Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentine's Day Spread

Here is what we had for our V-Day dinner. Tabriz style meatballs, garlic kuku, cheeses and vegetables, salad with beets, almonds, red onion, gorgonzola, and pear, yogurt and beet dip, hummus, eggplant and pomegranate, lavash bread, and carrot pudding.

Kuku-ye sir bij (Garlic Kuku)--FOR THE GARLIC LOVERS ONLY!!

Look. You really NEED to LOVE garlic to try this recipe. It is intense with garlic flavor, and you should not try kissing anyone after eating it. But it is unique and I like it in small doses.

Ironically, I made this kuku for my husband and mother-in-law for Valentine's day.

Kuku-ye Sir Bij
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1/2 lb garlic, crushed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp turmeric
1/2 c. butter
6 eggs

In a skillet over medium heat saute garlic and scallions in 2 tblsps. oil and 2 tblsps. butter until browned lightly, about 15-20 minutes. Add turmeric and mix well. Remove from heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl beat eggs, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Once the garlic/scallion mixture has cooled slightly, mix with the eggs as well. Beat thoroughly.

Grease a 9 inch round cake pan with butter heavily. Pour egg mixture into the pan and bake uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, pour 1/8 cup of oil over top of the egg mixture and continue to bake until cooked all the way through (you can check with a knife to be sure--it should come out clean). This will probably be an additional 15-30 minutes.

Remove from oven when cooked through and let cool. Once cool use a knife to separate the sides of the kuku from the edge of the baking pan, and invert on top of a platter. Cut into wedges or squares and serve hot or room temperature.

Nazkhatun (Eggplant with Pomegranate)

I wish I had a better camera :( Don't be turned off by the idea of the pomegranate. It is only a very subtle taste that adds to the eggplant. There are so many different eggplant dishes you can make that require only little tweaking to this recipe. My mother-in-law made one up that is very good (and I plan to post it eventually) with ground beef and mint, turmeric, tomato,onion, garlic, and eggplant (no pomegranate). As I said in my beet-yogurt dip post, this dish tastes great when eaten with the yogurt.

3 Japanese eggplant (the long skinny ones)
2 medium onions, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 c. olive oil
3 medium tomatoes, peeled (optional peeling) and thinly sliced
1-2 tblsps. pomegranate paste
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp angelica powder (you can buy this at Phonecia)
2 tsps. fried mint (dried and fried in oil)

Peel the eggplant and cut into 4 long quarters lengthwise. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant and let it stand for 1/2 hr until the eggplant starts to sweat. Doing this will get rid of any bitter taste in the eggplant. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
After the eggplant has sweat, rinse it off completely. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease the foil or spray Pam on it. Next lie the eggplant sliced on the foil and sprinkle with olive oil or spray Pam (which is only just canola oil by the way) on them. Cover the eggplant with another sheet of foil and place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hr. The eggplants will be ready when you can easily run a fork through them. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a large frying pan heat the oil with the onions and garlic and saute until browned. Once browned add the chopped tomatoes and pomegranate paste and cook for another 8 minutes. Finally, add the eggplant, angelica powder, salt, pepper, and mint and stir completely and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve hot or room temperature with lavash bread, yogurt, and feta cheese on the side.

Halva-ye Havij (Carrot Pudding w/rose water and cardamon)

I made a feast for Valentine's Day for my husband and my Mother-in-law Shahla. My father-in-law is in Iran so I had her share the day with us. It was a pleasure to watch her win against my husband in Backgammon 6 out of 7 times! He usually wins when we play so often that I don't play with him anymore. It was satisfying to see the tables turned! We enjoyed this carrot pudding with tea and fruit while they played. It was the best item of the night, and my husband ranked it a 9, which is very high for him! :)

Halva-ye Havij
1 lb carrots, shredded
3/4 c. sugar
1 c. water
1/4 c. butter
1 c. sifted rice flour
2 c. milk (whole, skim, or soy works--I used soy)
1/2 tsp. ground saffron dissolved in 1/4 c. rose water
1 tsp cardamom
2 tblsps. chopped pistachios
2 tbslps. chopped almonds

In a saucepan over medium heat combine the water and the sugar and cook and stir until sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved add the shredded carrots, and cook over medium to low heat until carrots become very soft and mushy. This could take up to 45 minutes.

Once the carrots are soft and mushy, transport them to a blender and puree the mix and set aside.

In a large skillet melt the butter on medium heat and gradually add the rice flour and milk. Whisk the mixture so it is thick but not too thick. If it is too thick (like the consistency of already cooked pudding) add more milk. Be sure to whisk thoroughly so to dissolve all of the flour.

Once the pudding is thick, add the carrot mixture, cardamom, and the saffron-rose water mixture. Continue to whisk constantly until it thickens to the point where your arm is getting a little tired (possibly 10-15 minutes :) (this is how I gauge it).

Once the pudding is ready pour into a large shallow dish or individual serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When the pudding mixture is cooled completely garnish with the chopped pistachios and almonds and serve with cardamom tea. Yummy!

Borani-e Labu (Yogurt and Beet dip)

I thought this yogurt and beet dip would be a perfect dip for Valentine's day, as it is so beautiful. One thing I've learned about Iranians is that they basically eat everything with yogurt. With the addition of beets it makes the yogurt very earthy tasting, but it is very good. According to Batmanglij you are to make this dip with 2 tblsps. sugar. I omitted it. However, if you want to use her advice just mix the sugar with the yogurt in the recipe below. This tastes especially good with some cooked eggplant dish as well. I also made eggplant and pomegranate dip, so it taste well when I ate them together.

-e Labu
2 large uncooked beets
1 c. drained whole milk (high quality) plain yogurt
1 tblsp. chopped fresh mint

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil, and cooked in the oven for about 1-1.5 hrs. Remove the beets from the oven and let cool completely in the refrigerator. Once the beets are cooled, remove the foil while sliding off the skin of the beet at the same time (this will prevent you from staining your hands pink). Remove all the skin (it should slide off very easily). Cut off the base of the beet, and cube it into about 1/2 inch cubes.

One-half of an hour before you are ready for your guests, pour the yogurt in the serving dish and let beets stand at room temperature to the side. Right before your guests arrive top the yogurt with the beets and the chopped mint. Serve with lavash bread or pita bread.

The reason I like to let the beets and the yogurt out for 1/2 hr is to bring them to room temperature. It is my opinion that it taste best that way.