Naan Khamei (Iranian Cream Puffs)

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Raise your hand if you grew up salivating over these at every mehmooni. These cream puffs are giant to the max and fluffy to the max, with just a hint of fragrant rosewater.

Be patient mixing the dough on this — it’ll look like it’ll never come together, but it will. And the wait will be worth it, I promise.

These cream puffs are best eaten fresh the day of.

Naan khamei

Ingredients:

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
7 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon rose water
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the dough:

1 cup cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced into cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rose water
1 cup flour, sifted
4 room temperature eggs

For the dusting:

1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1. To prepare the filling: In a large bowl, combine the cream, sugar, rose water, and vanilla, and whip at high speed until soft peaks form. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

2. To make the dough: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.

3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, salt, and butter, and bring to a boil, stirring well with a wooden spoon. Add the vanilla and rose water. Reduce heat to very low and add the flour, all at once, stirring constantly (3 to 5 minutes), until you have a stiff paste.

4. Remove the dough from the heat and continue to stir for 4 or 5 minutes to help the dough cool down.

5. Make sure the temperature of the dough is around 150F degrees at this time and add 1 egg to the dough and stir for 1 minute. The dough should become glossy and silky. Continue to stir for another minute until the egg has been absorbed and the dough is no longer glossy. Continue adding the eggs, 1 at a time, stirring each time an egg is added until the dough is no longer glossy. The dough should be light, smooth, and airy.

6. Bake the cream puffs: Use an ice cream scoop to drop 12 equal portions of the dough onto the 2 prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each dollop. Bake for 20 minutes.

7. Without opening the oven door, reduce the heat to 350F degrees and continue to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the puff pastries are golden.

8. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool thoroughly.

9. Just before serving, use a serrated knife to cut through the pastries crosswise. Use a pastry bag to squeeze the chilled filling into the pastry, dividing between the 12 pastries. Dust the tops with powdered sugar and serve.

Torshi Tareh (Iranian Chive and Herb Braise)

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Torshi tareh is the dish I never knew existed but always wanted. Hailing from Iran’s Caspian Sea area, it’s a regional speciality much like saag paneer — but with eggs instead of cheese. Chock-full of greens, it’s worth seeking out the namesake tareh in this recipe. Tareh are Persian chives (also called Persian leeks). If you can’t find these, a mix of green onions and garlic chives make a reasonable substitute.

Torshi tareh

Ingredients:

For the braise:

2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
2 cups parsley, roughly chopped
2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
2 cups Persian chives (or substitute with green onions and garlic chives), roughly chopped
1/2 cup mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup basil, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons rice flour dissolved in 1 cup water

For the eggs:

3 teaspoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
6 eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup lime juice

1. To make the braise: Place all of the herbs and garlic in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

2. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in an enameled cast-iron pot. Transfer the herb mixture to the pot and saute over medium heat for a few minutes.

3. Add salt, turmeric, 1 1/2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. Add the diluted rice flour and give it a stir. Cover, reduce heat to low, and allow to simmer for another 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

4. Make the eggs: Heat the remaining 3 teaspoons oil in a skillet over low heat until hot. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds, until lightly golden.

5. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and add the salt, pepper, turmeric, and cinnamon until just blended.

6. Just before serving. Add the egg mixture to the garlic in the skillet and saute for a few minutes, stirring until you have soft scrambled eggs.

7. Add the eggs and the lime juice to the braise in the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Serve warm with rice.

Chicken Piccata with Olives and Artichokes

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I love this chicken piccata recipe because it combines the best of both worlds: crunchy fried chicken and tangy, briny vegetables. This dish is easier to make than it looks and it’s perfect for springtime, showcasing tender artichokes — but without all of the prep.

Chicken piccata with olives and artichokes

Ingredients:

1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Eight 6-ounce chicken cutlets, about 1/8 inch thick
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
16 pitted kalamata olives, drained and coarsely chopped
1 jar marinated artichokes (about 1 1/2 cups), drained and quartered
2/3 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken cutlets in the seasoned bread crumbs.

2. In a large skillet, melt the butter in the oil over moderately high heat. When the foam subsides, add the chicken to the skillets (working in batches if needed) and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden brown outside and white throughout, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the cutlets to a platter.

3. Wipe out the skillet and add the olives and artichoke hearts. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until heated through. Add the chicken stock, lemon juice and capers and boil for 1 minute, stirring. Spoon the artichoke and olive sauce over the chicken, sprinkle with the parsley and immediately.

Oven-Baked Garlic Fries

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There’s nothing revolutionary about these fries. But I love them because (a) they’re fries, (b) they’re oven-baked, so they’re healthy, obvs, and (c) they’re sprinkled with garlic, and who doesn’t love garlic fries?

Make sure to bake these potatoes unpeeled; otherwise, they won’t hold up their shape.

Oven-baked garlic fries

Ingredients:

2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch-wide fries
1/4 cup avocado oil
Salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450F degree. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Add the potatoes and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

2. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the oil and season with salt. Spread on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden on the bottom. Turn and bake for 20 minutes longer, turning occasionally, until golden. Transfer the fries to a platter, sprinkle with the garlic, parsley, and pepper, and serve.

Lamb and White Bean Braise with Dill Rice, Kashani Style

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I’ve always been curious about regional Iranian cuisine. My parents are from Tehran and while I love Tehrani-style food, there’s so much to Iran’s diverse cultures: garlicy eggplant mirza ghasemi from the Caspian to okra-laden khoresh-e bamiyeh near the Persian Gulf. These dishes are mainstream — most Iranian households have at least heard of them, regardless of what part of Iran they’re from.

But what about what’s off the beaten path? What’s Kurdish Iranian food like? What do folks eat on Qeshm Island? Or in Khorasan? I worry that these less well-known food traditions will be lost forever, especially among the Iranian diaspora. When I learned that author Najmieh Batmanglij had published Cooking in Iran, a compendium of regional Iranian cooking, I was so excited — and grateful. Since I got the cookbook, I’ve been tinkering with and riffing off of some of her recipes. This lamb and white bean braise with dill rice is popular in Kashan. I didn’t grow up with this dish, but the flavors are all too familiar: the dill rice reminds me of baghali polo (a popular fava bean and dill pilaf), the lamb is stewed with that familiar lime-turmeric-onion combination, and the fried potatoes put the whole thing over the top.

This dish is labor-intensive, but it’s a showstopper.

Lamb and white bean braise with dill rice, Kashani style

Ingredients:

For the braise:

1 cup white beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 teaspoons oil
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 to 1 1/2 pounds boned leg of lamb, cut into 3-inch pieces
1/3 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 dried Persian limes, pierced
4 cups water
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

For the potatoes:

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes and soaked in cold water for 20 minutes, drained and patted dry
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the rice:

2 cups aged basmati rice
1 1/2 cups chopped dill
1/4 cup oil
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1/4 cup water

1. To make the braise: Heat oil in a laminated cast-iron pot over medium heat and saute the onions, garlic, and lamb until golden brown. Add the beans, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, and dried limes, and saute for 1 minute.

2. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the lamb and beans are tender.

3. Add the salt and lime juice, give it a stir, and adjust seasoning to taste. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

4. Cook the potatoes: In a large skillet, heat the oil until hot and saute the potatoes over medium heat until golden brown and crispy. Sprinkle the turmeric and salt over the potatoes and stir. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

5. To cook the rice: Wash the rice by placing it in a large bowl, cover with water, agitate gently with your hands, then pour off the water. Repeat at least 3 times until the water is clear.

6. In a large pot, bring 8 cups water and 1 tablespoon salt to a boil. Add the rice and boil for about 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to loosen any grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Bite a couple of grains — if the rice feels al dente soft, it is ready to be drained. Drain rice in a fine-mesh colander and rinse with water. Set aside.

7. Place 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons water in the pot and ruse a spatula to mix. Place 2 spatulas full of rice in the pot and 1 spatula of dill and potatoes. Repeat, alternating layers and mound in the shape of a pyramid.

8. Pour the remaining oil and 1/2 cup of broth from the lamb braise over the rice. Drizzle the saffron water over the top. Wrap the lid of the pot with a clean dish towel and cover the pot firmly to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 15 minutes over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes longer. Keep warm until ready to serve.

9. To serve, on a serving platter, gently mound the rice. Arrange the lamb and beans on top with the broth in a bowl on the side. Alternatively, you may serve the lamb, beans, and accompanying broth on the side in a separate serving bowl.