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.

Loaded Baked Potatoes

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These aren’t your everyday baked potatoes. Oh no, my friend. These are the most impossibly fluffy baked potatoes you’ve ever had: crispy on the outside and ethereal on the inside. The secret lies in enveloping them in a thin coating of oil, rather than foil. Topped with sour cream, herbs, and caviar, these are a perfect weekend indulgence.

Loaded baked potatoes

Ingredients:

4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, patted dry
Vegetable oil (for potatoes)
Salt
Pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely chopped chives or green onions
1/2 cup finely chopped dill and/or parsley
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1–2 oz. jar trout or salmon roe
Flaky sea salt

1. Place a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 450F degrees. Prick potatoes all over with a fork (this allows the steam to escape, which helps the insides of the potatoes cook evenly and make the skins crisp).

2. Drizzle a little oil over each potato and rub all over with your hands to cover in a thin layer; season with salt and pepper. Set potatoes directly on a wire rack set atop a baking sheet and bake until the outsides are browned and crisp and the insides are very tender about, 70 minutes.

3. Using tongs or oven mitts, transfer potatoes to a platter. Set out along with sour cream, chives, dill, butter, roe, sea salt, and pepper and top as desired.

Maple-Turkey Bacon Popovers

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Looking for a carby, sweet-and-savory side dish for your holiday meal this year? I got you. These popovers are easier to make than they look, and they taste oh-so-decadent: airy and eggy and glazed with a healthy brushing of maple syrup (our household is, after all, partly Canadian).

You can use regular bacon here but I love turkey bacon. Really. Don’t @ me.

Maple-Turkey Bacon Popovers

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped turkey bacon
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup, plus more for brushing
4 eggs, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high and cook chopped bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Allow drippings to cool in skillet; pour into a small heatproof bowl.

2. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter to drippings; stir to combine. Spoon 1 teaspoon drippings mixture into each cup of a 12-cup large muffin pan. Place pan in oven to heat, being careful not to let the drippings burn.

3. Stir together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, maple syrup, eggs, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large bowl. Gradually whisk flour mixture into egg mixture until nearly smooth; fold in bacon. Transfer batter to a large spouted measuring cup.

4. Carefully remove hot muffin pan from oven. Pour batter into muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake in preheated oven until popovers are puffed and golden brown, about 18 minutes. Lightly brush tops with additional maple syrup. Remove from pan and serve.

Roast Beets with Pistachio-Yogurt Sauce

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These marinated and yogurt beets are like a modern take on mast-o laboo, which is an Iranian appetizer of chopped beets and tangy, thick yogurt. Think mast-o laboo deconstructed, with the addition of pistachios for an even creamier sauce to foil the vinegar-flavored beets with.

Roast beets with pistachio-yogurt sauce

Ingredients:

2 1/2 pounds small red beets, trimmed

4 thyme sprigs

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

3 teaspoons salt, divided

1/4 cup orange juice (from 1 orange)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3/4 cup roasted pistachios, plus 1 tablespoon chopped pistachios for garnish
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1. Make the beets: Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Toss together beets, thyme, 1 teaspoon oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a roasting pan. Spread beets in pan; pour 1/2 cup water into pan. Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven until beets are tender, about 1 hour. (Larger beets will take longer to cook.) Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350F degrees.

2. Remove beets from pan; let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel each beet to remove skin; discard skins. Cut beets into quarters. While beets are warm, transfer to a large bowl. Add orange juice, vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon oil, and 1 teaspoon salt; toss to coat. Let stand 15 minutes. Toss beet mixture; taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Set aside until ready to serve.

3. Make the pistachio yogurt: Spread pistachios evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350F degrees until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until finely chopped, about 10 times. Add warm water; process until mixture is the consistency of chunky peanut butter, about 1 minute. With processor running, gradually drizzle in olive oil until mixture is mostly smooth and spreadable, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a bowl; fold in yogurt and 1 teaspoon salt.

4. Spread yogurt sauce on a serving platter; top with beets. Garnish with chopped pistachios.

Kashk-Braised Goat and Chickepea Soup (Boz Ghormeh)

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Kashk is an Iranian dairy product similar to sour cream, made from the leftovers of cheese making. It’s tart and creamy, providing a welcome contrast to rich, meaty dishes. Its essential in dishes like ash-e reshteh and also boz ghormeh, a regional specialty of Kerman in south-central Iran.

In this #uglydelicious meal-in-a-bowl soup, goat is braised with chickpeas, a hearty serving of seasoned kashk and topped with garlicy, tarragon-inflected croutons made from Iranian naan-e sangak flatbread. In a pinch, you can substitute the goat for leg of lamb and you can substitute the sangak with lavash or pita.

Kashk-braised goat and chickpea soup

Ingredients:

For the goat:

3/4 cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda overnight, drained, and rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, sliced, plus 1 or 2 cloves garlic, grated
1/3 cup tarragon leaves, chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1 1/2 cups liquid kashk
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

For the croutons:

1 sangak bread cut into 1-inch squares
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 cup tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. To cook the goat: Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat and saute the onions until beginning to turn golden. Add the goat and continue to saute until onions are golden brown. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, 3 cloves of sliced garlic, tarragon, chickpeas, and saute for 2 minutes.

2. Pour in 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally until the meat and chickpeas are tender.

3. In a small saucepan over low heat, add the kashk, remaining 1 clove grated garlic, and saffron water, and give it a stir. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, taking care not to let the kashk come to a boil.

4. Once the goat and chickpeas have finished cooking, add the kashk mixture to the dutch oven. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

5. To make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Spread sangkak on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and add the garlic and tarragon. Drizzle oil over the bread and toss to coat. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until the bread is toasted.

6. Serve the soup in individual bowls and top with a few croutons. You can also serve this soup with a fresh herb platter of sabzi khordan on the side.