I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: any cuisine with a specific name for crispy rice is A-OK with me. So when I read Saveur’s recent feature on the food of Iran, I knew I was going to make one of the recipes. At first, I thought I might go straight for the gold and make Shirin Polow, which is translated as Iranian Rice Pilaf, and which promised a “thick, crisp tah dig crust.” Which reminds me, shouldn’t there be an Iranian food truck called Tah Diggin’ It. Thoughts? At the very least, Matt should buy the URL.
Anyway, at the last minute, another dish, Baghali Ghatogh or Lima Beans with Eggs and Dill, caught my eye. I just loved the look of all that green spotted by the yellow egg yolks and threads of bright pinkish-red saffron. So, Baghali Ghatogh it was!
Before you get too invested in this gorgeous dish, here’s a question to consider: do you like dill? Because this recipe calls for four cups of the fresh herb, which is basically one large bunch of dill, which is a lot of dill. It also calls for soaking dried beans overnight, so plan ahead, friends.), you are supposed to form 4 shallow wells in the bean mixture and then “crack an egg into each well.” Unfortunately, though, at this point, forming a well was made impossible by the fact that the mixture was way too watery. I cooked the beans for an extra half hour thinking they might absorb some of the extra liquid, but it just didn’t help. What did help was ladling out approximately 2¼ cups of liquid. After I did this, it was still more watery than I would have liked, but I was at least able to crack the eggs into the mixture without the eggs sinking down below the surface and losing them forever. Once the eggs cooked through and I turned off the heat, only then did the mixture really firm up and start to look like the photo in the magazine.
Speaking of magazine-quality photos, aren’t these photos beautiful? (Matt takes them so I believe I'm allowed to say that.) I would definitely make it again (sans about 2 cups water) just to revisit this pretty plate in front of me. I served it with Lavash bread and a simple version of Mast-o Khiar (Yogurt and Cucumber Dip). Just mix up some plain yogurt, peeled, seeded and diced cucumbers, a clove or two of minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. If you have mint, all the better!
Last but not least, it wouldn’t feel right to mention the cuisine of Iran without mentioning my dear friend Raena who most certainly introduced me to Mast-o Khiar and tah dig about ten years ago and whose father once sent me on a drive home from her house in Philadelphia to the gymnastics camp in the Poconos where I was working for the summer with a Ziploc freezer bag filled with the most delicious fruit I’d ever tasted in my life. I’m talking about fresh figs, Rainier cherries, apricots, strawberries, and a few pomegranates for good measure. It was heaven in a plastic bag. Also, as sidebar, I made the drive in pajama pants and a hooded sweatshirt and as it turned out, that really worried Raena’s dad. Ah, I miss parents!
p.s. Happy Persian New Year! (I just realized it was Persian New Year today. I could never be this timely on purpose.)
Baghali Ghatogh adapted from Saveur
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ tsp. ground turmeric
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cups finely chopped dill
1 cup dried lima beans, soaked overnight, drained
¼ tsp. crushed saffron
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Saffron threads, to garnish
Heat butter in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add turmeric and garlic; cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups dill and the beans; cook until dill is slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Add crushed saffron and 3 cups water; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until beans are tender, about 1½ hours. (Check in on it after an hour and see if it looks too dry. I don't think it will, but if it does, add more water.) Season with salt and pepper; stir in remaining dill. Using a spoon, form 4 shallow wells in bean mixture; crack an egg into each well. Cook until eggs are cooked over-easy, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with saffron before serving.