Eggplant, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad

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This Middle Eastern-inspired salad is peak summer: buttery eggplant, juicy tomatoes, and crispy cucumber are bound by a cooling and tangy yogurt dressing. The best part? It’s so much easier to make than it looks.

Eggplant, tomato, and cucumber salad

Ingredients:

2 Japanese eggplant, sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cucumber, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons Greek or Middle Eastern-style yogurt
Salt
Pepper
Chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat the broiler: brush the eggplant slices with the vegetable oil and cook over high heat, turning once, until golden and tender. Cut slices in half.

2. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, and coriander. Season with salt and pepper. Add the warm eggplant, mix, and chill for at least 1 hour. Add the cucumber and tomatoes. Transfer to a serving dish and spoon the yogurt on top and garnish with parsley.

Fava Bean Fritatta (Kuku-ye Baghali)

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Kuku refers to an Iranian fritatta, of which there are many styles. Kuku sabzi (herb fritatta) and kuku sibzamini (potato fritatta) are the most popular, but fava bean kuku is my most favorite of them all. Seasoned with dill, onions, and garlic, this makes for a perfect brunch or picnic food.

Every year I eagerly await springtime, when fava beans are in season. Last year I came up on more than 15 pounds of favas from Imwalle Gardens in Santa Rosa — no complaints here.

Kuku-ye baghali

Ingredients:

1 pound fava beans, shelled and peeled
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
4 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon yogurt
1 cup chopped fresh or 1/2 cup dried dill

1. Remove the second skin from fava beans and place the beans in a saucepan with 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Boil for 10 minutes over medium heat. Drain and set aside to cool.

2. In a skillet, brown onions and garlic in 3 teaspoons oil. Add beans and stir. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

3. Break eggs into a large bowl. Add the salt, pepper, and yogurt. Beat lightly with a fork. Add chopped dill and fava beans and mix.

4. Heat remaining 3 teaspoons oil in a nonstick skillet, pour in the egg mixture, and cook, covered, over low heat until it has set, about 15 minutes. Cook the second side by cutting into wedges and carefully turning each wedge over one by one. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes longer. Serve kuku with flatbread and yogurt.

Chickpea Shami with Lime and Saffron Glaze

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Shami is kotlet’s cousin: an Iranian meat patty that’s delicious on its own or with bread, comfort food that comes in all sorts of variations. My mom makes these the traditional and labor-intensive way with braised and shredded lamb shank combined with yellow split peas. When it comes to Iranian food, I’m nowhere near as good a cook as her, but my version, albeit easier and not the same, still hit the spot.

Chickpea shami with lime and saffron glaze

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef, lamb or turkey
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup chickpea powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1. Place the lamb in a large mixing bowl. In a food processor, place the onion, carrots, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and turmeric, and pulse until you have a grainy paste. Transfer to the mixing bowl, add the chickpea flour, and knead with your hands until all of it has been absorbed. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat until hot. Shape the lamb mixture into 3 inch-patties, gently poking a hole in the middle of each. Place the patties in the pan and cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side until golden and cooked through.

3. To make the glaze, in a small bowl, combine the water, sugar, lime juice, saffron mixture, and remaining salt in a small bowl. Pour the glaze over the patties in the pan once they have cooked through. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes until the sauce has been absorbed. Serve warm or at room temperature on their own, or with flatbread, fresh herbs, and yogurt.

Iranian Herb, Kidney Bean, and Lamb Braise (Khoresh-e Ghormeh Sabzi)

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Is there any dish as beloved by Iranians as this green braise of herbs, dried limes, and lamb? (Okay, maybe chelo kabab). Ghormeh sabzi is nearly everyone’s favorite #uglydelicious khoresh, and for good reason. All fenugreek all day every day.

Some cooks like to grind their dried limes, but I usually leave them whole for this dish. It’s just personal preference.

Khoresh-e ghormeh sabzi (Iranian herb, kidney bean, and lamb braise)

Ingredients:

For the lamb:
2 tablespoons oil or ghee
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2 or 3-inch pieces
3/4 cup kidney beans, soaked in water overnight, drained and rinsed
6 dried Persian limes, pierced

For the herbs:
2 tablespoons oil or ghee
3 cups finely chopped parsley
1 cup finely chopped green onions or Persian chives (tareh)
1 bunch spinach, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried fenugreek leaves or 1 cup chopped fresh fenugreek

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1. To cook the lamb: Heat oil in a large laminated cast-iron pot over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until lightly golden. Add salt, pepper, and turmeric and saute for 1 minute. Add the lamb and saute for 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.

2. Add the kidney beans and dried limes and saute for 1 minute. Pour in 5 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Prepare the herbs: In a wide skillet, heat oil over medium heat and saute the parsley, green onions, spinach, and fenugreek for 20 minutes, stirring until the aroma of the herbs rises. Be very careful to not burn the herbs.

4. Add sauteed herbs and lime juice to the pot. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

5. Check to see if meat and beans are tender. Adjust seasoning if needed by adding more salt or lime juice to taste. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Serve with steamed basmati rice.

Tangy Pomegranate Hummus

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I suck at making hummus. There, I said it. For reasons unbeknownst to me, every attempt I’ve ever made has resulted in “this is kinda good but the store-bought version tastes so much better”-style hummus.

Until I stumbled upon my secret ingredient: pomegranate molasses.

Sweet-and-sour pomegranate molasses took my hummus-making attempts from okay-ish to “wow, this is actually really delicious and I would like moar now, pls.” Pomegranate molasses might be more at home in Iranian-style braises than Levant-style hummus, but hey, it works.

Just don’t talk to me about chocolate hummus. Even I draw the line at that.

Tangy pomegranate hummus

Ingredients:

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1/3 cup tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon harissa paste
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
Salt
Olive oil, Aleppo pepper, and warm pita bread, for serving

1. Set aside 2 teaspoons chickpeas for serving. Process tahini, lemon juice, harissa, pomegranate molasses, and remaining chickpeas in a food processor, adding water as needed, until hummus is very smooth; season with salt.

2. Serve hummus drizzled with oil and topped with Aleppo pepper and reserved chickpeas, with warm pita bread.