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Favorite Food Fridays: Ghormeh Sabzi

Considered the national dish of Iran, the tradition and history of Ghormeh Sabzi ("stewed greens') dates back to at least 500 to 1000 years. Served as a main dish in Iranian households for hundreds of years and also as a meal for family members returning after long bouts away from home, the aromatic Persian herb stew is a popular Iranian food not only in Iran, but also in Iraq and Azerbaijan.

Though not the most visually pleasing of dishes, Ghormeh Sabzi makes up its lack of aesthetics with a taste unlike anything you've had before. Consisting of crisp and flavorful ingredients such as cilantro, green onions, leeks, parsley,  shambalileh (dried fenugreek), and sauteed herbs (kale, turnip greens, mustard greens), the cooking process for Iran's national delicacy can be cooked in various ways with various herbs, beans, and vegetables, but every method such as sauteing, stewing, or pressure cooking (though many people prefer a slow cooker for optimum zing), all results in the same, distinct taste.


Traditionally served atop Persian rice, aka: "polow", (made with plain yogurt, Basmati rice, and saffron threads), or "tahdig" (the layer of caramelized, twice-cooked rice that crisps at the bottom of the cooking pot), and often accompanied with lavash bread, this green herb stew is an Iranian food that is deliciously pungent and a dish that will never disappoint your taste buds. And aside from the blend of spices and rice that make up Ghormeh Sabzi, this mixture is also cooked with yellow or red onions, kidney beans or black-eyed peas, beef or lamb seasoned with tumericdried limu-omani (Persian limes) and sometimes potatoes as a substitute for beans--so not only are you tasting an abundance of herbs that will awaken your senses, you're also tasting an assortment of ingredients that compliment this already appealing, untouched Iranian cuisine. 

If you're feeling adventurous and wish to concoct a dish that you've never made before, trying your hand at a pot of Ghormeh Sabzi is a wonderful meal idea for anytime. 


Kalamala also carries ready to eat Ghormeh Sabzi as well as a pre-packaged Ghromeh Sabzi herb mixture

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Favorite Food Fridays: Sabzi Polo

As a cultural food staple of Iran, often served at lunch during Nowruz-- the Persian New Year-- Sabzi Polo (meaning "greens with rice") is a traditional Iranian Cuisine eaten amongst friends and family. Steeped heavily in herbs and spices typical of many Iranian dishes, this fragrant arrangement of Basmati rice and greens enlivens the palette and tastes delicious with meat, fish, and vegetables, but is commonly made with white fish like mahi or halibut.

With various cooking styles that never leave out the polo (similar to rice pilaf), or the fresh chopped herbs such as parsley, cilantro, scallions, fenugreek, coriander, dill, and chives, many veteran (and non-veteran) chefs tend to add ingredients like garlic powder, lemon juice, eggs, saffron liquid, cinnamon, unsalted butter, and salt & pepper for additional taste enhancements that bring out the flavors already existent inside this aromatic dish. The blending of these integral food factors-- key in every serving of Sabzi Polo-- are frequently covered and simmered in a pan over medium heat for more than 30 minutes until the rice is fully cooked. Traditionalists will cook Sabzi Polo until crispy rice layers form on the bottom of the pot; a favored part of this Iranian Cuisine that everyone enjoys eating.  

A Sabzi Polo meal is the epitome of what fresh Spring and Summer flavors are supposed to taste like: light, vivid, crisp, and if you're fortunate enough to live near a Persian fish market, then buying local seafood from a shop that caters to ingredients quintessential to Persian food dishes is a smart decision that will better suit the flavor of your meal. But if you do not, need not worry-- local fish markets in your area are always stocked with the freshest seafood catches available that are just as good as seafood found in Iran. 

If you don't have time to make Sabzi Polo from scratch Kalamala offers dehydrated herbs for Sabzi Polo and a premixed blend of herbs and rice for a quick and health meal.

When it comes to trying out new and exciting foods, even if you don't celebrate Nowruz, you can still enjoy the symbol of life and renewal by making your own version of this Persian favorite. Despite the difficulties that come with any rice dish, capturing the essence of Sabzi Polo on your own time will be worth the effort (and the love) that you put into every plate.  

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Favorite Food Friday: Mast-o Khiar (Cucumber Yogurt)

The tastes and flavors of modern, traditional-style Persian food is uniquely influenced by Iran and its neighboring regions. From Khoresh, to joojeh, to kuku, and even to kebabs and ice cream, the delicacies that arise amongst the various sections of Iran cultivate the eating style of this flavorful food mecca.

With savory recipes rife in exotic ingredients, the extensive list of Persian dishes, appetizers, and desserts that comprise Iranian cook books are filled with aromatic food components. Fresh herbs, apricots, quince, and prunes--often served with vegetables, rice, and Cucumber Yogurtmeat--are seasoned with Persian spices such as cinnamon and saffron. Indeed, the importance of palatable and unique styles of cooking is vital to Persian food. And North of Iran, a favored meze (or appetizer) called Mast-o Khiar continues its own flavor-packed tradition as a popular, chilled Iranian soup that's simple to make and incredibly delicious.

Similar to Southern Spain's gazpacho, this concoction of yogurt and cucumber, though thicker than gazpacho, is almost always served cold. Blended with fresh sprigs of mint, raisins, chopped roasted walnuts, yogurt, and fresh cucumber, Mast-o Khair needs not to be cooked and is the perfect side dish to any meal that enhances the taste of almost anything you serve it with. The crunchy texture of the walnuts blends beautifully with the fragrant creaminess of the yogurt and accompanies rice, bread, meat, and pretty much anything else, exceptionally well. Many traditionalists will add dried rose petals as a way of embellishing upon the senses and also to add a dash of color as you would your very own work of art. Some will mix in other varying ingredients like green onions, basil, tarragon, and chives. Yet, no matter how you make it, it's guaranteed to satisfy your taste buds and possibly change the way in which you view the taste and texture of modern-day soup dishes.

As food is the comfort of the soul, a journey of the senses, and a love that takes many forms, treating yourself to a new dish such as Mast-o Khair is an adventurous decision you're sure to enjoy. And the fact that it's easy to make and quick to whip up, makes serving this customary Persian meze for lunch, dinner, or just a quick snack before the main dish another reason why you should give Mast-o Khair a try today.
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Favorite Food Friday: Zereshk

Sharp with flavor, rich in vitamin C, and high in pectin, the zereshk berry-- the Persian food name for the dried fruit of the Berberis Vulgaris shrub-- is grown all throughout Iran: the largest producer of the zereshk berry, and often used in chicken dishes and rice dishes like Zereshk Polo and Barberry Rice. 

ZereshkCultivated widely in the Iranian province of South Khorasan (especially in Qaen and Birjand), the use for the zereshk berry extends far beyond hot rice and chicken dishes and lends itself to other culinary recipes for jams, fruit rolls, and juices. The vast levels of vitamins and proteins found in the zarashk provide a nutritional element to anything it's cooked with and a flavor that's as tart and acidic as the saffron (also widely cultivated in South Khorasan) that grows along with it. 

These edible red-colored fruits have been used in Iranian and European cooking recipes for many centuries. In Europe, the zereshk berry was employed in similar ways that a citrus peel was used---for flavor and pazzaz-- but today finds itself vacant from many European food dishes. Though in Persian food, these small berries are still a commonly used ingredient for poultry and meat seasonings, and as a main flavoring to Russian candies called "Berberis" that picture the dried fruit on its packages. The tartness of the zereshk berry is also an important food source for many birds and often used in herbal medicines as well. It's active integrants, berberine and isoquinoline alkaloids, are effective in treating the symptoms of poly-cystic ovarian syndrome symptoms. 

But despite its services in other areas outside of the culinary circle, this delicious dried fruit is mainly rendered as a currant in Iranian rice pilaf dishes. 

As the most colorful tidbit of Zereshk Polo, the zereshk berry is the perfect accompaniment to a multitude of different Iranian dishes such as barg kabob (filet mignon), baked fish, lamb kabob, jooje kabob (chicken), and sauteed salmon. And if you want to make your own version of this popular side dish, all you need is Basmati rice, a half-cup of zereshk, saffron water, and butter (optional)--that's it! In moments, you can be cooking your own version of Zereshk Polo, or whatever cuisine you decide to create.



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