Cumin Beef

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The first time I had cumin beef was decades ago at an Islamic Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. The silk road influences were obvious: cumin is often used in Ughyur cuisine in China’s Xingjiang Province, in tandem with loads of garlic and chiles. I was hooked.

This fragrant dish is a cinch to make and takes me right back to that first time I tasted Muslim Chinese cuisine. Serve this with rice for an easy weeknight meal.

Cumin beef

Ingredients:

1 pound trimmed sirloin steak
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon potato flour
1 green or red bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
3 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1. Cut the beef into thin slices. In a medium bowl, stir the marinade ingredients with 1 tablespoon water and add the beef, mixing to coat. Cut the peppers into 1-inch strips, then cut diagonally into diamond-shaped slices.

2. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a wok over high heat. Add the beef and stir-fry until just cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove beef from the wok and set aside.

3. Return the wok to the heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the garlic and chili pepper, and stir-fry until hot and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Return the beef to the wok and add the cumin and dried chiles, continuing to stir-fry until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Just before removing from the heat, add the green onions and stir. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil, and serve.

Chickpea Shami with Lime and Saffron Glaze

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Shami is kotlet’s cousin: an Iranian meat patty that’s delicious on its own or with bread, comfort food that comes in all sorts of variations. My mom makes these the traditional and labor-intensive way with braised and shredded lamb shank combined with yellow split peas. When it comes to Iranian food, I’m nowhere near as good a cook as her, but my version, albeit easier and not the same, still hit the spot.

Chickpea shami with lime and saffron glaze

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef, lamb or turkey
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup chickpea powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1. Place the lamb in a large mixing bowl. In a food processor, place the onion, carrots, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and turmeric, and pulse until you have a grainy paste. Transfer to the mixing bowl, add the chickpea flour, and knead with your hands until all of it has been absorbed. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat until hot. Shape the lamb mixture into 3 inch-patties, gently poking a hole in the middle of each. Place the patties in the pan and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through.

3. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, combine the water, sugar, lime juice, saffron mixture, and remaining salt in a small bowl. Pour the glaze over the patties in the pan once they have cooked through. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until the sauce has been absorbed. Serve warm or at room temperature on their own, or with flatbread, fresh herbs, and yogurt.

Iranian Herb, Kidney Bean, and Lamb Braise (Khoresh-e Ghormeh Sabzi)

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Is there any dish as beloved by Iranians as this green braise of herbs, dried limes, and lamb? (Okay, maybe chelo kabab). Ghormeh sabzi is nearly everyone’s favorite #uglydelicious khoresh, and for good reason. All fenugreek all day every day.

Some cooks like to grind their dried limes, but I usually leave them whole for this dish. It’s just personal preference.

Khoresh-e ghormeh sabzi (Iranian herb, kidney bean, and lamb braise)

Ingredients:

For the lamb:
2 tablespoons oil or ghee
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2 or 3-inch pieces
3/4 cup kidney beans, soaked in water overnight, drained and rinsed
6 dried Persian limes, pierced

For the herbs:
2 tablespoons oil or ghee
3 cups finely chopped parsley
1 cup finely chopped green onions or Persian chives (tareh)
1 bunch spinach, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried fenugreek leaves or 1 cup chopped fresh fenugreek

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1. To cook the lamb: Heat oil in a large laminated cast-iron pot over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until lightly golden. Add salt, pepper, and turmeric and saute for 1 minute. Add the lamb and saute for 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.

2. Add the kidney beans and dried limes and saute for 1 minute. Pour in 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Prepare the herbs: In a wide skillet, heat oil over medium heat and saute the parsley, green onions, spinach, and fenugreek for 20 minutes, stirring until the aroma of the herbs rises. Be very careful to not burn the herbs.

4. Add sauteed herbs and lime juice to the pot. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

5. Check to see if meat and beans are tender. Adjust seasoning if needed by adding more salt or lime juice to taste. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Serve with steamed basmati rice.

Iranian Skillet Kabab (Kabab Maitabei)

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If you grew up in an Iranian household, chances are that kabab maitabei is comfort food. It’s an easy weeknight dish: kabab without the grill, kabab without the 24-hour marinade. Soaked in its tomatoey juices and served with rice and a platter of fresh herbs, it’s supremely satisfying.

This dish is a riff on that comfort food. Think of this as kabab maitabei, reinvented. Sumac, grape molasses, onions, and garlic flavor the lamb, and fried potatoes soak up the juices. Basically I’m trying to sneak some iteration of French fries into everything.

Iranian skillet kabab (kakab maitabei)

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

1 pound ground lamb or beef
1 onion, grated
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon sumac
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grape molasses
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tomato, sliced
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and sliced

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the lamb, onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, turmeric, sumac, red pepper, and grape molasses. Knead lightly, using your hands, to mix thoroughly.

2. Coat 1 tablespoon oil on a heavy 10-inch skillet. Shape the lamb mixture into a large meatball and place it in the center of the skillet. Press down with a spatula so the meat covers the entire skillet. Raise the meat around the edges of the skillet by 1 inch to form a well.

3. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Cut the meat into four wedges. Arrange the tomato slices on top, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and drizzle 1 tablespoon oil on top. Cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes longer.

4. In the meantime, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the potatoes on both sides until golden brown and cooked through.

5. To serve, arrange the potatoes on a platter. Arrange the kabab on top, drizzling the pan juices over. Serve with sabzi khordan.

Lamb Shawarma

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This lamb shawarma isn’t traditional, but it’s delicious. The secret ingredient lies in pomegranate molasses, which tenderizes the meat while lending a tangy, complex flavor. Tossed with plenty of grilled red onions and mint and tucked into pita bread, it’s a crowd pleaser.

Lamb shawarma

Ingredients:

For the pomegranate marinade:

3 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2 to 3-inch pieces and skewered
1 red onion, sliced into thick wedges and skewered

For the tahini dressing:

5 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
4 pita breads, cut in half and warmed
3 cups chopped lettuce

1. Make the marinade: in a bowl, whisk together olive oil, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, minced garlic, ground cumin, salt, and pepper.

2. Put marinade and lamb in a resealable plastic bag, seal, and squish to mix. Chill for 24 hours.

3. Make the tahini dressing: in a bowl, whisk together tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, water, parsley, garlic, salt, and cayenne.

4. Heat a grill to high (about 450F degrees). Grill lamb and onion wedges, turning once, until onions are slightly softened and charred and lamb is medium (cut to test), about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a board and let rest 5 minutes. Roughly chop onions. Thinly slice meat.

5. In a bowl, combine lamb and any juices, onions, and the mint. Set out a platter with lamb, pita, lettuce, and tahini dressing, and serve.