Fereni

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I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I make an exception with a lot of Iranian desserts like bakhlava and zoolbiya. Still, my favorites tend to veer towards the lighter sweets, like faloodeh. So when I tried fereni, a rosewater-inflected rice pudding for the first time a few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised at how refreshing and light its taste was. I tried making it at home recently and loved the results. Go easy on the rosewater – a little goes a long way.

Fereni

Ingredients:

1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups milk
2 tablespoons rosewater

1. Pour milk in a large saucepan over medium heat and add rice flour, stirring to dissolve. Add rosewater and sugar.

2. Stir constantly over heat until mixture comes to a slow boil and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

3. Remove from heat and transfer to individual serving bowls, and let cool. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Mint-Lime and Pomegranate Green Tea Sugar Syrups

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I discovered the joys of Torani syrup when I was a kid, gleefully mixing it with club soda to make Italian sodas. I’ve since learned to make the grownup version, and with homemade syrup. Feel free to play around with the flavors, and since I had a bunch of Iranian mint and green tea lying around, I went with these:

Mint-Lime and Pomegranate Green Tea Sugar Syrups

For a quick cocktail, add a few spoons to some vodka or rum with a splash of club soda. I’m planning on making a seasonal cranberry-orange syrup for Thanksgiving cocktails.

Ingredients:

1 handful fresh mint
zest of two limes, peeled in 1/2 inch-thick strips
2 bags of pomegranate green tea
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups water
1 cup sugar

1. In a medium saucepan, bring one cup of sugar and one cup of water just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add mint and lime zest, cover, and turn off heat, letting the mixture steep for an hour. Remove lid and let cool, then pour into a jar and refrigerate.

2. Repeat the process of dissolving the remaining cup of water and sugar over heat, and steep with the tea and honey for a hour. Let cool, and pour into another jar and refrigerate.

Burma Superstar

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I was at my alma mater a few weeks ago for the Iranians on the Internet conference and afterwards, I met up with a friend to pay a visit to my favorite bookstore, Green Apple Books.

As we were walking down Clement Street afterwards, we spotted a buzzing crowd around Burma Superstar and having heard a lot of good things about the place, decided to give it a try. Ever since I moved out of the Richmond district in San Francisco a couple of years ago, I’ve stumbled upon all these great restaurants that were in my neighborhood the whole time I was living there.

I checked out the menu while I waited for our names to be called. Half an hour later, we were seated. We started with the samusas, which to me tasted like a cross between Indian samosas and Iranian sambuseh:

Samusas

I had the Nan Gyi Dok (Coconut Chicken Rice Noodle Curry) and my friend had the Burmese Beef Curry. Both were delicious.

Nan Gyi Dok

Burmese beef curry

Burma Superstar gets busy and cramped, but in a warm, inviting way. The service is attentive and the food is pretty good (albeit heavy). I’ll be back for more. With all the attention on Thai and Vietnamese cuisine in recent years, Burmese is just waiting to be discovered.

Hearts of Palm Salad with Shrimp and Avocado

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I first encountered hearts of palm at Pampas Grill, a Brazilian churrascaria in the Farmers Market in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. I have no idea how I’d gone so long without coming across the vegetable, but it’s been a favorite ever since then. I used them in making what is now one of my favorite salads:

Hearts of palm salad with shrimp and avocado

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cans hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
1 hard-boiled egg, shelled and chopped
1/2 pound cooked tiny shrimp
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
salt and pepper

1. In a bowl, whisk olive oil, vinegar, capers, lemon juice, shallots, mustard, and salt to taste. Cut hearts of palm in half lengthwise. Lay hearts of palm in dressing, turn over, and let stand for 5 minutes.

2.Lift hearts of palm from dressing and arrange on a large salad plate. Add shrimp to dressing in bowl and mix. Arrange avocado on salad. Spoon shrimp and all the dressing over the hearts of palm and avocado. Top with egg, and sprinkle with pepper to taste.

Black Sticky Rice Pudding

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After a whirlwind of a week, I can finally sit down again and post. Summer is over, but I made this black sticky rice pudding during warmer weather when all I was craving was something slightly sweet.

Black sticky rice pudding

Ingredients:

2 cups black sticky rice
3 cups water
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup brown sugar sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 mango, sliced or chopped

1. Rinse rice a couple of times to remove any impurities until the water clears. Place the rice and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Let boil and stir frequently for 5 minutes, then cover, lower heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to low and let cook, covered, for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, place the coconut milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until dissolved. Add the coconut milk to the rice and stir well, then remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature and top with mango slices.