Cashew Baklava

Posted on

It’s Norooz (Iranian New Year) season, so there’s lots of sweets everywhere I go these days. Norooz begins on the spring equinox and lasts for two weeks, and during this time, it’s customary to visit loved ones. Naturally, these visits are filled with sugary treats. Kind of like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Iranian style.

I usually make these cashew baklava to celebrate the arrival of Norooz. Much like our household, I make them a little bit Iranian and a little bit Sri Lankan. These aren’t traditional baklava. Cashews take the place of walnuts, and I add some coconut sugar to the mix. Lastly, I add both orange blossom water and Meyer lemon zest to the syrup.

The best part? These are easier to make than they look. Norooz mobarak!

Cashew baklava

Ingredients:

1/2 stick plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup cashews
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
Finely grated zest of 1⁄2 Meyer lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
10 (16-by-13-inch) sheets phyllo

1. Heat the oven to 350F degrees. In a food processor, combine 5 tablespoons butter with the cashews, brown sugar, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and salt and pulse until the filling is finely chopped.

2. In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar with 1⁄3 cup water. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat, stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice juice, and orange blossom water and set aside.

3. Grease a foil-lined rimmed metal baking sheet with some of the remaining melted butter. On a work surface, lay 1 sheet of phyllo dough so the short sides are parallel to you. Brush the sheet with some butter and place the second sheet over the first. Brush the phyllo with butter and cover with the third sheet. Repeat until you have 5 sheets but do not brush the last sheet with butter. Arrange 3 tablespoons of the cashew filling in a line along the long edge of the stacked phyllo sheets. Roll the phyllo around the filling into a long, narrow log. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 2-inch pieces and and place the pieces in the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining filling and phyllo sheets, arranging each filled piece of baklava against the others so they fit snuggly in a single layer in the baking sheet.

3. Brush the remaining melted butter over the top of the baklava and bake until light brown and crisp, about 35 minutes. Remove the baking pan from the oven, pour the cooled syrup over the baklava, and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Caspian-Style Sweet and Sour Fish

Posted on

My memories of visiting Iran always included a trip to the Caspian Sea: lush seascapes and mountains, friendly faces, and oh, the food! Fresh fish, grilled eggplant, young garlic, rich eggs — the food of the Caspian stays with you long after you visit.

This simple-to-prepare fish entree takes me back to these trips. In this recipe, catfish takes the place of the delicate white fish you’d find in the Caspian region. It’s glazed with a sweet and sour garlicy sauce that’s perfect with rice. I like to serve this alongside a green salt salad for a complete meal.

Caspian sweet and sour fish

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon golpar (ground Angelica seeds)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 catfish fillets (about 2 pounds)
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 cup white wine vinegar mixed with 2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Prepare the dry seasoning: In a wide, shallow bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, turmeric, flour, and golpar and set aside.

2. Rinse the fish and pat dry. Dredge both sides of the fish in the seasoning and arrange on a plate.

3. Heat the oil in a wide saute pan over high heat until hot. Sear the fish until brown on both sides, about 3 minutes for each side.

4. Reduce heat to low and add the garlic. Saute the garlic for 1 minute.

5. Add the vinegar mixture and simmer for 6 minutes over low heat until the fish is tender.

6. Garnish with parsley and serve with rice.

Caspian-Style Green Salt Salad

Posted on

“Green salt” salad doesn’t translate very well, but that’s exactly what it is. Dalar, or namak sabz (“green salt” in Farsi), is an herb-and-salt condiment from Gilan province in northern Iran. I didn’t grow up with this, but rather, I came across a recipe and adapted it to my taste. Blended with olive oil and tossed with Persian cucumbers and crisp apples, it makes a tart and refreshing salad that goes well with any Iranian meal.

Caspian green salt salad

Ingredients:

1 cup mint leaves
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Juice of 2 limes
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 Fuji apples, diced into 1-inch cubes
4 Persian cucumbers, diced into 1-inch cubes

1. Transfer all of the herbs to a food processor and pulse a few times to chop. Add the salt and process until you have a grainy mixture. Add the pepper, lime juice and olive oil and puree.

2. In a large bowl, combine the apples, cucumbers, and dressing and toss well. Adjust seasoning to taste by adding more lime juice or salt.

Chickpea and Kale Frittata

Posted on

I love frittatas because they’re basically an entire meal in one skillet. I grew up with frittatas (or kuku, as they’re called in Farsi): herb frittata (kuku sabzi), potato frittata (kuku zibzamini) — you get the picture. But chickpeas? That’s something new. It works beautifully here, along with a healthy serving of kale.

Chickpea and kale frittata

Ingredients:

12 eggs
1 1/2 cups chopped parsley (basil works well here too)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 teaspoons curry powder (I used a mix of Madras and Jaffna curry powders here)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Whisk eggs, parsley, sour cream, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl until no streaks remain.

2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add chickpeas and curry powder and season with salt. Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium, add onion, garlic, and remaining teaspoon oil to chickpeas in skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and starting to brown, about 7 minutes.

4. Add a handful of greens and tablespoons. water and cook until slightly wilted. Continue adding greens a handful at a time, letting them wilt slightly before adding more, until all greens are wilted, about 5 minutes total; season with salt. Let cool slightly.

5. Return pan to medium-low, pour in egg mixture, and cook, stirring eggs and swirling pan often, until edges are just set (texture should be like a very soft scramble), about 5 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake frittata until puffed slightly and center is just set, about 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes and serve.

Curry Puffs

Posted on

I was sort of obsessed with eating all the things when I visited Singapore a few years ago. I mean, it’s the best food city on earth (don’t @ me). When it was time to leave, I realized I hadn’t yet tried one of the most Singaporean of snacks, curry puffs! Think curried chicken and potatoes in a deep-fried pastry shell. Yeah. I hurriedly bought one at Changi Airport right as we were boarding and savored the carby, meaty, buttery goodness right before saying goodbye.

I can’t find curry puffs in the Bay Area, but I can make them with relative ease at home. I take a shortcut with puff pastry and I oven bake them so they’re a bit healthier, but they’re just as delicious.

Curry puffs

Ingredients:

1 small potato, boiled, peeled, and cut into cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/2 onion, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder (I used a blend of Madras curry powder and homemade Jaffna curry powder)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon water
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, then add ginger, onion, and green onions, and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until onion begins to brown. Add chicken and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Stir in potato, curry powder, and soy sauce. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and lightly mash with a potato ricer.

2. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. In the meantime, on a floured board, roll out puff pastry to a thickness of about 1/4 inch; cut into 4-inch circles. Place 1 tablespoon filling on each circle. Brush edges with egg wash, fold dough to make half-moons, and press edges to seal.

3. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush tops with remaining egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.