My First Iranian Dish: Loobia Polow

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A few weeks ago, I felt like I had things together. Or as together as I can have them. Deadlines were being met, the apartment wasn't a complete disaster, we weren't sitting on some type of toiletry trying to squeeze the last bit out (will there ever be a time that I remember to buy those things before they run out? Or a time I go to the pharmacy and don't spend half a paycheck on useless things?). I was proud to have this adult thing down, and decided it was time for the next step — to try and make Iranian food.

Over the weekend I tried my hand at my first dish, loobia polow (rice with green beans, I followed the recipe from this cookbook, which I highly recommend), and while it took a lot longer than I expected or it should have, it turned out much better than I imagined. It was no where near my mother's or grandmother's, but it was a start. An emotional start. I couldn't help but get sentimental cutting up the green beans in my kitchen, thinking of all the strong Persian women I've witnessed do the same thing in their own. Women who have endured so much, juggled so many things, overcome so many challenges. I'm so proud and undeserving to be in the company of those women <3

One of the things I like most about Iranian food is that it's flavorful without being overly powerful. All of my non-Iranian friends who have tried any Persian dish have loved it. This one's a good one to start with if you're new to Persian cuisine because the ingredients are simple (and who doesn't love rice?). Also, if you're looking for an Iranian restaurant in Chicago, this one is our favorite.

I should also add that things are decidedly no longer together. Like at all.

Ingredients (serves six):

For the meat:
3 tablespoons oil
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 pounds stew meat (lamb or beef)
2 pounds fresh green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped; or one 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
Juice of 1 lime

For the rice:
3 cups long-grain basmati rice
1 cup oil or butter
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons rose water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To cook the meat: In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat, and brown the onions, garlic and meat. Add green beans, salt, pepper, turmeric, cayenne and cinnamon. Saute for a few minutes and add the tomatoes (if using canned tomatoes, make sure they are completely drained) and lime juice. Cover and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes.

To cook the rice: Clean and wash 3 cups rice 5 times in warm water. It is then desirable but not essential to soak the rice in 8 cups water with 2 tablespoons of salt for at least 2 hours.

Bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large, non-stick pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot. Boil briskly for 6-10 minutes, gently stirring twice to loosen any grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Bite a few grains. If the rice feels soft and all of it has risen to the surface, it is ready to be drained. Drain rice in a large, fine-mesh colander and rinse with 2-3 cups water.

To make a golden crush (tah-dig): In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup water, a few drops of saffron-rose water, and 2 spatulas rice. Spread this mixture evenly over the bottom of the pot.

Place 2 spatulas full of rice in the pot, then add a layer of the green bean and meat mixture (use a slotted spatula to avoid bringing in the juices and reserve any remaining juice to use later on). Sprinkle with cinnamon between the layers. Repeat, alternating layers to form a pyramid. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.

Pour the remaining oil, saffron-rose water and meat juices over the rice. Wrap the lid with a clean dish towel and cover the pot firmly with the lid to prevent steam from escaping. Cook 50 minutes longer over low heat. Remove the pot from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Take out 2 tablespoons of the saffron-flavored rice from the top and set aside for garnishing.

Gently taking 1 spatula full of rice at a time, place it on a serving platter without disturbing the crust. Mound the rice in the shape of a cone. Garnish with saffron-flavored rice.

Detach the crust from the bottom of the pot using a wooden spatula. Place the pieces of the crust on a small platter and serve on the side.


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