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persian

Nargisi Kofta Curry

Nargisi Kofta Curry

Back into the action of the week, after a three day weekend, it feels strangely not disconcerting. Perhaps, that is a truly relaxing weekend. One that leaves you nurtured and nourished for the coming week despite the onslaught of more bitter cold.

And, this week, I am going to make more hearty, warming meals. With a little meat and a lot of vegetables and more eggs. Eggs are good. Actually, good eggs are really good.

The recipe today is called Nargisi Kofta. I am not really sure of it why it is named thus but it definitely harkens to Persian origins. Notstanding the name, the style of cooking is a definite give away of it having been an import of the Mughal conquest into North India. But, much like a lot of the cuisine knowledge they brought and shared, the Persian influences in Indian cuisine, is much beloved. This dish is another testament of it. 

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Sicilian Caponata over Z'atared Lavash Crackers - PFB Challenge #2 and Velveteers

Sicilian Caponata

That's a long title, isn't it?! But then, I have so much to say! First off, I made it through the first cut of the FoodBuzz Project Food Blog 2010. YAY!! Thanks so much to everyone who voted and for all the lovely comments on my last challenge post and retweets! It's now time to show my cooking skills for the 2nd challenge.

For the second challenge, we were asked to pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with. You should include how you arrived at this decision in your post. Do your research then try to pull off successfully creating this challenge. Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal, and document your experience through a compelling post.

Lavash Crackers

Coincidentally, the dish of choice for this month's Velveteers challenge was the Sicilian Caponata. As I was mulling over what to make for the PFB, a light went on in my subconscious. I think it happened in my sleep (That happens often. I tend to think through things with amazing clarity, moments before I doze off!). Anyway, I woke up two days back thinking this would be the perfect dish to recreate for this challenge, for many reasons.

First of all, and I am rather pained to admit it, even though Italian cuisine offers me a comfort fix second only to Indian food, I have not ventured to cook much beyond pastas and risottos at home. So, Alessio's suggestion of the Caponata was not only timely but also inspiring!

Sicilian Caponata 1

Second, as I read more about the dish, I learnt it actually has Arabic origins. That only intrigued me further. What's more?! When I read through the recipe, I realised, with almost a jolt, so many similarities with the Parsi style of cooking (my in-laws)! The balance of sweet and sour achieved using sugar and vinegar is exactly the same principle and method followed in Parsi cuisine. Not surprising, after all, given their Persian roots.

Delving further, the eggplant in caponata is traditionally fried. My MIL does exactly that with her veggies when she makes her sweet and sour stew! I was hooked, line, sinker and bait! Little had I known, when I ventured near Sicily, that I would unearth more in common than an leaning towards good flavor!

The Caponata pays such a beautiful tribute to the freshness of each ingredient. The dish preserves each component in its simplistic form uncluttered by spices and yet delivers such a depth of flavor that is amazingly refreshing!

Lavash Crackers

Caponata is traditionally served on crostinis. I wanted to put my spin on this. Since the dish itself is soft textured, a pairing with something crunchy made sense. I decided to go with homemade crackers. For one, I haven't made them before and I just liked the idea of spooning the caponata with thin slices of crackers. For the flavor, I went along with the Mediterranean theme and used Z'atar to spice them up.

So, today, I present to you a traditional Sicilian Caponata resonant with the flavors of celery, olives, capers and eggplant served on Z'atar Lavash Crackers.

Voting for the second challenge opens on 27 september. I very much appreciate your comments and, ofcourse, votes! :).

Caponata served on cracker


Sicilian Caponata
(adapted from
here)

1 Holland eggplant, diced into 3/4 inch cubes
1 stalk of celery, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 medium Spanish onion
2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and crushed
1 T tomato paste
2 T black olives, pitted and quarteres
1 T capers, drained
2 T pine nuts
1 T sugar
1 T vinegar
chopped parsley for garnish
salt as per taste and oil as needed

Toss the eggplant with salt and set aside in a strainer to let the bitter juices flow out. Meanwhile, fry the celery in oil until cooked but not soft, about 2 minutes. Remove from oil and reserve.

In the same oil, saute onions until soft. Add the pine nuts, capers, olives and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and paste and cook the mixture through. Remove from heat and set aside.

Rinse and pat dry the eggplant. Fry in hot oil until golden brown. Add the eggplant to tomato mixture and return to heat. Add the sugar, vinegar and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Cook until the mixture thickens. Cool and then refrigerate. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Lavash Crackers recipe is from
Food & Wine.





Fesenjan - Daring Cooks July 2010

Koresht - e - Fesenjan

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I have to confess I didn't use a new recipe specifically for this challenge. I made a dish that I have written about here before and that I was anyway planning to make since we hadn't had it in a while...

Happily though, I think it is perhaps the best dish that I could have made for this challenge. Its richness is drawn from the thick walnut paste and hours of slow cooking that goes into it. If a culinary ode had to be made for nut butters, the Persian Fesenjan, is very well suited to do so! :)

Fesenjan top view 1

Fesenjan is usually a special occasion stew made with walnut, pomegranate and, usually, chicken. It's high place in the cuisine isn't surprising given the amount of dried fruit, nuts and time that it takes to make it even though the recipe itself is very simple. Traditionally, it is made with pomegranate molasses (Rob-e Anar). The best molasses is ofcourse found in Iran but in the absence of ready access to it, I substituted with a reduction of pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon.

Our acquaintance with this incredible dish began in an Iranian restaurant in India where one had to make a special order for it 24 hours in advance. In conversation with the gentleman who ran the restaurant, I found out that he bring back the special molasses for his recipe back from Iran every time he visits.

Fesenjan - Garnishes

The stew is rich (make no mistake, it is gut-stickingl-y so!), tangy, sweet and finger-licking good. It is served with rice and it is all I can do to keep from licking the bowl at the end of the meal. It's an easy recipe and I would urge you to make it someday, to appreciate it's depth of flavor and the smoothness of the stew from the molasses and walnut butter.

For the recipe, please click through to my previous posting on it. I garnished my stew with fresh strawberries, which add a hint of sweetness to the stew. I would also serve it with a side of finely sliced red onions for crunch and flavor.

Fesenjan

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