Tag Archives: Persian

Ajeel: Iranian “Trail Mix”

Dried fruit and nuts are among some of the most important ingredients used during the Passover holiday. Usually some kind of dried fruit (such as raisins, dates, apricots, or figs) is blended with a variety of nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, or pistachios) to make charoset. Other times nuts are ground up finely to replace flour in cakes. In Iran, it is not uncommon to serve Ajeel, small bowls of nuts mixed with raisins, as a snack before or during the Seder, or as part of dessert along with fresh fruit. Like a Persian “Trail Mix,” Ajeel can be a mixture of walnuts, pistachios, almonds, dried roasted chickpeas, dried mulberries, and almost always maveez (Iranian golden raisins). When I was in Great Neck, Long Island recently (cooking a Passover rice dish with an Afghani-Bukharian woman) I was lucky enough to stop into a small Iranian grocery store before jumping on the train back to Manhattan. I grabbed a bag of maveez, as well as fresh dates and roasted chickpeas (all of which the owner hinted at having been “smuggled” in from Iran by unknown sources). I noticed that the shape of the maveez were slightly more elongated, and more chewy/less sticky than the ones found here in the United States. When combined with the dried chickpeas the textures and flavors were addictive.

Ajeel_RaisinsChickpeasPistachios_2_blog

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Charoset of the Day: Persian Hallegh

Charoset_Halegh_4_blogPersians refer to their charoset as hallegh. Many of them use some combination of nuts with dates, often adding pomegranate juice and/or seeds to round out the flavors. Today my friend Simona stopped by to show me her family’s hallegh, and what intrigued me the most was its addition of fresh red grapes to the mixture of nuts, raisins and dates (which have been marinating overnight in apple cider vinegar and sweet Passover wine). The result was a tangy, fruity spread, the texture of a paté:

HalleghPersian Charoset with Nuts, Apples, Grapes & Marinated Raisins & Dates
(Yield: Makes 5 Cups)

For Hallegh:
1 cup black raisins (preferably larger ones, if available)Charoset_Halegh_Nuts_1_blog
6 medjool dates (about 1/2 cup), pitted
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sweet Passover wine
(such as Manischewitz)

1/4 pound (about 1 cup) of each of
the following:

    hazelnuts
    walnuts
    pistachios
    almonds
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper (optional)
1/2 red seedless grapes
1 large red apple (about 8 ounces),
cut into large chunks

For Serving:
1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced red grapes

Charoset_Halegh_Nuts_2_blog
1. Place raisins and dates in a small bowl and marinate with the cider vinegar and sweet wine overnight (do not refrigerate).

2. Rinse nuts and spread out on a large kitchen towel to dry about 15 minutes.

3. Place nuts, salt, and red pepper (if desired)
in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground.

4. Add grapes, apple, and marinated raisin-date mixture (with soaking liquid) to the processor and pulse until fairly smooth and well-blended. 

5. Serve immediately garnished with sliced red grapes, or refrigerate in container for up to 2 days.

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

Passover Food Demo at Zabar’s: TODAY!

JOIN ME FOR A PASSOVER FOOD DEMONSTRATION AT ZABAR’S
(Stop by for a taste, or just to say hi!)

TODAY: SUNDAY APRIL 6TH 2014
2-3:30 pm & 4-5:30 pm

Upstairs @Zabar’s: Broadway & 80th Street

HERE’S WHAT’S ON THE MENU:
*Tastes to first 30 people at each demo

Dukeh
(Yemenite Style Charoset with Black Raisins, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Dates, and Apples)

Tajine des Pruneaux
(Moroccan Stewed Prunes with Onions, Cinnamon, Sugar, and Toasted Almonds)

Persian Flourless Pistachio Cake with Cardamom Syrup

Zabars_PassoverDemo3_3_29_09_blog

Bukharian Egg & Matzah Soup with Sour Golden Plums

Soup_Matzah13This recipe is adapted from the one that I learned from Amnun Kimyagarov and his wife Zoya during my trip to Rego Park in late August of 2013 (see previous post from September 15, 2013). You can also find this recipe (called, “Oshi Masozgoshak“) in Amnun’s cookbook: “Classic Central Asian (Bukharian) Jewish Cuisine and Customs.”

The original recipe uses unripe green apricots, but dried yellow or golden plums are substituted here in the U.S. The trick is to add a slight tart flavor to the soup. Dried apricots can be used if you cannot find the dried yellow or golden plums in a Russian, Eastern European, or Asian grocery store, but keep in mind that the flavor should be more tart than sweet. Zoya used imported dried Olucha which are dried yellow plums that resemble giant golden raisins. According to Amnun’s Bukharian/Russian/English dictionary this translated to “Cornelian Cherry” and looked like this (see below):

YellowPlums_DriedWhen I went looking in a Russian grocery in Queens (right after my visit with Amnun and Zoya) I couldn’t find the same dried yellow plums that they had used, so instead I got a box of something that looked similar called Uzbek Apricot Kondak, which on the container were translated as “Small Size Apricots with Pits” (photo below). The Apricot Kondak were much more sweet than the Olucha that Zoya had used but looked pretty in the soup (make sure to warn guests about the big pits!). Perhaps the next time I would try to use a more sour apricot like the California variety. After emailing Amnun about this he told me that the taste of the soup should have a slightly sour flavor, so if you cannot find the dried sour plums you should add a few tablespoons of lemon juice instead.

Apricot_Kondak1Oshi Masozgoshak
(Yield: Serves 8 to 10
/Makes about 15 cups)

For Soup:
3 tablespoons vegetable, safflower, or canola oil

2 cups coarsely chopped onions (about 1 large)

1¼ pounds veal stew, beef stew, or chicken thighs cut into ¼-inch pieces

12 cups homemade plain veal, beef, or chicken broth or water

Meat bone (can be 2 reserved bones from chicken thighs, or 1 from veal or beef)

2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3 to 4 generous grindings of fresh black pepper
¾ pound carrots, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups cubed)
¾ pound white potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups cubed)
1½ cups dried golden or yellow plums, or Persian dried sour plums*
2 cups finely chopped sorrel leaves or loosely packed coriander leaves (stems discarded)

6 large eggs, lightly beaten

*If you cannot find these from an Asian, Persian, Central Asian/Russian, or Middle Eastern
specialty grocery store then substitute with dried California apricots and several tablespoons of
freshly squeezed lemon juice until you have reached desired tartness.

For Serving:
4 squares matzah, broken into 2-inch pieces

STEPS:
1. Pour oil into a large 4- to 6-quart pot or saucepan and warm over high heat for 1 minute.

Reduce to a medium-high heat and mix in onions. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until very soft
but not browned.

2. Add meat and mix well. Cook meat, stirring often, until it becomes a greyish-brown color,
about 5 minutes.

3. Pour in broth (or water), and add bone(s), salt, and pepper and bring to boil over high heat.
Reduce to a medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.

4. Add the whole dried plums or apricots, mix well, and continue to simmer an additional
15 minutes uncovered.

5. Add the carrot and potato pieces, and chopped sorrel (or coriander leaves) and mix well.
Cook 10 minutes over medium heat, just until potatoes become soft but not mushy.

6. Slowly add the beaten eggs while stirring until eggs become long strands like egg drop soup,
about 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve immediately into individual soup bowls with
about ½ a square matzah broken up into each bowl.

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

Chapter by Chapter: The Jews of Bukharia and Afghanistan

CarpetIn this week’s Passover chapter, I am focusing on the Jewish community from Afghanistan and Bukharia (located today in the southwestern part of Uzbekistan). This is especially interesting to me because I know so little about this community. I also find myself wondering where and how to arrange this group in my cookbook so that it makes sense. The Jews from this region are neither truly Middle Eastern, nor Sephardic, but they have some influences of both, as well as a great deal from countries as far east as China and India. They are Central Asian — a part of the Asian continent that stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west, all the way to China in the east, Russia in the north, and Afghanistan in the south, and include the following countries:
Afghanistan
Uzbekistan
Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan
Tajikistan
Turkmenistan
Mongolia
Eastern Iran
Northwestern Pakistan

The reason that I have decided to group Bukharia and Afghanistan together into one chapter is because it is not so clear to me as to which dishes are purely Afghani, and which ones are Bukharian. Since so many of the Central Asian Jews were traders along the Silk Road moving in and out of these two countries as well as Persia, much of the “Jewish” cooking that evolved over time adopted a combination of cooking techniques and recipes from the general region.

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