Roasted Chicken with Date Molasses

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I made this sheet pan-roasted chicken when I was craving something savory and sweet. Influenced by the flavors of Persian Gulf cooking, this dish makes genius use of date molasses, a popular syrup in southern Iran, as well as in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa.

Serve this with basmati rice and pickled vegetables for a vinegary contrast.

Roast chicken with date molasses

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 chicken, cut into pieces
1 cup walnuts
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled, plus 1 clove garlic, grated
3 teaspoons sumac
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 cup pitted dates, halved
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup olive or avocado oil
3 tablespoons date molasses

1. Make the dry rub: Place 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the turmeric in a small bowl and mix. Rub the chicken pieces with the dry rub and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.

3. Make the wet rub: In a food processor, combine the walnuts, onion, 4 peeled garlic cloves, remaining teaspoon salt, remaining teaspoon pepper, sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, dates, lime juice, and 1/4 cup oil, and pulse until you have a grainy, chopped mixture. Rub the chicken pieces with the wet rub and push some under the skin. Arrange the chicken pieces on a baking sheet.

4. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour.

5. In a small saucepan, mix the ingredients remaining 1 clove grated garlic, the remaining 1/4 cup oil, the date molasses, and 1 tablespoon water. Bring to a simmer over low heat, turn off, and set aside to keep warm.

6. Uncover the foil from the chicken and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.

7. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, baste the chicken with the date molasses mixture, and serve.

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.

Khoresh-e Gheymeh (Iranian Lamb and Chana Dal Braise)

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Khoresh-e gheymeh, or Iranian channa dal and lamb braise is one of the most popular (and mercifully easiest) khoreshes to make. Khoreshes are Iranian braises that are served with basmati rice, and this one in particular is the perfect example of cross-cultural evolution: high five to the genius who decided that French fries would become a required part of this dish.

Make sure to seek out limoo omani (dried limes) here, as their flavor is essential to the success of khoresh-e gheymeh.

Khoresh-e gheymeh

Ingredients:

For the braise:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 pound leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 dried limoo omani (Persian limes), pierced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoons ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1/4 cup yellow split peas (chana dal)

For the French fries:

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into thick matchsticks, and soaked in cold water
1 cup vegetable oil for shallow frying
Salt to taste

1. To make the braise: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the onions until beginning to brown and then add the lamb, continuing to saute until the onions are golden brown and the juice has been absorbed. Add the dried limes, salt, pepper, and turmeric, and saute for 3 minutes.

2. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the tomato, sugar, and saffron water. Cover and cook over low heat for 35 minutes.

4. In a saucepan, cook the yellow split peas in 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse, and add to the pot with the lamb. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

5. To make the French fries: Drain and dry the potatoes. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the potatoes, and shallow fry until golden and cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and place on paper towels. Season with salt.

6. To serve, place the braise in a serving bowl and top with the French fries. Serve with basmati rice (and Iranian pickles and a fresh herb platter of sabzi khordan, if desired).

Persian Gulf-Style Date and Coconut Balls

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We eat a lot of energy bars in our household. You know the kind: grain-free and heavy on the dates and nuts.

These Persian Gulf-style date and coconut balls are just like those protein bars you’d find at Whole Foods, but more ancient and more delicious. And they’re a breeze to make. Serve these with tea for dessert or have them for breakfast. They pack well too, making them perfect for the road.

Persian Gulf-style date and coconut bars

Ingredients:

1 cup dried unsweetened coconut, ground to a coarse powder in a spice or nut grinder
2 tablespoons ground pistachios
1 tablespoon neutral oil
2 cups dates, pitted and sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons tahini
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon orange blossom water

1. In a shallow bowl, mix the ground coconut and pistachios and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium-low heat. Add the dates and saute for 4 minutes until they are soft. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, tahini, almonds, and walnuts and saute for 2 minutes.

3. Let the date mixture cool, then transfer to a food processor and pulse until you have a grainy paste.

4. Use a spoon to pick up a 1 tablespoon portion of the paste. Moisten the palms of your hands with the orange blossom water and shape into a bite-sized ball. Repeat with the remaining paste and orange blossom water.

5. Roll the date balls in the coconut mixture until they are lightly coated. Serve at room temperature or store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh (Barberry Rice with Saffron Chicken)

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This is comfort food for every diaspora Iranian kid growing up. Fragrant rice and tart barberries become more the sum of its parts. The best part? Spooning the lime and caramelized onion-inflected chicken sauce over the rice and letting all of the sweet-sour-salty flavors meld.

Dried barberries can be hard to find, but they’re worth seeking out as any Iranian grocer will carry them. Try to use aged basmati rice here, which will produce a fluffier, more aromatic dish.

Zereshk polo ba morgh

Ingredients:

For the saffron chicken:

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup lime juice
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

For the rice:

3 cups basmati rice
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons yogurt
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup slivered pistachios

For the barberry mixture:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups dried barberries, picked over, washed, and drained
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

1. To cook the chicken: In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and saute until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the chicken cook, turning, once, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, give the pan a stir, and cover. Cook over low heat for about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

2. To cook the rice: Wash the rice in a large container and cover it with water. Agitate gently and pour off water, repeating 3 or 4 times until the water is clear. Bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large pot. Add the rice and boil briskly for about 6 to 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to loosen any grains that may have stuck together or to the bottom of the pot. When the rice feels just al dente, it is ready to be drained. Drain the rice in a fine-mesh colander and rinse with cold water.

3. In a large bowl, whisk 1/4 cup oil 1/4 water, yogurt, a few drops of saffron water, and 3 spatulas of rice. Spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pot.

4. Arrange the remaining rice in a pyramid shape in the pot, adding one spatula of rice at a time. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.

5. Mix the remaining oil with 1/2 cup water and pour over the rice. Pour the remaining saffron water over the rice. Add the pistachios and almonds on top. Wrap the lid of the pot with a thin, clean dish towel and cover firmly to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 60 to 70 minutes longer over low heat.

6. To cook the barberries: In a skillet, combine the oil, barberries, sugar, water, and saffron water. Saute over medium heat for 5 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the barberries don’t burn. Set aside.

7. Remove the rice from the heat and carefully pour run the outside of the bottom of the pot under cold water. This helps to release the tahdig, or crust, from the bottom of the pot. Allow pot to cool, covered, for 5 minutes.

8. To assemble the rice, take 1 spatula full of rice and place it on a serving platter in alternating layers with the barberry mixture. Arrange the chicken around or next to the platter. Detach the tahdig and serve on the side.