Back to My Roots

- April 8th, 2016 -
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                                                           Photo: www.mypersianfeast.com

I was born in Iran, my accent is French, and my attitude is American.

I am who I am because of the places and cultures that I am born of. I treasure my Persian roots, my formative years in Paris, my family life in New York. I have taken these places with me on my life journey, and will always pay homage to my roots.

The shared experience of Persian cuisine is a part of my homeland that still resonates strongly with me today. Cooking, eating and gathering together around the dinner table is a hallmark of our culture.

Persian cuisine is truly epicurean – it stimulates all the senses. You see the vibrant yellows and reds of saffron. You smell the savory aromas of fresh cut herbs, coriander, parsley, and fenugreek meant to accompany the tadig heating atop the flame; the magnum opus of a Persian dinner. You taste the harmonious fusion of ingredients. Perhaps most importantly though, you hear – the vibrant chatter of a family meal being prepared in a kitchen, of stories being shared over a home-cooked meal as has been Persian tradition for centuries.

There is an innate sense of intuition and creativity found in the best Persian cooks. There are techniques and methods – of food preparation, of cooking implements, of timing and heating and seasoning – that are passed down from mother to daughter, keeping the tradition and craft of ancient Persian cooking alive. This is the evolution of Persian food, but also Persian culture as a whole. Our food, stories, traditions, and craftsmanship are all vividly rich.

Persian cuisine is extremely detail-oriented and time-consuming. This is in stark contrast to modern life in America, where everything is fast and constantly on the move. I have crafted my own recipes to reflect both Persian and American influences, topped off with the French sensibilities of presentation and refinement. I never forget to sprinkle in some love. Trust me, you can always taste the difference. This melting pot of methods and flavors is what sets my cooking apart.

I also sprinkle in some modern-day know-how – for example, using tofu as a healthy alternative to lamb.

If you ever feel adventurous enough to venture into Persian cooking, I highly recommend the book “The New Food of Life” by Najmieh Batmanglij.

Enjoy and remember, practice makes perfect! Nooshe jan…bon appetit!

xo

Catherine

Part 1: Cooking the rice

5 cups basmati rice, checked and rinse

12 cups water

½ cup canola oil

3 tablespoons salt

Part 2: Steaming the rice and making tadig

¼-inch oil poured into the bottom of the saucepan.

2 tablespoons water

¼ tsp turmeric or powdered saffron (optional, for a more authentic flavor)

To cook the rice:

Fill a large nonstick saucepan (at least 6 quarts) with 12 cups water; add oil and salt. Cover and bring to a brisk boil over high heat.

Add the rice and continue cooking over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally.

After 3–5 minutes, use a slotted spoon to scoop some grains from the water. Break one grain in half to make sure it is “al dente” (see above). Turn off the heat and pour rice into the colander to drain; set aside.

To steam and make tadig:

Place the empty 6-quart saucepan back onto the stovetop over medium heat. Add ¼-inch canola oil and 2 tablespoons water. Add turmeric and/or saffron powder. Stir together.

Add the drained rice and shape it into a pyramid. Cover the pot and cook for 5–7 minutes until rice begins to steam.

Uncover and place 2 paper towels (one on top of the other) over the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Replace the lid tightly.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and tilt the lid until ready to serve.

With awide spatula, scoop the rice from the pot, making sure to not disturb the crust (tadig) that formed on the bottom of the pot. Serve the rice on a flat serving platter, mounding it into the shape of a pyramid. Turn the tadig out onto a flat serving platter by inverting the pot, as you would invert a cake pan, or cut it into pieces and serve around the rice.

Yield: 8 servings

Recipe courtesy of Kosher Persian Food.