Azul (the beautiful lady in the photograph) was one of the guests at my sister & brother-in-law’s Thanksgiving potluck party that I just posted about. Azul hails from Argentina and she is a software programmer and an artist and she likes to cook and she is very, very nice. It was a case of instant “like” when I met her at the party, and also an instant case of “yum” when I tasted the delicious sunflower seed hummus she had made for the potluck. I loved the taste (nutty & round, a bit peanut-buttery in flavor) and texture (creamy and grainy) of this hummus and while it was served as a dip I can easily imagine it also as a wonderful sandwich spread or even a relish. The good news is that the recipe for sunflower seed hummus recipe is beautifully healthy and simple and Azul is graciously sharing it below as a short and sweet guest-blogger post. Further good news: she has promised a guest post about a Persianized version of an Argentine dish down the road. It’s safe to say that I can not wait! Meanwhile, without further ado, let’s dip into this delicious guest post in Azul’s own words:
I learned to make this dip in Nono, Córdoba Province, in Argentina when my violinist friend Marcos invited me to a gathering to meet a group of wonderful people who were also living part of the year in this beautiful location. One thing we all had in common was that we all had lived in different places; loved the arts, music and dance; were interested in eating healthy; and most importantly, our common interest in doing something daily to appreciate nature and life as a way of living and a simple philosophy.
Overlooking the landscape through the kitchen windows I learned how sunflower seeds could become a wonderful hummus bringing the natural oil of the seeds for a smooth texture.
Here is how:
Thank you Azul for this great, simple, healthy recipe with an enchanting history! You guys, be sure to check out Azul’s photographs of the art retreat near Nono and at Los Algarrobos, in the Córdoba Province, Argentina, where this recipe was passed on, and also her artist website.
Back to the recipe: I know I’ll be making a big batch at first opportunity. I tend to enjoy things a little bit on the salty side, so the only revision I’d personally make would be to add a bit more salt. I’d also love to see how it fares mixed in with some dried cranberries. I like that the recipe is versatile enough to add various types of green as well (would love to try it with kale) and I bet it’ll adapt itself well to further improvisation. In any event, I do recommend this recipe heartily!
Thank you again Azul jan!
Thanksgiving was a potluck affair of family and friends over at my sister and brother in law’s this year. To give you an idea of the scope, the stats were this: 25 people big and small, 3 turkeys, 8 pies, 1 espresso machine, 1 gnome.
So. The turkey … Or rather, the turkeys. 3 of them as I said. To clarify, 2 were originally birds, one was originally tofu. Yup, there was tofu turkey! I’ve long heard tales of these mythical creatures but had never seen one with my own eyes and was quite curious to glimpse one up close. I had imagined it’d be tofu in the shape of a turkey. But … no. It looked like a roll of meatloaf, and it came with gravy. Apparently some tofu turkeys also come with a mock wishbone (called a wishstix) made out of tofu jerky. Doesn’t that sound … amazing? This one didn’t – and I’m undecided if that was good or bad. May I say that tofu turkey is not the most enticing or tantalizing looking offering?
However, one person at the party absolutely loved the tofu turkey. He kept boisterously and (truth be told) somewhat aggressively pointing to it and asking for: “mo”, “mo”, “MO!” That someone was my 2 year old nephew. He couldn’t get enough of it! So funny.
The other turkeys had an interesting fate. They were not roasted in the oven as is the wont of most turkeys during the holidays. They were instead deep fried! This was another thing I’ve long heard tales of (including on an episode of King of the Hill) but had never witnessed with mine very own eyes. The idea and its contraption-construction and execution were my brother-in-law’s — who is prone to making things adventurous and theatrical and who has the grace-under-pressure aplomb to pull it off. There were some technical glitches and for a little while we thought it might be a turkeyless thanksgiving after all. But we never doubted and glitches were resolved after all and turkeys were had. Thus, it was not just delicious but a fun spectacle and memorable.
Needless to say, aside from the turkeys, there were food galore. Befitting a feast. There was: cranberry sauce, 3 different types of stuffing, 2 dishes of roasted Brussel sprouts mixed with other goodies, biscuits, haricots vert, stuffed grape leaves (if I make it again will post its recipe), sunflower seed hummus (yum and I’ve been promised its recipe and will share!), a fab wild rice dish, and sweet potato fries. A Persian mixed-rice and tadig peacefully mingled with the American food. May the respective nations do the same.
And you didn’t forget about the pies, did you? There were 8 of them! And of course by pies, I mean desserts, if you are going to be a stickler and insist on accountability and accuracy. So, 8 desserts, give or take, including: a pecan pie, 2 fruit cobblers, an apple cranberry crisp, a chocolate marquis, a traditional pumpkin pie, and 2 pumpkin creme brulees. Ah ha & oh la la! Blow-torching to make the delicious glassy brulee crust is one of those things that’s just fun to watch. Tristan, who made the phenom creme brulee pumpkin pies, did the blow torching honors. Dave is pointing approvingly – prior to commencing his own thriving made-to-order espresso-drink stint with his espresso machine. (The best cappuccinos!) Ben & Stella gamely supplied the accompanying awe + shock vibe of comraderie that is a pivotal part of a any successful blow-torching session.
Thus concludes a post looking back at a day chock-full of big and little blessings.
This illustration is a digital calligraphy of the Persian word “noosheh jaan”, a word which you may have noticed I use to sign off on recipes, which literally means “may it be delightful to your being/soul”, a veritable florid mouthful in translation, but one that in common parlance simply expresses the sentiment of: “bon appetit” or “enjoy your meal.” Iranians pronounce this to the gathering at large before beginning to eat – be it an ordinary family meal or an elaborate dinner party, and I thought it might be an appropriate sentiment to anticipate the culinary feast of Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving in the U.S is a lovely national holiday centered around food, togetherness, and gratitude – celebrated on the last Thursday in November with a festive meal with one’s family and close friends. The roots of the holiday are traced to an event commonly called the “First Thanksgiving” when the Pilgrims threw a feast to give thanks for the bounty of their first harvest in the New World in 1621 — inviting 90 Wampanoag Native Americans to join them in celebratory festivities lasting 3 days. New settlers in a new world, grateful for surviving, grateful for the kindness of the native inhabitants, all breaking bread together. One can only conjecture about the exquisite, heightened emotional nature of such an event.
One can also rightly wonder about the delicious food the Pilgrims served. The menu is historically recorded to have included waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, squash and wild turkeys. A roasted turkey (the bigger the better it seems; the ceremonial carving of which is an integral part of the holiday ritual) remains the formidable centerpiece of a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner; with goose, duck, and the tofu-turkey vegetarian concoction as alternatives. Cranberry sauce, gravy, mashed sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie are the basic, traditional side dishes – and let’s not overlook the stuffing, which is quite often the most delectable and sought-after delicacy at the table.
I wish I had a photo of our first Thanksgiving meal. When we first left Iran and moved to the U.S. my mom went through an intense period of ferocious homekeeping. She knitted, she sewed, she cooked. She clipped and collected recipes galore and made yogurt, feta cheese, jams, jellies, pickles, preserves, pizza dough, pie crusts, you name it, from scratch; and she embraced Thanksgiving and all its accoutrements with vim, vigor, zeal and zest. Which is not surprising really – come to think of it. Our first year in a new world felt like such a battery of emotions not unlike being shipwrecked at times — exile is a historical punishment for a good reason, it is extremely painful — and food and togetherness are anchors and safe harbors. Our first Thanksgiving was a gorgeous bountiful spread – my mother’s crusade of delicious soldiering-on. Of re-building a home. I took it for granted then and it is only in retrospect that I have the wisdom to admire her resilience and strength.
At some point, I’d love to share some of my mom’s by now tried-and-true family classic Thanksgiving recipes as well as some of our new Persianized concoctions; but for now, let’s conclude with this feast of a poem about giving thanks and thanksgiving by the revered Persian poet and mystic, the one and only Rumi.
Rumi’s Thanksgiving Poem
Thanksgiving is sweeter than bounty itself.
One who cherishes gratitude does not cling to the gift!
Thanksgiving is the true meat of God’s bounty;
the bounty is its shell,
For thanksgiving carries you to the hearth of the Beloved.
Abundance alone brings heedlessness, thanksgiving gives birth to alertness.
The bounty of thanksgiving will satisfy and elevate you,
and you will bestow a hundred bounties in return.
Eat your fill of God’s delicacies,
and you will be freed from hunger and begging.
The photo series above shows my dear father snapping off a one inch piece of Dartstrip to put up a cute pic of the grandkids on the wall. What is Dartstrip, you ask? Why, it’s a wonderful, patented product (a cross between a scotch tape and a bulletin board, made of snappable steel backed with removable adhesive) that solves the dilemma of displaying artwork and photographs without having to worry about putting a hole in the wall or peeling the paint.
On the one hand, I’m interrupting our regularly scheduled programming and begging your indulgence to blog about this product because my sister, my bro-in-law (remember his no-knead-bread?) & their biz partner are the team behind Dartstrip, and thus I am beaming with pride and I want to support their Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to bring Dartstrip to the market.
On the other hand (the one that’s doing the jazz hands!) I’m blogging about this solely for excitedly selfish reasons, because I want and need something like this product that lets me put up and rotate images at a whim and to my heart’s content (on any kind of wall surface and with zero nagging concerns of damaging the said well) in my life … like, stat. So I’d love for their project to make a go of it.
Please check out their adorable video (with more cameos of my dad and behind the scenes peek at the team with juggling and dancing if you watch it to the end) which charmingly demos the product and consider supporting their Kickstarter campaign.
Thank you guys & a lovely weekend to all!
I sorely miss the generous stretches of light once summer yields to fall — when dusk and darkness encroach ever more greedily to chase away the daylight. There’s something so tangibly and instinctively foreboding and gloomy about this shift of lightness to darkness as the seasons turn. Still, fall has charm to spare. From the colorful orchestra of the leaves; to a fruit bowl filled with persimmons and pomegranates; to the cozy indulgence of nursing a delicious pumpkin pie cafe latte on a pretty autumn day.
Pumpkin pie cafe latte is an ancient beverage that traces its roots to the Persian royal courts of the Achamenid dynasty when King Darius the Great would end his afternoon hunts by savoring hearty gulps of it out of a magestic silver drinking cup, cast in the form of a winged griffin … JUST KIDDING! I was just pulling your leg! Ha ha! Coffee, awesome amazing delicious coffee, was not gifted to the humanity by the ancient Iranians, although for centuries, there have been public hangouts called gahveh khaneh (literally: “coffee house”) where people, traditionally men, gathered to meet and mingle and drink … tea! We’ll visit this conundrum at another time.
Meanwhile, speaking of the origin of coffee, I always mistakenly assumed that coffee was not in widespread use until Christopher Columbus mistook America for the Indies, but it turns out (at least if we take Wikipedia‘s word for it) that we either have a 9th century herd of buzzed and caffeinated goats, or, an exiled and ravenous sheik, hailing from Mocha, Yemen (Mocha! Ha! Aha!) to thank for the discovery of this most glorious, legal substance.
Pumpkin pie cafe latte is one of the many delectable instances of the artful evolution of coffee in modern times. To Persianize it, I substituted the original recipe’s vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice (whatever that is) with a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and of course, cardamom. I didn’t have cloves, else I would have used some of that too. It is a truly minor revision that stretches the boundaries of “Persianizing” more than Kim Kardashian stretches her two-sizes-too-small outfits, but instead of raising an eyebrow in consternation, let’s consider it a culinary poetic license and shrug it off, shall we? Because this drink tastes and smells delicious enough to almost make up for the missing summer sunshine — it verily is autumn in a cup — and I really want to share it with you.
And here it goes …
Click here for the recipe!
Tas Kabab is a type of Persian dish that is a fusion of meat and various vegetables, layered and piled on top of each other, nestled in close proximity in a pot, and cooked ever so slowly. In this simmering manner, the various ingredients grow cozy and intimate. They bond! Each conveying its distinct quality to a neighboring companion but also picking up the essence of its in-the-same-pot comrades. The result: a dish with a fusion of flavor, aroma and texture far greater than the sum of its parts. What’s more, it’s a healthy and nutritious meal.
This dish really reminds me of New York. What I mean is that if New York had to be a Persian dish, I think tas kabab is what it’d be. And not just because the ingredients are crowded together in tight quarters, much like people are in the subway or a typical New York apartment building. And not just because this dish reaches skyscraping heights of dizzying flavor. Which boy oh boy, it does. It’s also because tas kabob is ultimately a dish that is all about layering, lauding, and harmonizing diversity; and in that sense, it mirrors the breathless diversity of origin, ethnicity and race of New Yorkers of all walks and standings who live, work and mingle together and in the process create a tapestry of energy that is far more interesting and vibrant than it’d ever be were this a homogenous city.
I think I love tas kabob nearly as much as I love New York: it’s the ultimate in comfort food with a core of unpretentious sophistication that can not be beat. The ingredients for it are pretty flexible and interchangeable, almost all types of vegetables would work out beautifully. My all time favorite though is when it’s made with quince, that deceptively brutish-looking fruit with an intoxicating aroma and delectable flesh. If quinces are out of reach, green apples can be substituted in a pinch. Traditionally, meat is the anchor igredient of any type of tas kabob, but for a vegetarian/vegan meal it is possible to skip it and one may substitute the meat with portobello mushroom instead without missing out on much of the goodness of this dish.
Tas Kabob is one of those dishes that’s all about the prep and assembly, which you can do in a cinch, and once you’re done with that, you can kick back and let chemistry take its slow course and do its delicious deed.
In a Persian nod to this most classic American holiday, last year we made the super delicious butternut squash khoresh (which is currently my favorite Persian stew, specially when made with plums.) This year I thought why not make a pumpkin kookoo? There is no authentic recipe for it, so I improvised, and inspired by Pomegranate Diaries, I made it in muffin tins instead of frying it in a pan as is the traditional manner. The result: a decidedly non-spooky savory kookoo that can be served with a sweet garnish (I used roasted cinnamon walnuts and confectioners sugar.) The recipe, however, needs further tinkering (flavor: good; texture: needs work!) so I’m skipping it for now. I do kind of dig the photographs though, so let’s just consider this a Halloween postcard.
Have a safe and spooky Halloween! Lots of treats, not too many tricks!