Creamed Swiss Chard with Tahini

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Let’s get one thing out of the way: I can’t stand creamed spinach: to me, it tastes bland. Its one redeeming quality? A lovely, velvety texture. So when I experimented with this Swiss chard side dish, I wanted something that evoked the texture of creamed spinach but with lots more flavor, and healthier too.

Sure, there’s no actual cream in this “creamed” Swiss chard, but you won’t miss it anyway. Serve this as a side dish or as a dip alongside crackers and crudites.

Creamed Swiss chard with tahini

2 bunches green-stemmed Swiss chard (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup tahini
1/3 cup lemon juice
Salt

1. Remove ribs and stems from Swiss chard leaves and finely chop. Tear leaves into small pieces. Set stems and leaves aside separately.

2. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large pot over medium-low. Cook reserved ribs and stems, stirring often and adding a splash of water if they start to brown, until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add reserved chard; cook, tossing, until all the leaves are wilted and tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Squeeze excess liquid from mixture into a measuring glass. (You should have about 1/2 cup liquid.)

3. Place Swiss chard mixture and 1 tablespoon cooking liquid in a food processor and add tahini, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup oil. Season with salt and process, adding more cooking liquid if needed, until dip is creamy. Season with more salt if needed.

4. Serve as a side dish or as a dip alongside crackers.

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.

Iranian Spicy Fish and Herb Braise (Ghaliyeh Mahi)

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Ghalieyh mahi is something I only heard about growing up but never tasted until recently. “What’s southern Iranian food like?” I’d ask. One answer popped up more than others, no matter who I’d ask in the community: ghaliyeh mahi.

One of the most popular dishes from the south, ghaliyeh mahi is a fish braise that makes ample use of fenugreek (making this dish faintly reminiscent of ghormeh sabzi for those who grew up with it, like me) as well as cilantro and hot peppers. Served over rice, I can easily see why it’s so popular.

Ghalieh mahi

Ingredients:

For the herb sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 cups roughly chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 serrano chili, chopped
3 tablespoons rice flour
2 teaspoons tamarind dissolved in 3 cups water and drained through a fine-mesh sieve
1 teaspoon date molasses

For the dusting:

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger

For the fish:

2 pounds halibut fillets, skins and bones removed, cut into 3-inch lengths
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. To make the herb sauce: In a food processor, place all the ingredients for the sauce except for the tamarind and date molasses and pulse until you have a smooth consistency.

2. To cook the braise: Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium saucepan over low heat and saute the sauce for 10 minutes until it is aromatic.

3. Add the tamarind water and date molasses. Mix and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.

4. To cook the fish: In a small bowl, mix the dusting ingredients. Dust both sides of the fish fillets and set aside.

5. In a wide nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high until hot. Sear the fish fillets on both sides until golden.

6. Add the fish to the braise, bring to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Serve with basmati rice.

Crispy Okra Salad

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Say hello to your new favorite summertime salad. I love okra, but I know a lot of folks don’t appreciate the, uh, texture. Because of how the okra is prepared here, there isn’t any of that viscosity usually associated with okra. Instead, you have perfectly crispy, salty, seasoned spears of okra. Kind of like the glorious spears of okra fries I enjoyed in London’s Dishoom last year.

Tossed with a bright, citrusy dressing and fresh vegetables, this is delicious on its own or paired with a heartier dish like chicken tikka masala.

Crispy okra salad

Ingredients:

1 1/4 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon amchoor powder
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 pound okra, halved lengthwise and cut into long, thin strips
Salt
1 small shallot, halved and thinly sliced
1 tomato, sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. In a small bowl, mix the garam masala with the amchoor powder.

2. In a large skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the okra strips, stirring a few times, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried okra to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with some of the spice mixture and salt.

3. In a bowl, toss the fried okra with the shallot, tomato, cilantro and lemon juice. Season the salad with more of the spice mixture and salt and serve.

Chicken Tikka Masala

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My chicken tikka masala isn’t traditional. You see, growing up with all manner of khoreshs, one of my favorite things to do was to pour the khoresh on top of tahdig, the golden crispy bottom-of-the-pot part of Iranian-style rice.

As an adult, I do the same thing not only with khoresh, but with curries too. So what’s better than tikka masala? Tikka masala on top of tahdig, of course! And with a side of torshi and fresh sabzi, even. Iran and India share so much in common that these dishes pair together perfectly.

Chicken tikka masala

Ingredients:

For the marinade:
1 cup plain yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and pepper

For the chicken:
2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup almonds
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
One 30-ounce can chopped tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
1 cup heavy cream

1. For the marinade: In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Using a knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat and refrigerate overnight.

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade; scrape the marinade. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and transfer to a cutting board and cut the chicken into 2-inch pieces.

4. Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-low. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.

5. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes longer. Stir in the chicken; simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with basmati rice, tahdig, torshi, and fresh sabzi khordan.