Creamy Chickpeas with Eggs and Proscuitto

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It’s the middle of winter and you want something decadent for a weekend breakfast, but it’s too cold and rainy and let’s face it — depressing, to go out. Spring is but a few weeks away but until then, you need something to cheer you up. Adapted from Bon Appetit, I made this easy one-skillet brunch one morning when it was blissfully sunny enough to sit outside and take in the vitamin D. If you stare hard enough, the egg sort of looks like the sun. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I served this with Iranian barbari bread to soak up the creamy tomato sauce, but any flatbread will work just fine.

Creamy chickpeas with eggs and proscuitto

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 sprig rosemary
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 cup heavy cream
Salt
Pepper
2 eggs
4 thin slices of prosciutto
Flatbread, for serving

1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium. Cook garlic and rosemary, stirring frequently, until garlic is golden brown and rosemary crisps up slightly but isn’t browned, about 30 seconds for rosemary and 2 minutes for garlic. Transfer rosemary to a plate.

2. Add chickpeas, tomato paste, and paprika to skillet and cook, stirring often, until coated, about 2 minutes. Mix in cream, season with salt and lots of pepper, and bring to a simmer.

3. Crack eggs into chickpea mixture and season them with salt. Cover and cook until white parts of eggs are set but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and drape prosciutto around eggs. Crumble rosemary on top. Serve warm with flatbread.

Skillet Lamb Kofta

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This Iranian-inspired main is the perfect dish for when you want something like kabab koobideh but don’t have the patience to fire up the grill. Lightly spiced and easy to put together, this lamb kofta kabab comes together in under an hour. It reminds me of kabab maytabaiyee, a skillet kabab dish that mimics the grilled version but without that charcoal kiss.

Use a light hand with the pomegranate molasses: too much and the koftas won’t hold their shape when heated. And a word about kofta versus kabab: in Persian, kabab refers to grilled meat dishes and kofta refers to meatballs. So this is sort of both. This dish isn’t traditional, but rather an amalgamation of distinctly Iranian spices and ingredients.

Skillet lamb kofta

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb

1/2 cup chopped mint
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons paprika

3 tablespoons grated onion

2 garlic cloves, finely 
grated
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Combine lamb, mint, pomegranate molasses, paprika, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; mix well. Using clean hands, shape lamb mixture into 1 1/2-inch-thick oval patties. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.


2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high and add olive oil. Add patties to the pan and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 5-8 minutes, turning every few minutes for even cooking. Transfer to a platter and serve with yogurt alongside rice or flatbread.

Smashed Cucumber Salad with Dried Mint

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What do you get if you take the mast (yogurt) away from the mast-o-khiar (Iranian yogurt and cucumber) and replace it with a generous drizzle of olive oil and lime? You get this super refreshing, complex salad that’s sort of Iranian and sort of not. The next time you’re preparing a khoresh or some kabab, make this on the side. Trust me, it works.

Smashing the cucumbers is key, as it ensures the craggy surface absorbs all of the flavorful dressing.

Smashed cucumber salad with dried mint

5 Persian cucumbers
Salt
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons dried mint
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons lime juice

1. Gently smash cucumbers with a rolling pin or the back of a heavy knife just to break open. Tear into irregular 2-inch pieces and place in a bowl; season with salt. Let sit at least 5 minutes and up to 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, cook garlic and oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, turning garlic once, until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add dried mint and sesame seeds and remove from heat. Let cool until warm and stir in lime juice; season dressing with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Drain cucumbers, discarding any liquid they have released. Add to bowl with dressing and toss several times to coat. Serve at room temperature.

Halvah-Stuffed Challah

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Growing up, one of my favorite after-school snacks was halvah rolled up with lavash flatbread: simple, sweet, and satisfying. Called halvardeh in Persian, Middle Eastern halvah is ubiquitous these days in well-stocked American grocery stores. But when I was a kid, halvah was precious: we’d make semi-monthly drives from Santa Rosa to San Jose to stock up on Iranian favorites, including halvah, sour cherry jam, lavashak (sour fruit roll ups), and spices and herbs for days.

This halvah-stuffed challah is a grown-up version of my childhood snack and make no mistake about it: this is a weekend project. Adapted from a Food and Wine recipe, this takes the better part of an afternoon to make, and the results are well worth it. This recipe makes two loaves so make like me and freeze one for eating later, when the craving strikes.

Halvah-stuffed challah

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
5 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup tahini
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
Salt
1 1/2 cups chopped halvah
Sesame seeds and more sugar, for sprinkling

1. Make the dough: In a small bowl, whisk the water with the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk 4 of the eggs with the oil and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, pinch of salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cardamom and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Mix to blend. Add the egg and yeast mixtures and knead until the dough comes together, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl, about 3 minutes. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and knead until smooth and slightly sticky, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to an oiled large bowl and cover with wax paper and a towel on top.

3. Make the filling and topping: In a medium bowl, stir the tahini with 1/3 cup of the honey, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of water.

4. Preheat the oven to 375F degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Transfer 1 piece to a lightly floured work surface and keep the other piece covered with a damp kitchen towel. Divide the dough on the work surface into 3 equal pieces. Using a rolling pin, roll out 1 piece into a 
14-by-6-inch rectangle. Spread 1/4 cup of the tahini mixture on top, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the halvah over the tahini in an even layer. With a long side facing you, tightly roll up the dough into a log, pressing the seam and ends together to seal in the filling. Repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough, 1/2 cup of the tahini mixture and 1/2 cup of the halvah. Arrange the 3 logs on one of the prepared sheets and braid them together. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and sugar. Repeat with the second piece of dough and the remaining filling, egg wash and toppings. Bake the challahs for about 25-30 minutes on the middle and bottom racks of the oven, shifting and rotating halfway through, until deep golden. Transfer to racks to cool.


Turkish-Style Poached Eggs

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What surprised me most about Turkish cuisine when I visited Istanbul several years ago was how spicy it could be. I thought the food would be more like its Iranian counterpart: herbaceous and drizzled with saffron and turmeric at every turn. And while Turkish cuisine incorporates similar flavors, it’s also laden with peppers, both mild and hot. I loved it. Redolent with fresh vegetables, flatbreads, yogurt, lamb, and ingredients similar to the Iranian palate I’d grown up with, Turkish food was at the same time familiar but not.

One of my favorite dishes were these poached eggs. No one does breakfast like the Turks. The silky sauce is garlicy, yogurty, and has just enough heat so that you can’t stop sopping it up with bread, yolks and all. You can serve this with any flatbread, but I prefer this with some good-quality slices of toasted sourdough. Iranian barbari is delicious too.

Turkish-style poached eggs

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain whole-milk Turkish or Greek yogurt

1 small garlic clove, minced

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon olive oil 

1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper or Turkish red chile flakes 

2 large cold eggs
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided

2 thick sourdough 
slices or pieces of barbari bread, toasted


1. Fill a large skillet with water to a depth of 2 inches. Bring to a simmer over medium.

2. Place yogurt in a small saucepan and slowly warm over low heat. Stir in garlic and salt. Cook, stirring, until yogurt mixture is the consistency of lightly whipped cream, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.


3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to turn brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in oil and Aleppo pepper. 


4. Crack 1 egg into a ramekin or small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Repeat with remaining egg and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice in another ramekin or small bowl.


5. Gently slide eggs, 1 on each side of the large skillet, into the simmering water. Reduce heat so there is no movement in the water, and poach eggs until whites are set and yolks are still runny, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs to a plate.


6. Divide the warm creamy yogurt mixture between 2 
shallow bowls. Top each with 
a poached egg, and pour the peppery butter around and slightly over the yogurt. Serve with bread.