5/4/12

Ghormeh Sabzi

One major perk of having a food blog—and this is probably reason enough to start one—is that people who read your blog sometimes invite you to their house to make awesome food with them. This is one of those stories. About a month ago, when I posted about my love for Persian cuisine—particularly tah dig (crispy rice)—I got an offer from my friend, Tannaz, to teach me how to make it. Needless to say, I accepted.

Tannaz gave me some menu options and an education. Here are some things I learned: For Persian rice, you typically have two options: polo or chelo. Polo has things cooked into it and chelo is plain white rice with saffron that you serve with khoresh (stew). I was about to say whichever one has the crispy rice, but she cut me off at the pass: Don’t freak out, Amelia; they both have the crispy rice layer. (She didn't really say it like that.)

As for the khoresh, there seemed to be a world of options. We could make karafs, which included celery and tons of herbs. We could do fesenjan, which was walnuts and pomegranate. There was gheime, a tomato-based khoresh with split peas and shoestring fried potatoes on top (Keep talking, I’m interested.) But hey, what about aloo esfenaj? That one highlights prunes and spinach and is both sweet and sour. But there was one khoresh option that reigned supreme, ghormeh sabzi, which Tannaz explained as “probably the Iranian national dish.” For ghormeh sabzi, you use tons of fresh herbs, which you fry, before then stewing them for a long, long time with beans and/or meat.
We met up last Sunday afternoon in Tannaz’s sunny Los Feliz kitchen and got straight to the work of making the ghormeh sabzi. The herbs in the khoresh need a long, long time to stew, remember? Speaking of the herbs, a million thanks to Violet, Tannaz’s mom who had already cleaned and chopped all of the herbs, another bonus of cooking in other people’s kitchens, sometimes their Moms help out and chop the herbs ahead of time! And I must point out, this was not a small amount of herbs. In fact, it was more herbs than I had ever used in a single dish. So, while the beef browned in the pot with the onions and turmeric, we moved on to frying herbs, definitely my favorite part of the process. The kitchen started to smell like success, fried-fresh-herb success.
Enter the dried lemons. Although the recipe called for them and Tannaz seemed very comfortable with the recipe, she didn’t seem entirely comfortable with the lemons. In fact, this was the first time they had ever been in her house. Here’s one she smashed up. It smelled like a lemon wearing lemon perfume—or, in other words, very lemony.
Once you get everything in the pot, the ghormeh sabzi just needs time, which works out perfectly because if you’re making ghormeh sabzi, you’re prolly making Persian rice, and that needs its fair share of time too.
I loved making this rice for so many reasons. It’s such a thoughtful process, which Tannaz had started hours before my arrival by washing the rice three times and then leaving it to soak in water. The next step was to parboil the rice, which brings the rice to a point that it’s no longer hard or raw in the middle. After you drain the rice and run it with cold water to stop the cooking is when things start to get really, really cool.

You take the widest bottomed pan you have and add a bit of oil, water, and saffron. Then you add just some of the parboiled rice and mix it up with the oil, water, and saffron combination. I believe this is when Tannaz brought up Jello 1-2-3, and I looked at her blank-faced, but now I get it. Chelo is totally like Jello 1-2-3. See, the bottom layer of rice that’s mixing with the oil and saffron is set to be the tah-dig; then there is the middle, which is less crispy but nice and saffrony; and then the top is white and fluffy / the perfect base for khoresh! Chelo 1-2-3! I get it!
As you’re adding the layers of rice to the pot, you’re also being careful to do so in the shape of a mountain. Since you’re basically steaming the rice, if the middle and top layers of the rice touch the sides of the pan, those pieces get too dry. Speaking of steaming, once you’ve got your rice in a nice mountain shape, that’s when you take the bottom of a cooking utensil and poke five holes into the rice mountain. (By the way, for a full explanation and recipe, check out Tannaz’s amazing post on Persian rice.) Next, you cover the pot, turn the burner on to medium-high and wait for a sizzling and sputtering sound. Once you hear it, you lower the heat and cook for 1 hour. (As if it’s that simple. It’s not! Tannaz checked on the rice periodically, adding a bit more oil and water when she thought it looked too dry.)
Other things that happened while the rice cooked? We ate delicious walnuts Tannaz had soaked in cold water (Who knew water-soaked walnuts could taste so good?) We ate delicious slices of Persian cucumber with lime and salt. And we tried to make faloodeh, rose water ice with noodles, though ended up giving up on it when the ice-cream machine refused to cooperate.

In case the photos haven’t proved it yet, this meal was delicious. The ghormeh sabzi was citrusy, meaty, herby, and subtly sour all at once—a flavor profile I don’t really run into in my everyday life. And of course there was the rice, the beautiful, beautiful rice.
In short: thanks so much for sharing your kitchen with me, Tannaz!

And while we’re on the topic of gratitude, thanks to everyone who voted for Bon Appetempt. Believe it or not, we won a Saveur Food Blog Award for the second year in a row! I for one can’t really believe it. So, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Ghormeh Sabzi via Tannaz's adaption of the recipe from New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies
("Fresh Herb Khoresh" as the book calls it.)

(Herb portions can be hazy--the more the merrier!)
1 bunch Persian chives (can substitute, or subsidize with 1 bunch scallions, green part only)
3 bunches flat-leaf parsley
1/2 bunch fenugreek
1/2 C spinach (optional)

3 Tbs olive or other vegetable oil
1 1/2 lb beef shank, cut into 2x2 inch cubes, against the grain
1 Small onion, finely diced
1 tsp ground turmeric

4-6 Dried lemons ('limoo Omani')
1/4 C fresh lime or lemon juice

1/2 can kidney beans, drained.
Remove any thick stems from herbs, and, in a food processor, finely chop them. 

In a large pot or Dutch oven, sauté 1 tablespoon oil, turmeric, meat, and onions over med-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until meat is browned.  Season with salt and pepper (Note: we used kosher meat, which is salted before you buy it.  This is why we didn't salt during this step. Non-kosher meat, you'd want to salt, though, you'll have plenty of opportunity to adjust).  Add dried lemons and enough water to cover the mixture by one inch to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer while you fry the herbs.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, fry herbs with remaining oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the aroma of frying herbs rises, about 20 minutes.

Add herbs and lime juice to pot and stir to combine.  Increase heat to return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for at least another 2 hours.

In the last 10 minutes or so of cooking, stir in kidney beans and adjust seasoning.

Serve over steamed basmati rice.
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34 comments:

tannaz said...

amazing! you managed to cover all the little details of both the rice and the khoresh! it was so fun cooking with you, Amelia. happy to do it again, whenever you like!

Matthew said...

Oh man, so sad that i missed this. Next time! Also, just spit ballin' here but i feel like cooking w/ Tannaz should be a show...

Amy said...

Amelia I loved reading this post! It looked like a lot of fun to get invited to cook in an expert's kitchen (umm why has this not happened to me yet?!) and the food looks incredible. I'm not very aware of persian cooking, but I guess being exposed to it through this post is another awesome reason why food blogs are cool.

And congratulations on winning the Saveur award, I was hoping you'd get it!

Jared said...

Congratulations on the award, Amelia!

And congratulations to me too - I won the delicious leftovers of this meal at Tannaz's house a day or two later. It's nice to see the before pictures.

Rachel said...

Love all of this!!

Melanie said...

Congrats on the huge win. I totally voted for you :-) Always love your posts. I've never tried to cook Persian food, but I'm definitely going to attempt that rice.

Sara in America said...

I'm so into your newfound love of Persian food. Also - you DEFINITELY have to try gheimeh. My non-Persian friends like to call it "meat fries." Also....khoreshte aloo. it's aloo esfenaj minus the spinach and with chicken thighs. I'm making that tonight. Noush-e jan!

Ileana said...

Wow, look at those dried lemons. And the rice. And everything! I'm hungry.

Yossy | apt2bbakingco said...

This is my favorite Iranian meal, I am so glad that you liked it too! My family usually makes potato tah dig instead of rice and we always fight over who gets the most delicious crispy potatoes.

npifko said...

this is one of my favorite dishes ever, persian is a staple in my home and what honestly, its the best comfort food ever!! Going to try your recipe asap :)

Elizabeth said...

This is undoubtedly my favorite Persian recipe. Delicious! Wonderful entry.

sg said...

I swear I can smell this food right now! and many congratulations dude! xo sg

K said...

This looks amazing -- I think I might have eaten something similar at Raffi's Place in Glendale? Maybe not, but it was a stew with dried limes in it and it was amazing.

Can you start a series where you go to people's houses and cook? You can come to mine and make gumbo with me! And drink lots of white wine and get burned by 'cajun napalm' in the process.

Joy said...

congrats on the award! can't wait to try this!

Stephanie said...

Congrats! I voted :) So happy it's you! Your blog is hysterical, inspiring, and lovely all at once! And, fabulous, fabulous writing!

amelia said...

ohhh, Raffi's Place? Perhaps I need to stop by next time I'm in Glendale. As for gumbo and lots of white wine? Where do I sign up??

amelia said...

awww, thanks so much, Stephanie.

amelia said...

that. sounds. amazing.

amelia said...

Thanks, everyone!!

Mary Anne said...

Holy crap dude, that food looks totally ridic!! Seriously. I bet those flavors were soooooooo delish.

CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN TO MY FAVORITE BLOGGER!!

Megan Taylor said...

a.) I've never seen so many herbs

b.) yay for crispy rice

c.) I want!!!

la domestique said...

How cool of Tannaz for inviting you into her home to make crispy rice! I love the technique, all the steps and time taken to layer flavors and textures. Congrats on the Saveur blog award as well!

Heather Taylor said...

THE MEAL LOOKS AMAZING! AND CONGRATS ON 2/2!!!!!! MUCH DESERVED!

joanna said...

two major things happening here:

1. this crazy dish with the best name ever
AND
2. your saveur award!!!

so awesome, amelia!

cosplay costumes said...

WOW!Amazing!Congratulations!And thanks for sharing the recipe!

3rdimension said...

I just learned of your blog - it's beautifully produced. Your recipe with photos is reminiscent of the photos out of the cookbook, Plenty - from Ottolenghi Restaurant, London. We just published a recommendation on our blog and thought you might enjoy it:
http://thought2form.blogspot.com/2012/05/plenty-cookbook.html

Susan Cooper said...

Congratulation on your award. How cool and so well deserved.

This recipe looks divine and it just so happens I love Persian food. not all of it mid but a good many dishes. This is, again, another dish of yours I will be trying. :-), Susan Cooper

Rachel said...

I'm drooling!!

kale said...

Congrats! You were my pick. :) I suck at rice. This rice rocks.

amelia said...

thanks for the vote, Kale!!

tannaz said...

um, yes please!

Turismo said...

Excellente blog, greetings

Anonymous said...

How many cup servings will this recipe yield? It's our favorite dish ever, and I'm so excited to give it a try!

amelia said...

Oh, dear. Afraid I don't know. I can tell you that it fed 4 people for dinner with plenty of leftovers! Hope this helps!