turn down the heat to medium. Let them cook about 6 to 8 minutes. Raise the heat to high again, and flip the pork pieces over and after one minute turn down the heat to medium and allow the pork cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the cooked pork pieces to a serving platter, covering with foil and Let them rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot with a side of steamed basmati rice.
3 cups of finely chopped spinach
1 cup of finely chopped dandelion
2 medium tomatoes, small diced
2 persian cucumbers, unpeeled, small diced
1 large carrot, peeled, small grated
For the lemon dressing
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the mayonnaise dressing
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt
For the lemon dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper, Aleppo pepper, olive oil in a small bowl.
For the mayonnaise dressing, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt in a small bowl.
In a medium bowl, combine all the chopped vegetables. Add the lemon dressing and toss every thing together until coated well with the dressing. transfer the salad mix on to a flat serving platter. Next, with a spoon, pour the mayonnaise dressing over the salad, making horizontal patterns. Serve cold.
About Dry Aged Steak
I’ll be honest, I’m not even interested in steak. In fact, when I have to order something at a steak house, “baby back ribs” are what I’m drooling over. Nonetheless, I’m always happy to make a good steak for my fiancé who loves and drools over it. Meanwhile, I get to watch him cleaning his plate and that is what sticks to my ribs.
I happen to read about dry aging a steak for the first time at the “Costco Connection” magazine. Sometimes, we just need a friendly and unpretentious magazine to simplify a complex concept. I loved it. I knew right away that is it. It was impressive to learn about a simple way to make a big flavor steak right at home.
This is what I’m talking about, cooking techniques that are simple and smart. And it doesn't matter that I did’t make baked potato to go with it. Well, it was a weekday, and I was not going to spend an hour to bake potatoes, but I did make pierogies and put turmeric in its broth to make them look like potatoes! It’s all about doing things the way which suits and sparks you.
“I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way” (Johnny Cash, 1993).
1 thick cut T-bone steak (at least 1” thick and 16 oz)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Stove top gril
First, rinse the steak, and with a paper towel dry it completely. Place the cooling rack on a sheet pan. Then season the steak with salt and pepper liberally on both sides, and place it on the cooling rack, and put it in the refrigerator.
Let the steak sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 to 8 hours. The goal is to air dry the steak. Do not cover the steak. Also this means that our meat will be susceptible to odors and bacterias that the refrigerator is having, so make sure your refrigerator is clean and odorless when dry aging a steak.
Remove the steak from the refrigerator, and allow the meat to reach room temperature before putting it on the grill. It may take up to 45 minutes.
Brush the steak with olive oil on both sides, and grill over medium high for 5 minutes per side. Transfer the steak to its serving plate and cover with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Hangover Breakfast: Part 1
About Potato Cake in the Pan
Let me tell you something, nobody gets up sober on a saturday morning and says “let’s make potato fittata for breakfast”! however, if you consciously make that decision, then good for you because you are about to get a hash brown, a potato cake, and an omelet all in one pan.
This potato frittata is my idea of a cure for hangovers, and I naturally crave it every time after a happy night of drinking with cousins.
Trust me, to know how to make these stuff is a good skill to have. In 30 minutes you can save your life at home. Also, this makes a very classy “stoner food”, so if you have someone to impress, then “good” again…and it’s not that your hangover company will mind, two eggs over-easy with toast, but hey, live a little sometimes…
5 bacon strips, sliced in 1/2” pieces
2 large russet potatoes, grated
5 eggs, cracked and lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Note: To cook this dish, make sure you have a nonstick skillet with a fitting lid.
Place the sliced bacons in a frying pan on low heat and let them start browning. Stir them occasionally. When all the fat has melted to grease, use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon bits, and transfer them on a paper towel. Save the bacon bits and 2-3 tablespoons of grease.
Meanwhile, peel and wash the potatoes. Use a box grater to coarsely grate them. Place the grated potatoes in a clean kitchen towel and twist the top of the towel together. Squeeze with your both hands to wring out the excess liquid from the potatoes, as much as the potatoes are not very watery. Transfer them into a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
Dice the onion very finally and add to the grated potatoes. Add in the eggs, dill, salt and black pepper. Mix everything together with a fork until well blended.
Heat 2 tablespoons of bacon grease In a 9" nonstick skillet over medium-hight heat. Gently, pour the potato mixture to the pan and make sure it covers all around it evenly. Also with a spatula level the top, so when the potato cake is inverted, it will look even. Cover the skillet with lid, and let it cook for 10 to 12 minutes until the mixture sets and forms to one piece similar to a flat cake.
Uncover and check its doneness. If it’s not set and doesn't move as one piece, put the lid back and cook for another 5 minutes. Next, get it ready for inverting. With a flat-edged wooden spoon, divide the potato cake to four wedges. So if you imagine the potato cake is a clock, cut from 12 to 6 and then cut form 9 to 3. Before inverting, drizzle a little olive oil or bacon grease on top and then carefully using flat utensils, invert each piece. Cook until the underside is brown and crisp, about 6 to 10 minutes, with no lid. Tsransfer to a plate and garnish with the bacon bits. Serve hot.
Considering a lot of my family and friends have lived in Soviet Union for years, and made borscht from scratch, I’m well on my way with a great recipe to present to you. In this recipe, I use the traditional ingredients for Armenian borscht, but with a little twist. I bake the beets instead of boiling them. I like to bake the beets because it brings out their sweetness and gives the dish a nice depth of flavor.
Borscht is the perfect lunch for family Sunday gatherings. Don’t forget to buy a nice loaf of dark rye bread or baguette to dunk. Even better, if you can find one of those delicious Armenian breads called "Matnakash", just get that! And as we say in Armenian "Bari Akhorjock" (Bon appétit).
5-7 medium roasted red beets, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium raw red beets, peeled and grated
5 cups shredded green cabbage
3 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup light olive oil
2 cups diced yellow onions
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 quarts beef broth (recipe follows)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed in big chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.5 cup chopped fresh dill
1.5 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup lemon juice
1lb. sour cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Wash the beets, with their peels on, and individually wrap each one in aluminum foil. Place them on a sheet pan, and bake for 50 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven, and let them cool. Trim the ends, and rub the skin off with your hands (you may want to wear gloves to avoid red stains all over your fingers). Thinly slice them and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring the beef broth to simmer, and prepare the vegetables.
In a large non-stick skillet, on medium-high, heat the oil, and add the onions. Season it with salt and black pepper and sauté until lightly golden, about 5-7 minutes. Add tomato paste, and sauté for 2-4 minutes to cook its raw taste. Next, add the shredded carrots and raw shredded beets. Let every thing sauté together for 5-7 minutes.
Add this sauteed mixture to the simmering broth, followed by the shredded cabbage and roasted sliced beets. If the broth is too full with veggies, add just about enough tap water(lukewarm) to stir it easily. Simmer over low-medium heat for 40-50 minutes. Add the potatoes in the end since they only need 10-20 minutes to cook, and continue simmering until they are soft. If you have saved or prepared any cooked beef, you can add those with potatoes as well. Turn off the heat. Pour and stir in the lemon juice, dill and parsley and let it sit for 5 minutes. Taste the soup, and add additional lemon juice, salt and pepper if needed.
Serve hot. Ladle borscht into deep bowls, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a pinch of fresh dill and parsley.
Home made beef broth
In order to make borscht, first make the beef broth which you may consider even preparing it one to five days in advance. Allow 3-4 hours for this process.
The following beef broth cooking technique is a very unusual yet old fashion one that makes a super clear broth guaranteed with no suspicious odor or residues. This method may seem long at first, but trust me, to achieve a clear and fragrant both, it is the ultimate way to deal with red meat’s scum, bits and odor.
If you would like to cook the beef broth any other way, then you are on your own for its clarity and odor. Also, if you are wondering if Russians make their beef broth for borscht this way, well I don't know, but my mom makes it this way, and I've never made it any differently.
2 lb. shank beef
2 lb. spare ribs
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves
5-7 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of celery, cleaned and washed
1 bunch of parsley, cleansed and washed
2 tbsp salt
In a very large pot, place the entire cubed beef shanks and the ribs or whatever other cuts that you are using. Cover beef with tap water until just covered by one inch. Place the pot over stove top, on medium heat. Let it come to a full boil until it starts producing its brown scums and bits. At this point we don’t need to worry or care too much to skim. Allow 8-10 minutes for those bits and scum to come out, then strain the whole pot of beef in a metal sieve, and discard the nasty and cloudy batch of liquid.
After straining, I do two things. One, I’d like to scrub and clean the beef pot from any brown residues, then use it again. Two, I thoroughly rinse the shank and rib pieces, making sure there are no more brown bits stuck to each piece.
Now, place the beef pieces back in the pot, and pour a generous amount of water on top, as much as you would like to produce broth. For every one pound of beef (including bones), 3 cups of water is good enough.
Place the pot back on the stove top, and add in the aromatics. I’d like to use onion, garlic, celery, bay leaves, freshly ground black pepper, and some parsley.
Bring the broth to a high simmer, then lower the heat on medium-low and let it simmer for 2-3 hours until the beefs are soft and fall off the bones. Season the broth with salt midway through the cooking (when the beefs are semi soft).
Carefully, strain everything in a large metal sieve that is positioned over a large pot or bowl. Save the broth. At this point, you can separate the meats from their bones to put them back in the borscht, or you may just discard them.
I had a law professor who once said, “they are two things in life that you don’t want to see how they are made; one is sausage and second is the law.” We all laughed so hard, and I’ll never forget this mad analogy. However, I still like the sausage better than congress.
Generally speaking, I too, don’t want to know how the sausage is made(even though once I was), however, if you have moved on with those troubling thoughts, it’s time to know how a good sausage appetizer is made.
This sausage appetizers are real easy to make, and they require only few ingredients. This appetizers are perfect party food. Make plenty. Take them to your office party or a friend’s potluck, and watch them vanish.
Thanks professor for traumatizing me for years, but I’m still gonna get it going on with spicy Italian sausage!
1 sheet frozen puff pastry(10”x15”), defrosted
2 lb. spicy Italian sausage(about 7-8 links)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced in 1/2 inch squares
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2-3 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 small red onion, diced in 1.5”x1/8” pieces
1 tsp of Aleppo pepper (if not available, use Ancho chile or paprika)
A pinch of kosher salt
A pinch of black pepper
Defrost one sheet of puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator, and leave it out at room temperature just about 5-10 minutes before you are ready to unroll it.
Cover a medium sheet pan with aluminum foil, and place a piece of parchment paper over the foil coverage.
Cut each sausage lengthwise, and remove sausages from its casing. Place a medium teflon pan on the stovetop over medium heat, and place all the sausages in the pan. Break each sausage into very small bite size pieces with a wooden spatula. Turn the sausages quiet frequently to make sure all the sides are browned evenly. Remove the pan from the heat, and drain all the grease by using a strainer or discard the grease by tilting the pan over the sink using a big flat spatula to hold sausages from sliding.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and add the diced onions. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper, and sauté it until lightly golden about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and Aleppo pepper and sauté for 1 more minute. Then add the tomato paste to this mixture, stirring everything together and sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Next, add the onion mixture to the browned sausages, and sauté everything together for additional 3-5 minutes until the flavors combine. Allow the mixture to cool down to warm/room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 380 degrees F.
Place the defrosted puff pastry on a clean, flat kitchen surface, and unroll it gently until it is flat. Gently lift it up with your both hands, and transfer it to the lined up sheet pan. We really don’t need any floured surface because we are not using rolling pin to roll out the pastry, but dust some flour under the pastry if it makes you comfortable while working.
Eyeball and dived the mozzarella cheese to half. Use the first half, and spread it evenly over the pastry. Then, gently spread the sausage mixture on its top without pressing down into the pastry. Next, top the sausage mixture with the red onions. At last, in a polka dot fashion, spread out the remaining mozzarella, so the finished pastry shows off all of its ingredients.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, and with a sharp knife cut it to bite size squares. Serve warm or room temperature.