Have you ever tasted Persian cooking? It really is one of a kind and nothing can compare. When I first met today’s guest blogger in 2008, my new bride told me of all the wonderful meals she had eaten from Reyna’s kitchen. Fast forward a few years and Reyna’s first book Persian Food from the Non Persian Bride was published. Today, Reyna shares her journey to clean eating with you, and tells how she shed her weight without depriving herself of the food she loves the most.
Reyna’s book is one I refer to often when I want to offer my guests a little extra something and the recipes she shares today give you an insight into her culinary world!
A little over a year ago, a few months before my cookbook was published, I realized that part of the PR campaign for the book was going to require me to take lots of pictures and to be on national television. Now, growing up in Venezuela (the land of Miss Venezuela and the country with most Miss Universes) I was raised well aware of aesthetics. Making a cookbook requires lots of recipe testing and trust me I did more than just tasting! I ATE galore! Not to mention the eating parties I would have after photo shoots…Gosh those were delicious! Now, to be honest, I had never had a weight problem in my life. I had 5 children, but always managed to loose the “baby fat”. For some time I was in denial, but it didn’t take long to realize I had gained some weight…and I didn’t have a baby…I had gained almost 30 pounds making this cookbook!
I found myself unable to stop eating, constant recipe testing can do that to you! I was hungry all the time. I honestly think I forgot what being hungry felt like…kind of pathetic knowing how many children are in the world aware of what hunger means all too well. I had lost touch with myself. I was unhealthy and I felt gross. There was no way I was going to be in national television looking like that. We all know TV makes you look 10 pounds heavier! I started to panic and I am (I guess) too vain to just go with the flow and be all “Adel” about it.
I started going to a nutritionist. She introduced me to fascinating concepts and I learned what hunger meant again, real hunger. I learned to be in touch with my body’s needs and wants. I also started exercising a lot and my trainer introduced me to a concept called “Clean Eating.” It is the way that athletes and body builders eat, but more than that, it is a wonderful way to live a healthy life style and to stay slim, young and energetic and who doesn’t want that?
My first reaction was “there is no way I am giving up my Tadig!”, I don’t care how “clean” that food is! If you are familiar with Persian food you know Tadig is equivalent to oxygen to Persians. It is the bottom crunchy part of the rice, it’s not burnt, it is made crispy and families have been known to fight over it! There was no way I was about to give up Persian food, I am the author of a Persian Cookbook!
Well, guess what? There was no need…Persian food is so healthy in so many ways I can still make my Tadig and eat it too!
Clean Eating is wonderful because it keeps your metabolism running at the speed of light! You eat small meals more often, about 5 to 6 a day, making your blood-sugar levels stable and keeping hunger pangs at bay. Eating Clean means eating lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats every day and at almost every meal. It also means making exercise part of your everyday life. Dieting, I found, was not going to be the solution for me because that meant depriving my body from the food I loved. Deprivation leads to abuse. I had abused enough. Today I can say I have never felt so healthy, wholesome, and light in my life.
I am sharing with you my family’s favorite Chorosh (Persian Stew), which I have “cleaned” for you. Also, you can enjoy fabulous whole grain Persian rice and healthy Tadig! I hope you enjoy these variations and continue to embrace a healthy lifestyle!
Chorosh Sabsi – Herb Stew with Dehydrated Lime
Yield: 8-10 servings
This stew is pure goodness! The meat of choice should be lean. Bison is a very lean meat, but unfortunately it is hard to find. Veal is a fine choice as well. All those greens will do wonders for your body! Make sure to get your portions right. Your protein (in this case meat) should be about the size of a deck of cards while your complex cabs (the vegetables) should be two handfuls. You get plenty of that in this stew. The beans, if you chose to use them, will also be an additional source of protein. In fact, if you are a vegetarian, you can either replace the meat for seitan or you can exclude it all together and double the kidney beans. Sour grapes are really hard to find, so don’t worry if you can’t add them…the lime is the one that does the magic!
Tricks of the trade
Keep in mind that Shirazis do not add red kidney beans, while Tehranis do. I personally add them for a splash of color! Also, the dehydrated limes give it a great taste and authentic look, but you can get away with not adding them too. If all you have available are ground dehydrated limes, use 1 tablespoon instead. You can order dehydrated limes online from sadaf.com under lemon omani.
- 1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds stew meat (bison or veal preferable)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 bunches parsley
- 2 bunches cilantro
- 1 leek, chopped
- ½ bunch mint
- ½ cup spinach (optional)
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced
- ½ cup lime or lemon juice or the juice of 3 limes/lemons
- 3 cups water
- 5 whole dehydrated limes (lemon omani), pierced
- 1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
- ¼ cup gureh (sour grapes) (optional)
In a 6-quart saucepan, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion starts to become translucent (about 1 minute). Add the meat; cover and cook until meat no longer looks red, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper.
Grind fresh herbs in a food processor.
Add to the saucepan ground fresh herbs, celery, lime juice, water, dehydrated limes, kidney beans, and gureh, if using. Bring to a boil; then simmer, covered, for 1½ hours or until meat is tender. Serve hot in a casserole dish over Basmati rice.
Kateh – Whole Grain Persian Sticky Rice
Yield: 6 servings
Kateh is embedded in every Persian child’s taste buds. It is the easiest and fastest way to make Persian rice. In this case I am using whole grain Basmati rice. Whole grain rice is the best type of rice you can put into your body because it has not been stripped from its shell and goodness. It can take a little longer to cook, but it is totally worth it!
Kateh is very tasty and its tadig is heavenly; the longer you steam this rice, the crunchier and yummier the tadig will be. If you don’t want to use rice, you can actually make this recipe using Quinoa which is a great substitute and it is, incredibly enough, a complete protein! Not only you get your “carbisfaction” but also a boost of protein killing two birds with one stone. And, by the way, Quinoa Tadig rocks!
Tricks of the trade
Be sure to use a nonstick saucepan so the delicious tadig doesn’t stick! When you invert the pan over your serving platter, the tadig will come out of your nonstick pan just like a cake topping.
- 6 cups water
- 3 cups whole grain Basmati rice, checked and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
Add water, rice, oil, and salt to a 6-quart nonstick saucepan. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until water begins to evaporate (15-20 minutes –rice should be al dente).
With a spoon, shape the rice into a pyramid. Cover tightly, placing two paper towels (one on top of the other) or a clean dishtowel between the lid and the pot. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 45 minutes.
Turn the rice out onto a flat serving platter by inverting the pot, as you would invert a cake pan—or simply eat it directly from the pot!