I stepped back into Persian cooking last night with a cookbook that’s due back to the library on April 15, Persian Cuisine by M.R. Ghanoonparvar. Since I hadn’t tried any Persian desserts yet, I decided to make a “date confection with ginger” that is cited as being from the Isfahan region (pretty much in the center of Iran). It’s a no-bake treat, the biggest challenge was grinding the dates to the proper consistency. The recipe recommends using a meat grinder or food processor, and the ground dates actually end up looking very much like hamburger in consistency, though MUCH stickier. Except for the grinding and sticky fingers, this was a very easy recipe to make. If you like the flavor of ginger, it’s a great little pungent bite that should be a nice palate cleanser at the end or even in the middle of a meal.
8 oz. pitted dates
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 Tbsp. ground ginger
Grind or process pitted dates until they’re pretty smooth, you don’t want to bite into any large chunks. Mix together the sugar and ginger. Add half of the sugar mixture to the dates and mix into the paste. Sprinkle a cutting board with some of the remaining sugar mixture, and set the date paste on top, pressing to spread out to desired thickness. Sprinkle a little sugar on top and continue to shape the date mixture into a rectangle of even thickness. Cut into pieces of desired size (these are less than 1-inch square). Sprinkle with more sugar, but probably not using all of it.
I also made another savory, slow-cooked chicken dish called Talakuleh Ghurabeh, in the style of the Northern provinces of Iran. I changed the recipe a bit, most notably using pomegranate juice rather than sour grape juice, which seemed a reasonable substitution since I had pomegranate juice on hand in my Persian pantry. [One point of this hodge-podge month is to try and empty my pantry, not buy more ingredients!] The chicken is fall-apart tender, and it’s a nice comforting bowl with some basmati rice.
Talakuleh Ghurabeh (Chicken in a tart sauce with walnuts)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. parsley, minced
1/2 c. chives or scallions, minced
1/2 c. cilantro, minced
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 c. walnuts, chopped and toasted
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. pomegranate or sour grape juice
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Lightly brown the chicken in a non-stick pot. Add 2 c. water and the salt. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, toast walnuts and saute parsley, chives, cilantro and coriander in the butter for about 5 minutes. After the chicken has cooked for 30 minutes, add the sauteed herbs and remaining ingredients to the chicken and its cooking broth, stirring well to incorporate egg.
Simmer again, uncovered over low heat for another 30-40 minutes. The ingredients ended up slightly curdled because of the egg, but that’s ok – it tastes great! Serve with rice.