Thursday, March 13, 2014

Norouz 2014 Recipe: Toot - Persian Mulberry Marzipan Candy

I am really excited about this post for a number of reasons - Norouz is just around the corner (I can almost smell the Sabzi Polo Mahi!), spring is in the air, and I get to participate in this #Norouz recipe round-up with a group of the most talented Persian food bloggers around! I'm honored to be included (huge shout out to Sanam of My Persian Kitchen for being the brain behind it) - and with such an amazing collection of recipes I have no doubt that this will be the most delicious Norouz yet! This is a season of new beginnings, celebrations and of course things that taste and smell delicious - so pop a couple of these candies into your mouth to ensure a sweet year!

Persian Toot Marzipan candy

Any Iranian knows toot candy - it's a delicious marzipan candy scented with Persian flavorings and shaped to look like it's namesake - the fruit from a mulberry tree! Traditionally served at Norouz or other celebrations, I liked the candy but like many other dishes, never even thought about making it myself. After reading the recipes for toot from Turmeric and Saffron, Fig & Quince and My Persian Kitchen, I decided to give it a go. Boy am I glad I did - not only are they super easy to make but delicious and festive! A perfect treat to have around during the Norouz season to share with friends, family and loved ones. Bonus: they're gluten free too!

Persian Toot 

Toot - Persian Mulberry-shaped Marzipan Candy (makes about 50-60 depending on size)
1 cup of slivered almonds, plus more for garnish
1 cup of powdered sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of rosewater (golab)
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1. Add 1 cup of almonds, the powdered sugar and cardamom to your food processor. Blend for 2-3 minutes until it is all an even consistently.

2. Add in 1 tablespoon of rosewater and blend for another minute. Repeat with the 2nd tablespoon of rosewater. The mixture should come together as a dough now - test it with your fingers. If it has some give and feel like dough, you're ready!

3. Now is the assembly line part. Fill a flat, shallow pan with your granulated sugar - this is what you'll roll your formed toot in to coat.

4. Pinch a piece of dough and roll between your palms into a ball about the size of a grape. Once you've made a ball, form it into a cone by pinching one end and flattening the other.

5. Roll your marzipan cone in the granulated sugar bath and finally, insert a long almond sliver into the fatter end to make it look like the stem of the mulberry fruit. Now repeat this about 50 times! :) Serve immediately or store in an air tight container and enjoy later!

***Note: you can use slivered pistachios as the 'stem' as well - I find slivered almonds much easier to find/make!

Persian Toot Candy - the lifecycle! 

Participating Bloggers In The Norouz Recipe Round-Up 2014

Afsaneh’s Persian Kitchen - Koloucheh Ahwazi - Cookies for Nowrouz 
Ahu Eats - Norouz 2014 Recipe: Toot - Persian Mulberry Marzipan Candy
Café Leilee - Northern-Iranian Style Herb Stuffed Fish
Fae’s Twist & Tango - Naw-Ruz, A New Year Recipe Round-up!
Family Spice - Norouz Twist on Kookoo Sabzi (Persian Herb Quiche with Chard and Kale)
Fig & Quince - A Norouz'a Palooza
Lucid Food - Persian Raisin and Saffron Cookies for Norooz
My Persian Kitchen - Naan Gerdooee ~ Persian Walnut Cookie
Simi’s Kitchen - New Blog for Nowruz
Spice Spoon - Noon Berenj - Thumbprint Rice Flour Cookies with Saffron & Rosewater for Persian Nowruz
The Pomegranate Diaries - Nowruz Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
Turmeric & Saffron - Loze Nargil - Persian Coconut Sweets with Rosewater and Pistachios for Nowruz
West of Persia - Happy Nowruz, Recipe Roundup, and a Classic: Kuku Sabzi on TV
Zozo Baking - Nane Nokhodchi Nowruz Iran

From my kitchen to yours - Norouz Mobarak - wishing you a sweet and healthy year filled with joy and laughter!
Love, Ahu

Friday, February 28, 2014

Saffron Olive Oil Cookies with Orange Glaze

Yes, I've been on an olive oil kick recently. What can I say - it's healthy and makes baked goods so light and delicate! And as a Mark Bittman devotee, when I came across this recipe and saw it incorporated olive oil, saffron and citrus I knew I had to give it a try. An unlikely combination in a baked good but I promise it is successful and even the picky will enjoy it.

Saffron Olive Oil Cookies with Orange Glaze

The result is a moist, pillowy cookie with a subtle taste of saffron.

So pillow. Much wow! 

The cookies are just barely sweet so I decided to add an orange glaze (this recipe, but with 3x the orange juice) to give it a bit of sweetness and tang.

What's your favorite unexpected food combination?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Recipe: Sohan Asali (Persian Honey Saffron Brittle)

In today's culture of instant gratification (apparently now Amazon knows when I want something before I even do), sometimes toiling over something by hand is the most soul satisfying activity of all.

This was my 4th attempt to make Sohan Asali over the past 3 years. I tried twice in 2012 and gave up in frustration when the candies came out a crystallized mess. Fast forward to last week - another nailed it scene - crystallized chunks of sugar and almond. Tragedy! That's where my mom came in - she suggested adding lemon or lime juice (a form of acid!) which stops the crystallization...magic. I now have a small yet fast disappearing mountain of beautiful candy. Mom knows best!

Sohan Asali - Persian Honey Saffron Brittle

I've always been drawn in by the deep and rich color of Sohan Asali - the only thing I can compare it to is a deep amber, or our own Persian tea. Doesn't hurt that it's addictively tasty!

Sohan Asali (Persian Honey Saffron Brittle)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup almond slices or slivers
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon rose water
1 teaspoon saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
Juice of half a lemon
Crushed pistachio for garnish (optional)

1. Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with wax paper and placing them right by your stove. Combine the sugar, butter and honey and melt over medium low heat. Stir for about 5 minutes until melted.

2. Add the rosewater carefully and stir for another minute or so.  The mix should be fragrant and becoming a light caramel color by now.

3. Add in the almonds and stir until coated. Your mixture should be thickening a bit now.

4. Carefully add in the saffron water and lemon juice.  The mixture may boil a bit so watch your hands. Once you add the saffron, stir until its all incorporated. The mix will turn an incredibly rich color.

5. Take a medium spoon and quickly spoon dollops of the mixture on your cookie sheet, taking care not to drip (because the drips will cause some nasty smoke...not that I would know). Leave an inch between each candy as they will spread. If you have a second pair of hands, here is where they can follow you and sprinkle a bit of pistachio onto each candy.

6. Let the candies dry for about an hour. They'll have a smooth, glassy sheen when done. Serve with tea and enjoy! You can store remaining candies in an air-tight container.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Recipe: Orange Olive Oil Cake

In a season when gluttony prevails, there is nothing like a light and citrusy dessert to cut through all the richness. This dessert is actually inspired by a similar one I had at L'Artusi a year ago and it was surprisingly delicious end to a large meal. And while the idea of an olive oil based dessert may seem strange, in reality it gives a delicate flavor perfectly suited to a citrus or herb pairing (think sage or basil).

Orange Olive Oil Cake 

Orange Olive Oil Cake - adapted from Melissa d'Arabian's recipe
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar for garnish

1. Butter a medium cake pan and preheat your oven to 350 F.

2. Mix the sugar and eggs together until frothy.  Pour in the olive oil and vanilla slowly and keep mixing until smooth.

3. Add the zest and orange juice to the batter and combine.

4. Sift together the dry ingredients then slowly mix them into the batter (don't over mix).

5. Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake until brown and a stick in the center of the cake comes out clean (about 30 minutes).

6. Let the cake cool then dust with powdered sugar and any additional orange zest. Serve alone or with a drizzle of orange liqueur or even some warmed berry jam. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Recipe: Cardamom Coffee - and a giveaway!

Cardamom may very well be my favorite spice. Often used in eastern cuisine, it has a rich, warm flavor and is related to ginger. It is grown in pods and boasts many health benefits including improving digestion, lowering cholesterol and curing the hiccups (it's an anti-spasmodic!).

You typically see cardamom sold ground, but when Merit Trade sent me some of their beautiful whole, green cardamom pods, I was really excited to use it in its original form.

Merit Trade's Colombian Cardamom

When I first came to New York City, I was friends with a group of Colombians and they introduced me to cardamom coffee (cafe cardamomo), which is coffee with cardamom infused milk. It's like your normal coffee took on a beautiful earthy spice to it and I was immediately hooked. I figured this would be the perfect way to use my Colombian cardamom! This recipe is for the cardamom coffee but you could really add the cardamom-infused milk to many things (coffee, tea,  etc).

I am happy to be giving away two bags of Merit Trade's Colombian Cardamom to two random readers! To enter simply comment on this post with your favorite way to use cardamom or how you would use it. I will select two winners at random on Sunday, November 24th (I can only ship to folks in the US, sorry international friends!). Please make sure I have a way to get in touch with you - either a link to your blog or email.

Green Cardamom Pods

Cardamom Coffee 
1 cardamom pod or a pinch of ground cardamom
Coffee (anything works - French press, drip, instant)
Sugar (if desired)

1. Start by beginning to prepare your coffee in your preferred method.

2. Take a cardamom pod and crack it open. I used the back of a wooden spoon to give it a 'smack'.

3. Remove the seeds from the pod (it should smell amazing) and give them a light smush. This will encourage the flavor to come out.

4. Drop the cardamom seeds into a small sauce pot with some milk (I use about 1/3 cup of 1% cows milk). Simmer for about 5 minutes to let the flavors infuse.

5. Pour the milk into your coffee mug through a strainer, then add the coffee and sugar to it. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Recipe: Caramelized Brown Sugar Cookies

These are the easiest cookies I've ever made, and yet the most addictive - a dangerous combination. With a super simple ingredient list, the magic happens when you coat the dough balls in a lot of brown sugar so they caramelize underneath and get this amazing rich crunchy flavor.

Brown sugar cookies

Caramelized Brown Sugar Cookies (adapted from Serious Eats, and inspired by my brother!)
7 ounces of butter, melted
2 cups of light brown sugar
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.

2. Mix the butter, 1.5 cups of sugar and salt in a bowl. Slowly add the egg and the vanilla, mixing thoroughly.

3. Add the flour, baking soda and baking powder and mix until smooth.

4. Fill a small bowl with the remaining brown sugar. Take golf ball sized scoops of the dough, and with your hands form them into a sphere.

5. Coat the dough balls with a generous amount of brown sugar, then place on a lined baking sheet.

6. Put the cookies in the oven and bake until the tops are cracked and the edges are caramel colored (about 10-12 minutes). For best results rotate the cookies half way through baking. Cool and enjoy!

Bonus picture of my brother and I excitedly waiting for the cookies to be ready.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Recipe: Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa may be the latest super food craze - but surprise - it's also really delicious! This dish is a riff on the traditional Middle Eastern tabbouleh. This version substitutes quinoa as the main grain instead of the more classic bulgur or couscous, and the light fluffy quinoa grains work perfectly. This is my favorite kind of dish - healthy, full of flavor and very simple to make.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh - adapted from Epicurious
1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, finely chopped
3 Persian cucumbers, quartered and diced
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of two limes
1 clove of garlic, minced
Salt & Pepper

1. Combine the dry quinoa with 1 1/3 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small pot. Bring the quinoa to a boil over medium heat. Once the quinoa starts to boil, cover it and simmer it for another 10 minutes (until the quinoa is soft).

2. Remove the quinoa from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, spread it out onto a baking sheet with a fork - this helps fluff it up and cool it down quickly.

3. Combine the garlic, olive oil and lime juice in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Add the cooled down quinoa to a large bowl and toss with the dressing.

5.  Add all the herbs and vegetables to the quinoa and toss. Adjust seasoning as needed. Enjoy immediately or later on when all the flavors have really melded!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Why Destroying Your Food is Perfectly Acceptable

The best part of a perfectly sculptural and stunning dish....

North End Grill's shockingly beautiful Butterscotch Pot de Crème messing it up.

North End Grill's Butterscotch Pot de Crème, post destruction

I always say food is a form of artistic expression, but unlike most other mediums, success is often measured by how quickly you destroy it. What's your favorite beautiful dish to 'destroy'?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Sense of Humor: Jamón In!

Another food funny from the great Boqueria. I can always appreciate a chuckle over an accent.

Boqueria: Jamón In!