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Persian Thanksgiving Side Dishes: Recipes 5

Today’s post has a bit of back story to it.  I’d like to think of it as saving the best for last…It was given to me by one of my relatives. Her name is Neda and she is married to one of my mom’s many cousins who goes by the name of Hungry Tiger around here.  If you only knew what I had to do to get this recipe…

I first met Neda about ten years ago. The day that I met her she was pregnant and wearing these very cute short overalls.  She pretty much kept to herself and didn’t talk much.  Initially, I didn’t know if she kept to herself because she was shy or because she was unfriendly.  A few years went by and she still hadn’t warmed up much.  So I decided that she either didn’t like us or she was just unfriendly!!

One day I so happened to sit next to her while we were gathered to celebrate our cousin Meade’s graduation from UCSD. I was sitting next to her,  not by choice mind you, because you know, I am friendly and I have no business sitting next to “unfriendly” whom I have tried to crack for a few years unsuccessfully.  Don’t get me wrong, when we saw each other at family gatherings we were cordial to each other and went through the formal greeting process, but ya know, it never went beyond that. Much to my surprise we end up chatting for a while, and come to find out she is only 2 years older than I am. WHAT?? All along I had thought that she was much older than me, not because she looked old, but simply because of the way she carried herself; what I mean by that is she came across mature and lady like.

Fast forward a couple of years, I was driving to work one fine day sitting in traffic on the 405 north, my phone rings and it’s Neda. I first worried that something happened to someone in the family because Neda doesn’t call me, much less call me at seven in the morning.  Turns out that she accidentally called me,  but the irony is that we ended up spending an hour on the phone chatting while we both commuted to work that morning.  So relations were warming up, gradually.

Fast forward a couple of more years until this past year.  I have no idea what happened, but we have gradually become more friendly and much to my shock and amazement, I have discovered that she has a sense of humor.  So we end up giggling a lot together.  She is so nice and friendly now!!!

It took me 10 years to crack this introvert folks, TEN YEARS! The greatest thing is that she offered to help us on our wedding day (this is a whole story in itself by the way which someday soon will be told here!) and for that I am forever appreciative because it was a sincere offer and not just a Persian “tarof.”

One of the things that I discovered about Neda recently is the fact that she doesn’t like to cook. She loves to eat, but not to cook. And imagine my shock and surprise when she told me that she reads my blog regularly and she also became a fan on My Persian Kitchen’s Fan page. WOW!!We really are buddies now!!!

Three years ago I was invited to  her house for Thanksgiving. There was this khoresht that just blew me away. I had never had anything like it and it was simply delicious. All these years it stayed with me and a couple of weeks ago I thought about asking Neda to give me the recipe so that I could blog about it.  I begged and had to promise eternal friendship and loyalty for the bloody recipe.  But I GOT it!!!

Here is the thing, when Persians give you recipes, it’s a trip! Seriously, no one gives you any measurements. So I will be posting her email with the cooking directions just to see what I was given and how I dealt with it. It is seriously humorous! The even funnier thing is that Neda gave me SO MUCH grief this past Sunday at a family gathering because I called her while I was cooking to ask questions. I never heard from her of course because she didn’t get my message until later.  She teased me to death about asking whether there was any advieh in the khoresht. Suffice to say we had quite the discussion about Persian food and the different ways people make the same dish.

While I was writing this post I had the bright idea that I should go through my pictures and find the ones we took that infamous Thanksgiving.  I wished I had never done that…

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Follow the arrow. Do you notice the difference between mine and hers? Yeah…I did too…

The thing is I was happy with my khoresht because I liked the taste of it, but admittedly, hers tasted much better…unless memory fails me…

Ingredients

1 lb stewing meat (I used lamb)

1 onion, diced

3 lb butter nut squash

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 pinch saffron

1 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup prunes

1 tbsp advieh

Let the fun games begin!

“Well my friend, the recipe, how can I give it to you when I don’t have one? The truth is, like all the Iranians, I do not follow any measurements, but maybe you can make one. Here it is:”

Not a good start as far as recipe giving goes, but I am resilient!!

“Costco sells cut squash in a nice package.  Well I buy that because cutting squash is so hard.”

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I didn’t have time to go to Costco and also, I had never personally cooked Butternut Squash so I wanted to give it all a try on my own. I bought these two beauties!

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Cut butternut squash in half and remove seeds. I loved the fact that their color was different.

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Peel the skin with a vegetable peeler.

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Dice the squash. I found that the cutting pattern shown above was the best way.

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By the time I was done I had a tiny bit over 3lb of butternut squash.

“You Sorkh mikoni the squash in the butter and a little bit of oil ( But I like a lots of butter) you put it aside”

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Melt butter with a bit of oil in a pan. Add butternut squash and sauté for a few minutes.

“You begin to do what you do for all Iranian Khoresht which is piaz and meat and you add your tomato paste do not forget saffron and zarchoubeh.”

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Sauté onion until golden. Add turmeric and saffron and give it a stir.  Add meat and let brown on all sides.

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For the saffron, I took a pinch of sea salt and the saffron and grounded it all up in a mortar. I chose salt because I didn’t want to add sweetness to the stew.

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Add 3 cups of water, tomato paste, and saffron. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on medium for 45 minutes or until meat is tender.

“Then you add the squash, lemon juice and plums. Here their plums are too sweet, and this khoresht must not be very sweet, it should be sweet and sour. If you put a lot of plums put a lot of lemon juice.”

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Add plums, lemon juice,  and advieh to the stew. I chose to go with half a cup because the plums indeed are very sweet.

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Add squash and adjust seasoning.  Cook on low for 1 hour.

“Be careful, it shouldn’t look like a soup :-) you leave it “mijoter” don’t know the word in English. Voila you have something Neda made.”

I don’t know what “mijoter” in English either Neda, heck, I don’t know what it means in Farsi, or is it a French word?  But I am going to assume it means “simmer.” Does anyone know else know what “mijoter” means???!!!

In the end, hers:

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Mine:

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“Huston, we have a problem.” Why are they so different? Maybe it is because someone didn’t tell  me what “mijoter” means…or because someone didn’t  give me the amount of ingredients, or better yet, someone didn’t answer her phone.

This is probably the end of me, I am not going to EVER live this one down in Neda’s eyes…and I promised her eternal friendship and loyalty. :)

I think I may have to get even though…I think I might make her cook it next year and take pictures and notes as she cooks and post her recipe next Thanksgiving…

Kisses Neda joon! :)

In the mean time, serve this one over rice!

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