Spinach Borani

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No Iranian meal is complete without a yogurt-based side dish of some sort. The cucumber and mint-flecked mast-o khiar is most common (and a close cousin to Indian raita and Greek tzatziki). Spinach borani flies under the radar, despite it being just as delicious.

More substantial than its cucumber counterpart, spinach borani is a simple but perfect side dish alongside an Iranian khoresh but it’s just at home next to curry (and if you’re like me, straight out of the bowl as a standalone snack). Borani keeps for a few days in the fridge, so it’s perfect with leftovers.

Spinach borani

Ingredients:

1 pound spinach (about 1 bunch), washed
2 to 3 cups Persian or Greek-style yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper

1. Blanch the spinach: bring a pot of water to a boil; add spinach, and blanch for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and drain spinach in a colander, rinsing under cold water. Squeeze spinach to remove excess liquid and coarsely chop.

2. In a serving bowl, thoroughly mix yogurt, spinach, garlic, adding salt and pepper to taste.

3. Chill the bowl in the refrigerator for at least half an hour before serving, allowing the flavors to set. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Okra and Zucchini Sambar

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No two sambars are the same.

For the uninitiated, sambar is a comforting vegetable dish that’s popular in Sri Lankan Tamil and South Indian cuisine. The lentil and tamarind base are standard but the rest is up to you. Tomatoes in season? Go for it. Cauliflower? You can add that too. My favorite version includes okra and zucchini. Served typically with dosa, idli, or rice, the variations are endless.

Okra and zucchini sambar

Ingredients:

1 cup yellow lentils (toor dal)
6 cups water
2 slices ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
3-4 cups mixed chopped vegetables (I used okra, zucchini, and potatoes here)
1 serrano chili, halved lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water and strained for liquid (discard solids)
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon urad dal
1 sprig curry leaves
3 shallots (or 1/2 onion), thinly sliced

1. Place the lentils, water, ginger, salt and turmeric in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover partially with a lid, and simmer until the lentils are very soft, about 30 minutes.

2. While the lentils are cooking, prepare the sambar powder: lightly toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan until they begin to smell fragrant, about 2 minutes. Let cool and grind in a spice grinder with the cayenne pepper, fenugreek seeds, and peppercorns. Set aside.

3. When the lentils are cooked, add the prepared vegetables, serrano chili, asafoetida, tamarind liquid, and sambar powder. Stir well, bring to a boil, and simmer gently with the pan uncovered until the vegetables have cooked through.

4. Just before serving, heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds, urad dal, curry leaves, and shallots. Stir until the shallots are tender, then pour the contents of the pan onto the vegetables. Stir and serve hot.

Avocado with Misoyaki Sauce

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You didn’t think I was going to stop at only one Ravi Kapur recipe, did you? The only difference here is this adapted dish takes five minutes, unlike the others.

Avocado makes an unlikely side or appetizer for a warm-weather meal here. Don’t be put off by its simplicity: this dish is sweet, salty, creamy, and complex. In other words, it’s delicious.

Avocado with miso-teriyaki sauce

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons mirin
1/4 cup sake
1/2 cup red or yellow miso
2 tablespoons sugar
3 avocados, peeled and sliced

1. In a small saucepan, combine the mirin and sake and boil for 2 minutes. Add the miso and sugar and simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until slightly thickened. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool completely.

2. Serve drizzled over avocado.

Classic Gazpacho

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The sum is greater than the parts in my second-favorite cold soup recipe. (What’s my most favorite, you ask? Aab doogh khiyar, of course!)

Adapted from Jose Andres’ infamous and oft-replicated gazpacho recipe, my spin omits the croutons and oloroso sherry, decreases the olive oil, and uses local garden tomatoes instead of plum, making for a perfect hot-weather no-cook dish. I garnished with thinly sliced zucchini because that’s what was in fridge, but feel free to change things up and make this gazpacho your own.

Is it summer yet?

Gazpacho

Ingredients:

1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 green bell pepper, peeled and chopped
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped plus
2 garlic cloves
1/4 sherry vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
salt

1. Prepare the soup: combine the cucumber, pepper, tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, sherry, olive oil, and 2 cups water in a blender, in batches if needed. Puree the ingredients until everything is blended into a thick pink liquid. Season with salt and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

2. When you are ready to serve, pour gazpacho into individual bowls and garnish with zucchini and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt, if desired, and serve.

Broccoli, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Radish Salad

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I’m eating healthier than usual these days (hello, thirties): lots of fresh produce, lots of salad, not so much salt and oil. But let’s be honest: lettuce will only get you so far.

This crunchy, flavor-packed salad is my response to lettuce fatigue. The broccoli, radish, and cucumbers bring the crunch and the sun-dried tomatoes, chiles, and a generous dusting of Parmesan shavings add a huge kick of flavor. At the risk of sounding like a women-eating-salads stock photo, this crave-worthy salad feels almost decadent. Appearances can be deceiving.

Broccoli, sun-dried tomato, and radish salad

Ingredients:

1 egg yolk
3 oil-packed anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small head of broccoli, florets cut into bite-size pieces and stem peeled and trimmed, very thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 Persian cucumber, thinly sliced
1 Fresno chile, thinly sliced
1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 cup mint leaves
6 radishes, thinly sliced
2 ounces Parmesan, shaved
Salt
Pepper

1. Make dressing: Blend egg yolk, anchovies, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, mustard, and garlic clove in a blender to combine. Add mixture to a bowl and whisk in olive oil and blend until dressing is emulsified and creamy, then add oregano. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

2. Add broccoli, onion, cucumber, chile, sun-dried tomatoes, radishes, and mint to a large salad bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat; add more dressing if desired. Serve salad topped with Parmesan.