Persian food, by and large, is not what you'd call "pretty". The stews, in particular, range from dark green and gloopy to dark, dark brown and gloopy. Regardless, if I had to choose one culture whose food I would have to eat for the rest of my life, it would be Persian.
As I've gotten older, I've perfected a few dishes while still striving for my mother's touch in others. Ghormeh Sabzi, or "Green Herb Stew" is one of the few I've nearly perfected.
Ghormeh Sabzi is deliciously savory and loaded with the flavors of several different green herbs. It's traditionally served atop Polow, but this past weekend, C and I just ate it with lavash bread. Very peasant, very comforting.
A note about the recipe - I buy my herbs from Nick Market, already washed and chopped. My mom does the same thing. In this day and age, there is no reason on earth to do all that cleaning, stripping and chopping oneself.
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. turmeric
1 boneless chuck roast* or 1.5 lbs of lamb stew
1 c. green onions, green parts only, finely chopped
1.5 c. spinach, finely chopped
1/2 c. italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 c. cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1/4 c. chives or scallion tops, finely chopped
1/4 c. fenugreek leaves, finely chopped
juice from one lemon
4-5 dried persian limes, leemoo-amonee
1 can red kidney beans
- Saute the onion over medium-high heat in a couple of tablespoons of canola oil until it is a deep golden brown. We call this piaz-daagh. Add the turmeric, frying another minute or two, then add the stew meat. Toss well to coat in turmeric, and cook until the meat is browned well on all sides.
- Meanwhile, fry the herbs in a health splash of canola oil until they are fragrant and deepening in color. Watch them carefully as they will go bitter if burned. You want them to be a deep, dark green without blackening.
- Add the fried greens to the meat & onion mixture, stirring well. Add 1.5 - 2 cups of water (you want a "slurry", but not "soupy" mixture). Season with salt & pepper to taste (easy on the pepper). Add the lemon juice, turn the heat down, and let the whole thing simmer, covered, for 1.5-2 hours, or until the greens are mostly softened. (Note: if you are using dried beans, you will want to add them at this point)
- About an hour into the simmer, add the leemoo-amonee (any sooner and they will turn the stew bitter), pushing them down into the liquid. They will want to pop back up, so try to cover them with a few pieces of meat to keep them submerged.
- Finally, add the drained kidney beans, and cook another 30 minutes. Check your seasoning level, adding more lemon juice if needed (before you do, though, press down on the dried limes to get them to release the liquid they've absorbed)
Serve with Polow or, if you're slumming it, with lavash bread.
If you're the type to like weird flavors, taste a tiny bit of the leemoo amonee, but know that it's pungent and bitter. Thus, don't dish it up for guests, or you'll have hell to pay when they bit into what they think is a nice hunk of meat.
*I don't use beef stew meat for this dish, as I've found that sinews and connective tissue add a richness to the final product. If using lamb, it should be fatty enough that it doesn't matter. But for beef, get the roast and cut it up yourself, retaining the sinews but discarding the big chunks of fat.