Seattle, appropriately called the Emerald green city, is where I grew up. A city almost always enveloped in a blue green haze due to the abundance of tall, statuesque trees hugging every street, working as a filter for the struggling sun trying to get her golden fingers through their branches and leaves. She hardly ever wins. A city where its streets are everlastingly damp, evidence of a paused bout of seep-through your clothes rain. And, where a warm but sharp bark colored cup of espresso can at times be described with artistic vocabulary.
As an eight year old, the landscape reminded me of afsanehs, fairy tales, that were usually set up within tree-laden forests filled with magic and wizardry. Being a rabid reader my mind would always whirl with the tales of Kings and their Knights or Queens, and magic genies. It all seemed very feasible. Oh, how I long for that childhood naiveté that weaved enchantment and realism together like intricate patterns on an ah-inspiring Persian rug.
|Scheherazade & King Sharyar|
It is the city where I had my first gooey PB&J sandwich in Ms. Butler’s fifth grade classroom and almost threw up because its rich texture was so foreign, I didn’t know how to handle it. It is also were I received my first glitter decorated Valentine from a straw colored hair boy that I played Tether ball with everyday during recess. He told me that he liked how my hair and eyes were so much darker than his mothers. Isn’t that funny, I laugh every time I remember. And a place where my family and I were able to make into a home.
A home, where my beautiful, hazel eyed Mamman would make outrageously fragrant rice dishes prepared with newly bought items at the only Iranian specialty food store that was available to us at the time. Her dishes would literally bring over our neighbors, intrigued by the combination of perfumes wafting out of our house. Being a true gracious host, she never turned anyone away, but mounded their plates with the rice and all of its trimmings, inviting them to join in on our family meal together.
|Loobia Polow and a piece of tah-dig|
One of these dishes is Loobia Polow or Green Bean Rice. Mundane, it is not. It intertwines green beans, meat, turmeric, tomatoes, and many more ingredients with basmati rice. Infused with a dusting of pulverized saffron, lovingly ground up in a mortar and pestle. In the same pot, you have the tah-dig, the bottom of the pot crust that builds from the basmati, and all of the mixed ingredients’ juices to become the crowning glory of all Persian rice meals. I have had many friends look at me very oddly when I have offered them the crust at the bottom of the pot, I am sure they wanted to head for the door, however, after just one bite, they were bitten!
2 cups basmati rice (soaked in 4 cups of warm water and some salt, at least a half hour prior to cooking)
1 lb fresh green beans cut into equal sized pieces
1 ½ lbs meat cut in ½ inch cubes or ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
½ cup oil- better to use butter or canola, stay away from olive oil since it has a strong aroma
1 can of diced tomatoes-all juices removed or
1 tblsp tomato paste
Juice of one lime
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp advieh (Persian spice mix-found at Iranian Specialty Stores)
2 tblsp plain yoghurt
½ tsp saffron powder (either ground in a mortar and pestle with a bit of sugar or in a spice blender) -Dissolve it in a bit of boiling hot water
Sauté your onions and meat in a bit of oil until brown.
Add drained tomatoes, green beans, cinnamon, turmeric, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
Cover and simmer for about an hour on low heat.
Boil water in a nonstick pot.
Pour the drained rice in.
Boil for 5-6 minutes on high heat.
Take out a few grains and pinch between your thumb and forefinger. If it snaps easily, drain the rice into a colander that has been placed in the sink.
In a bowl, mix the yogurt, a couple of drops of the saffron water, a pinch of salt & pepper, and 5-10 tablespoons of the just drained rice.
Putting it all together
In the same pot that you cooked the rice in, pour in your canola oil (or butter) and a couple tablespoons of water.
Spread out the tah-dig mixture carefully in the pot.
Start layering the basmati, Loobia mixture, and advieh. Two spatulas rice, a sprinkle of advieh and two spatulas mixture, continue until you have created a mound inside your pot.
With the spatula handle, poke three holes in the rice.
Pour the remaining saffron water along with a few glugs of oil on top.
Place a couple of kitchen paper towels underneath the lid so that steam does not escape.
Cook for 1 hour on low heat.
Let it cool for 5 minutes without taking the lid off.
Start taking one spatula full at a time and placing them in a serving dish.
Detach the tah-dig with a wooden spatula and serve it in its own dish.
Great served with mast-o-khiar or salad shirazi (recipes to come).
*Image of Queen Scheherazade and King Shahryar via Wikipedia