Sunday, May 3, 2015


It’s been a beautiful week in Indianapolis. The weather is warmer, and the city is gearing up for the Indianapolis 500 in a few weeks. Even in the midst of some bad publicity for our state because of our knuckle-dragging governor, I am looking forward to the festivities of the Indy 500. And who doesn’t love a good backyard cookout? When I was a kid, it was like the entire month of May was one gigantic holiday. It’s kind of toned down now (unless you happen to actually live in Speedway). Several years ago, my husband worked for an IndyCar team and got to be on the pit crew, so it was pretty cool seeing him realize one of his childhood dreams. 

The sesame seeds were the best part. A little nutty, kind of like me.
I have been looking forward to making this food for the past couple of days. I’m starting with Nan-e barbari, a Persian flatbread.  I started by mixing my lukewarm water with the yeast and letting it proof for a few minutes. Then I added in my flour and salt and mixed it altogether until I got it to a smooth dough consistency. After kneading it for another minute or so, I put my dough in an oiled bowl and covered it in plastic for an hour. After this first hour, I punched the dough down (always my favorite part), and divided it into two, shaping them into ovals by hand. I placed these two ovals onto an oiled baking sheet and covered them with plastic wrap for another hour. While this was resting for the second time, I mixed together a little bit of flour, sugar, vegetable oil, and water in a sauce pan, heating it, and whisking it until it becomes thickened. Then I took it off the heat to let it cool. Now, I don’t own a pizza stone; I’m still not sure why I’ve never purchased one because I don’t think they’re very expensive. But I did read that one hack to get by is to put a baking sheet in the oven upside-down and let it heat up in the oven for about 30 minutes, usually at high heat (I had this set for 450º.). Here’s where I was forced to deviate from the recipe just a bit. I was supposed to sprinkle the baking sheet with semolina (course wheat flour) and lay the bread on top to bake. But the dough was so sticky still, that it was nearly impossible to move. And because it was so sticky, I wasn’t able to make the five ruts/ridges in the bread lengthwise with my hands, so I coated a long wooden skewer with flour and carefully laid it on the bread. Then I brushed the flour paste I just heated up on top of the bread, and then sprinkled the white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds (in lieu of nigella seeds). Then it was time to slide the bread into the oven (I just laid the baking sheet with the bread on top of the baking sheet that was already in the oven) for about 18 minutes. It turned out just fine. The bread had a thick crust with a soft inside, and the sesame seeds gave it a subtle nutty flavor.  I liked it by itself, but it went very well with the herbs and cheese I put on it later.  

Very good. I can't wait to have this for lunch tomorrow.
The main dish for today is a stew called Khoresht-e Karafs. I started by lightly frying my sliced onions in a pot, then putting in my lamb (I cut it into bite-size chunks) with my onions. I also added in a little bit of turmeric and black pepper as well as some hot water, bringing this all to a boil. I let this cook for about 45 minutes.  This original recipe didn’t call for potatoes, but I found a very similar stew that did include potatoes, and well, I really wanted potatoes, so I added them in after about 20 minutes. Then I added in some celery, fresh mint, parsley, and salt to the meat and potatoes. Just before serving, I added in some sugar and lime juice (I only used half of what they suggested, and I still thought it was too much). I served this over rice. I think I was ok with everything up until the lime juice. It just made it a little too acidic. I think next time, I might just use a quarter cup or less (the recipe called for 1 cup!). But otherwise, it was good, and I’m glad I threw in the potatoes. 

Spiced feta cheese in the middle; clockwise: walnuts, scallions, feta-stuffed olives, radishes.

Clockwise: chives, dill, cilantro, marjoram, basil, tarragon.

Finally, to go with the flatbread, I decided to serve a fresh herb platter called Sabzi Khordan. This dish is often served at the beginning of a meal to help quench appetites and is left on the table throughout the meal. It includes a block of feta cheese that I poured sautéed coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds over as the centerpiece. I also included walnuts, green onions, sliced radishes, fresh basil, fresh cilantro, fresh tarragon, fresh chives, fresh marjoram, and fresh dill. And of course, I bought some feta-stuffed olives to go with this as well. I just wish I had a better platter to put everything on. I broke open my bread and made mini sandwiches. My daughter actually wanted to send a pitch to Subway to have more fresh herbs available for sandwiches. That’s sounds amazing. I wish I had thought of that myself. 

A great meal and a great ending to a nice weekend. Now I have more herbs than I know what to do with.
And of course, I had a glass (or two) of shiraz wine to go with my meal. I had always thought shiraz wine was originally from Iran because of the city of Shiraz. It’s a little confusing, but the grapes used for what we know as shiraz wine are actually called syrah grapes, which are native to the Rhône area of France. Somehow, Australia and other countries decided to use the word “shiraz” as a synonym for “syrah.” There used to actually be a wine called Shirazi wine produced in the city of Shiraz, but it's no longer produced anymore because of government restrictions. Regardless it’s still my favorite red wine, although I do like a good malbec every now and then (pinot grigio is my favorite white wine). The more you know. And although there are tensions between many countries and Iran, I’m hoping that by understanding more about a country’s history and culture and food, people might be able to separate governments and stereotypes from how people actually live in these countries. At least, that’s one of the goals of this blog. 

Up next: Iraq

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