Zereshk Polo ba Morgh (Barberry Rice with Saffron Chicken)

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This is comfort food for every diaspora Iranian kid growing up. Fragrant rice and tart barberries become more the sum of its parts. The best part? Spooning the lime and caramelized onion-inflected chicken sauce over the rice and letting all of the sweet-sour-salty flavors meld.

Dried barberries can be hard to find, but they’re worth seeking out as any Iranian grocer will carry them. Try to use aged basmati rice here, which will produce a fluffier, more aromatic dish.

Zereshk polo ba morgh

Ingredients:

For the saffron chicken:

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup lime juice
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

For the rice:

3 cups basmati rice
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons yogurt
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup slivered pistachios

For the barberry mixture:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups dried barberries, picked over, washed, and drained
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

1. To cook the chicken: In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the chicken cook, turning, once, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, give the pan a stir, and cover. Cook over low heat for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

2. To cook the rice: Wash the rice in a large container and cover it with water. Agitate gently and pour off water, repeating 3 or 4 times until the water is clear. Bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the rice and boil briskly for about 6 to 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to loosen any grains that may have stuck together or to the bottom of the pot. When the rice feels just al dente, it is ready to be drained. Drain the rice in a fine-mesh colander and rinse with cold water.

3. In a large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup oil 1/4 water, yogurt, a few drops of saffron water, and 3 spatulas of rice. Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pot.

4. Arrange the remaining rice in a pyramid shape in the pot, adding one spatula of rice at a time. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.

5. Mix the remaining oil with 1/2 cup water and pour over the rice. Pour the remaining saffron water over the rice. Add the pistachios and almonds on top. Wrap the lid of the pot with a thin, clean dish towel and cover firmly to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 60 to 70 minutes longer over low heat.

6. To cook the barberries: In a skillet, combine the oil, barberries, sugar, water, and saffron water. Saute over medium heat for 5 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the barberries don’t burn. Set aside.

7. Remove the rice from the heat and carefully pour run the outside of the bottom of the pot under cold water. This helps to release the tahdig, or crust, from the bottom of the pot. Allow pot to cool, covered, for 5 minutes.

8. To assemble the rice, take 1 spatula full of rice and place it on a serving platter in alternating layers with the barberry mixture. Arrange the chicken around or next to the platter. Detach the tahdig and serve on the side.

Chicken Piccata with Olives and Artichokes

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I love this chicken piccata recipe because it combines the best of both worlds: crunchy fried chicken and tangy, briny vegetables. This dish is easier to make than it looks and it’s perfect for springtime, showcasing tender artichokes — but without all of the prep.

Chicken piccata with olives and artichokes

Ingredients:

1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Eight 6-ounce chicken cutlets, about 1/8 inch thick
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
16 pitted kalamata olives, drained and coarsely chopped
1 jar marinated artichokes (about 1 1/2 cups), drained and quartered
2/3 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken cutlets in the seasoned bread crumbs.

2. In a large skillet, melt the butter in the oil over moderately high heat. When the foam subsides, add the chicken to the skillets (working in batches if needed) and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden brown outside and white throughout, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the cutlets to a platter.

3. Wipe out the skillet and add the olives and artichoke hearts. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until heated through. Add the chicken stock, lemon juice and capers and boil for 1 minute, stirring. Spoon the artichoke and olive sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the parsley and immediately.

Cashew Chicken

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Cashew chicken occupies the same place in my heart as Mongolian beef and chow mein: rarely authentic and yet typically delicious. These are the heavy hitters of Chinese American food, comforting and nostalgic. I’ve adapted this cashew chicken recipe so that it’s pretty healthy: low on oil and high in flavor. Serve this along rice for an easy weeknight meal.

Cashew chicken

Ingredients:

5 teaspoons soy sauce
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ginger juice (squeezed from finely grated peeled ginger)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
Vegetable oil, for frying
2/3 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup thinly sliced white onion
3 green onions, sliced into 2-inch pieces
Roasted Thai chili powder to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine 4 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons sugar, and the ginger juice. Add the chicken and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Drain off any excess sauce that hasn’t been absorbed.

2. Heat a empty wok over high heat, then swirl about 2 teaspoons of oil. Add the cashews and stir-fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Drain the cashews on a paper towel. Add the chicken and white onion to the wok and stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining soy sauce, sugar, and the cashews and cook for another two minutes. Add a dash of roasted chili powder and the green onions, cook for another minute, then remove from heat. Serve warm with rice.

Butternut Squash and Chicken Chorizo Hash

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Sick of butternut squash yet this season? Me neither. But seriously, it doesn’t have to be all butternut squash soup all day. Transform the humble squash into a powerhouse with this hash, decked with meaty chorizo and brightened with lime. And put an egg on it, obvs. Breakfast is served.

Butternut squash and chicken chorizo hash

2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
8 ounces fresh chicken chorizo
1 pound butternut squash (about 1/2 of a medium squash), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped
Salt
Pepper
4 eggs
Lime wedges and cilantro leaves, for serving

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high. Cook chorizo, breaking up into small pieces, until browned and cooked through, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon; reserve skillet with fat.

2. Add butternut squash and onion to reserved skillet and cook over medium-high, adding more oil if needed and stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in chorizo and season with salt. Squeeze a lime wedge over and top with cilantro.

3. In the meantime, heat remaining tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Fry eggs sunny-side up until whites are cooked through and yolks are still runny, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Divide hash among four plates and top each with an egg. Serve with additional lime wedges for squeezing over.

Turkey Meatball and Noodle Soup

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I love Asian-style meatballs. You know, the fish balls or meat balls you often find in noodle soups. They’re delicious. But if you’ve ever seen them at the market, the pre-packaged kind are also full of preservatives. In this soup, I made the meatballs from scratch, using grass-fed turkey and the results were better than the store-bought version. A chicken stock base and a drizzle of chili oil lends flavor to a hearty soup that’s perfect in January.

Turkey meatball and noodle soup

Ingredients:

4 shiitake mushrooms
5 ounces fresh Chinese wheat noodles
1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped kimchi
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon chili oil

1. In a bowl, soak the mushrooms in warm water until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain, thinly slice the mushrooms, and set aside.

2. Bring medium-sized pot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook according to package instructions. Drain, rinse, and drain again.

3. To prepare the meatballs, put the meat, cornstarch, sesame oil, and salt in a food processor and process to a smooth paste. Scoop the meatball mixture out into a bowl. With wet hands, roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls. Arrange the meatballs on a plate.

4. To make the soup, in a medium pot, combine the broth and the vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the meatballs and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and kimchi and simmer for 2 minutes longer. Add the cooked noodles and cook, stirring, until the noodles are heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with some green onions, cilantro, and chili oil.