Fresh Herb Platter

serves 4 to 6

8 ounces feta cheese
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt, such as Maldon salt, fleur de sel, or kosher salt
2 bunches whole fresh herbs, in any combination: spearmint, basil, cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, dill, chives, marjoram
1 bunch scallions, quartered crosswise, roots removed
2 cups walnuts (see Note below)
6 radishes, trimmed and quartered
Lavash or other flatbread


Drain the feta and place it in a medium bowl. Grind the spices coarsely, if desired. Heat a small skillet over high heat. Add the coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds, and shake the pan continuously until the spices start to release their aroma, about 2 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl and pour in the olive oil. Add a pinch of coarse salt. Swirl the spices in the oil and steep for a few minutes. Pour the mixture over the feta. You can even work it in with your hands, gently crumbling the feta, if desired.

Wash and dry the herbs. Trim the stems, but leave them intact. Place the herbs on a large platter in a few fluffy piles. Place the walnuts on the platter, along with the radishes and lavash. Transfer the feta to the platter and garnish it with coarse salt.

For a single serving, pick up a few stalks of herbs. Tear the flatbread into a manageable piece and stuff it with the herbs, walnuts, a small piece of cheese, and a radish or two. Fold and eat like a sandwich.

Note: To remove bitterness from the walnuts, place them in a bowl, add boiling water to cover and a pinch of salt, and soak from 1 hour up to overnight. Before serving, drain and rinse until the water runs clear.

Persian New Year’s Soup with Beans, Noodles, and Herbs

serves 6 to 8

3 yellow onions

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

2 cups cooked chickpeas (one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)

2 cups cooked kidney beans (one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)

4 cups frozen lima beans (one16-ounce bag)
1/2 cup lentils

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 heaping tablespoons dried dillweed

3 heaping tablespoons dried mint

12 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Sea salt
6 ounces linguine noodles, broken into thirds
3 cups coarsely chopped kale, collards, or spinach (stems discarded)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
11/2 cups thick Greek-style yogurt, for garnish

Dice 1 of the onions. Heat a large stockpot over medium heat and add 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the chick- peas, kidney beans, lima beans, lentils, garlic, turmeric, dill, and 1 tablespoon of the mint. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer gently, covered, for 1 hour to blend the flavors.

Slice the remaining 2 onions into thin half-moons. Heat a medium skillet over high heat and add the remaining 5 tablespoons oil. Add the onions and panfry, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until golden. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons mint and sauté about 2 minutes, until soft and fragrant.

In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the noodles and leafy greens to the soup, and stir well so that the noodles don’t clump. Stir in 2 teaspoons sea salt. When the noodles are tender, add the lemon juice and season to taste. Serve garnished with a large dollop of yogurt and a spoonful of the fried onions.

Watermelon Gazpacho

Serves 4

6 cups coarsely chopped seeded watermelon
5 ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 rounded tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 cup whole toasted almonds
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chipotle sauce
1/4 sweet white or red onion, finely diced
1 cucumber, seeded and diced

Blend 2 cups of the watermelon in a blender until liquid. Add the rest of the watermelon, the tomatoes, paprika, garlic, almonds, balsamic vinegar, and chipotle sauce and blend until smooth. Transfer the soup to a bowl and taste and season with salt.

Chill for an hour before serving. Garnish with a spoonful of the onion and cucumber dice.

Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad

Serves 4

2 cucumbers, peeled, halved, and seeds removed
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
1⁄4 cup thinly sliced scallions, green parts only
1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Cut the cucumbers into slices 1⁄4 inch thick. Put the cucumber slices in a bowl with all but 4 tablespoons of the pomegranate seeds. Add the scallions, cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil. Toss and season with salt.

To serve, divide the salad among bowls and top with the crumbled feta, a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds, and a few grinds of pepper.

Turmeric Chicken with Sumac and Lime

serves 4

1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 bone-in chicken thighs
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
3/4 cup water
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 juicy limes, halved
Sumac, for garnish

In a small bowl, mix the turmeric with 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with the spice mixture, turning to coat both sides.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Brown the chicken well on both sides, about 7 minutes per side. Pour in the water, then add the garlic, stirring it into the water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and cover. Braise the chicken for 25 minutes, until the inside is opaque. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, turn up the heat to high, and reduce the cooking liquid for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until it’s slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour the sauce over the chicken.

Dust the chicken with sumac and pepper, garnish with lime halves, and serve.

Vegetarian Option:
Use whole portobello mushrooms in place of the chicken, or use 1 pound firm tofu, well drained and cut into slabs 1 inch thick. You will need a little extra oil for searing than what is called for in the recipe.

Sweet and Smoky Beet Burgers

makes 8 burgers

1 yellow onion
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, plus extra for searing
1 cup peeled and grated beets (approximately 1 small beet)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1/2 cup cooked green lentils, rinsed and drained
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked short-grain 
brown rice or white sushi rice, at room temperature
1 egg

Slice the onion to a thickness of 1/4 inch. In a medium skillet, sauté the onion in the oil over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until it starts to darken and caramelize. Turn down the heat slightly and add the beets along with the garlic, walnuts, raisins, and paprika, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor and pulse several times until chunky. In a large bowl, combine the onion mixture with the lentils, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Replace the food processor without washing and add the rice and egg, and pulse to form a coarse puree. Add the rice mixture to the onion-lentil mixture and mix well with your hands.

Lightly oil your hands and divide the dough into 8 portions. Shape each portion into a patty just under 1 inch thick.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add oil to coat the bottom. Place the burgers in the skillet and cook undisturbed for 5 minutes. Gently flip the burgers and turn down the heat to low. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, until the burgers have a firm, brown crust. Serve hot with your favorite condiments.

Lamb Kebabs in Pomegranate-Walnut Marinade

makes 6 servings

2 pounds lamb tenderloin or boneless shank or neck, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra chopped for garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the meat in a large casserole dish. In a food processor, grind the walnuts, pomegranate molasses, garlic, and oil into a puree. Add the parsley and pulse into small bits. Pour the marinade over the meat and toss well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in salty water for a couple of hours before grilling. Thread 3 or 4 pieces of meat onto each skewer 1/4 inch apart, leaving 2 inches of space at the end. Discard the marinade. Brush or wipe extra marinade from the skewers. Leave the meat out while you heat the grill so it can come up to room temperature (no more than 45 minutes total).

Prepare a hot grill.

Lightly oil the grill and grill the kebabs for 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally. When done, the meat should be slightly charred on the outside and very pink on the inside.

Transfer to a serving platter and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Sweet rice with carrots and nuts

serves 6 to 8

2 cups white basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 1 hour
3 cups water

Sea salt

2 tablespoons butter or unrefined coconut oil, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 scant cups grated carrots (about 3 large carrots)
1/2 cup slivered or coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
Grated zest of 1 large orange

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon saffron, ground and steeped in 1 tablespoon hot water

Drain the rice and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear.

In a stockpot, combine the water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Add the rice, return to a boil, then turn down the heat to its lowest setting. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 5 minutes, then dot with the butter and fluff with a fork. The rice should be dry and fluffy.

While the rice cooks, heat a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion in the coconut oil for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the carrots, almonds, cin- namon, cardamom, and turmeric, and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Add 1/2 cup pistachios, the orange zest, and the honey and cook for about 2 minutes, until heated through. Season with salt.

Scoop the rice into a large bowl. Add the carrot mixture and drizzle in the saffron. Mix gently and season with salt. Garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon pistachios.

Watermelon, Mint, and Cider Vinegar Tonic

makes 5 cups concentrate, enough for twenty 1-cup servings of tonic

3 cups water, plus more to serve
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup good-quality honey
6 cups coarsely chopped watermelon
1 cup tightly packed fresh spearmint
1 cup cider vinegar
Ice cubes
Sliced watermelon, sliced unwaxed cucumber, and spearmint, for garnish

Bring the 3 cups water and the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the honey, stir to dissolve, and remove from the heat.
Combine the watermelon and mint in a large bowl. Stir in the honey-water and let cool to room temperature, then add the vinegar. Steep the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or up to overnight.
Strain the mixture and eat the watermelon chunks, if desired. Pour the concentrate into a clean glass jar, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To serve, pour 1/4 cup of the concentrate into a glass over ice and dilute with 3/4 cup water. Garnish with the watermelon, cucumber, and mint.

Rhubarb and Pistachios over Thick Yogurt

serves 4

4 stalks rhubarb, ends and leaves trimmed
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup light-colored honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rose water
2 cups Greek-style yogurt, or 4 cups regular yogurt, drained overnight and refrigerated
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Cut the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and put in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally. When the rhubarb starts to soften, after about 5 minutes, stir in the cardamom, nutmeg, and salt. Break up any large pieces of rhubarb with a wooden spoon. Continue to simmer, covered, until the rhubarb is completely softened, about 4 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the honey and vanilla extract. Let cool. Add the rose water.

To serve, put 1/2 cup of yogurt in each bowl and top with a few tablespoons of the rhubarb. Scatter a few tablespoons of pistachios over the top.

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