saffron brownie

decorated with walnuts, hickory nuts, and mint

This saffron brownie is hard to classify. It is interesting, a word, of course, that says very little. I must admit, I had more fun making this dessert than I did eating it. I (sadly) added too much ground cardamom, which was a bit overpowering. But to call this a “brownie” might be somewhat misleading. Mine turned out like a very thick spread, which wasn’t all that surprising since Batmanglij recommends serving this brownie with bread in addition to serving it alone as a dessert.

I don’t want to sell this brownie short either. It is good in its own way, perhaps. And besides, the brownie looks beautiful.

Further, the technique I learned is amazing. Batmanglij calls this a “halva,” which (apparently) is an incredibly dense dessert. If I make this brownie again, perhaps I wouldn’t need to add a full stick of butter and a cup and a half of canola oil. Ha! Goodness. But anyway, basic technique is: (1) make and set aside a simple syrup, (2) stir a combination of flours into melted fat, (3) stir this thing on the stove for about 25 minutes, (4) add syrup to the fat and flour mixture, (5) stir, stir, stir, and (6) chill. And there you have it. Halva. Or, one variation, it seems.

about ten minutes into stirring the fat and flour mixture

just stirred the syrup into the fat and flour mixture

about three minutes into the “stir, stir, stir” section … I think I stirred it for about six minutes after I poured the syrup into the fat and flour mixture

I have completed 28 of Batmanglij’s 268 recipes. Percentage complete: 10.45%

This, I believe, is my last June post. I am very much looking forward to what July brings.

yogurt, cucumber, and rose petal dip

topped with walnuts and dried rose petals

This lovely, chilled dip (possibly, my new favorite side dish) is made with plain Greek yogurt, diced cucumbers, raisins, fresh herbs, and chopped walnuts. It is the perfect accompaniment to grilled fish. It is also pretty amazing over toasted bread, topped with plenty of fresh dill. Of course, you might as well just eat it by itself.

thyme, mint, oregano, and dill

Further, I am happy to report that our oregano has survived. We transplanted some perennial herbs about a month ago. I decided that it would be a good idea to divide the oregano into three small sections to promote a linear, even growing pattern. (Just to note: I still back this decision.) The sections were looking pretty sickly for a while, but have made an impressive comeback in the past few weeks. Check out the photos. Not bad, actually.

oregano, section #2
June 3, 2012

oregano, section #2
June 30, 2012

Our dill in the other herb garden is also coming along. It might not be as tall as we had hoped by now, but it’s growing pretty decently. Perhaps we might be using too much?

June 30, 2012

June 3, 2012

I have completed 27 of Batmanglij’s 268 recipes. Percentage complete: 10.07%

cucumber and pomegranate salad

You often can find me lamenting over how few serving dishes we own.

And yet, we actually own quite a few. The problem is that 90% of them are made of glass. What am I supposed to do with a glass dish—besides, of course, look at it? With the arrival of summer, however, many hot suppers have been replaced with room temperature, even sometimes chilled meals. For some reason, it has never occurred to me until now that glass dishes serve as the perfect backdrop for summer creations, such as this beautiful cucumber and pomegranate salad.

pomegranate arils

Pomegranate is not something that I work with often. I remember the first few times I attempted to free the arils from the flesh—an unbelievably tedious process, or so I thought. Last summer (or was it last winter?), a cousin of mine suggested that I peel the pomegranate while holding it under a bowl of water. This technique works amazingly well. The arils sink to the bottom of the bowl. Everything unwanted floats, and can be skimmed away. The juicy boldness of the arils in this salad is awesome. And the pomegranate marries really well with the mint and shallot.

prepared pomegranate arils, cucumbers, shallots, and mint, waiting to be added to the lime vinaigrette

I have completed 26 of Batmanglij’s 268 recipes. Percentage complete: 9.70%

mushroom khoresh

Since owning Batmanglij’s Food of Life, I have been fascinated with its khoreshes, or braises that combine different combinations of meats, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and herbs. There is something about a meal simmering slowly on the stove for a few hours that seems to make everything in the world okay—not that I have been able to master a khoresh just yet.

I came pretty close with the yogurt khoresh. See its photo here. And this mushroom and chicken khoresh is pretty good too. This dish is very delicate. Both the saffron and the lime offer a little something unexpected. Plus, it has mushrooms. And I love mushrooms.

Yet last night, this particular khoresh left a little something to be desired. It was almost a bit too delicate. While making it, I ended up adding more than twice the recommended amounts of both turmeric and cumin, in addition to adding a little extra heat.

Over all, this is a very solid chicken dish—just not, well, extraordinary.

I have completed 25 of Batmanglij’s 268 recipes. Percentage complete: 9.33%

stuffed grape leaves

I had stuffed grape leaves for the first time about a year ago near the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. It was late evening, and we ate them while sitting on a few rocks near the water, watching the rippling waves in front of us. Those pictured here aren’t quite as good as last summer’s stuffed leaves, which were from a local Lebanese restaurant. But, they’re definitely not bad either. Mine are a bit briny, a tad oily (both in a good way). And the slight sweetness balances the heat nicely. I altered Batmanglij’s recipe just slightly, stuffing the leaves with brown basmati rice, yellow split peas, pine nuts, raisins, and a bunch of fresh herbs.

grape leaves, rinsed and dried

I used grape leaves that had been soaked in brine. It took me about thirty minutes (no joke) to pull them from the jar. My parents grow a few grape vines behind their garage. And there is another vine growing around the swing set that my brothers and I used to play on as kids. I wonder if I might be able to use a few of these leaves in the future. To note, there is no wine-making in the works just yet; I am still attempting to persuade my parents to make some.

Just to update, our herbs are looking well. And we pulled our first head of garlic last night. Not bad. Not bad at all.

the first head of garlic

from left to right, chopped scallions, chives, mint, dill, and curly parsley

the swing set grape vine — a bit odd, but it seems to work

I have completed 24 of Batmanglij’s 268 recipes. Percentage complete: 8.96%