Last weekend we spent three straight days at the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire helping with the SCA armored combat demo and living history displays. It was fun, but it also meant three days of “Faire food” (Phil’s Grill spinach & artichoke melts, greasy stir-fried noodles, corn dogs, sausage & peppers… you get the idea) plus sugar overload from the homemade cakes, cupcakes, goat’s milk fudge, and whoopie pies people brought in to help feed the volunteers.
Needless to say, since then we’ve all needed some lighter food around here. When I saw the burgeoning parsley hedge and garlic chives in the garden the other day I thought of khoresh sabzi- one of the first Iranian dishes I tried in my own kitchen many years ago.
I fell in love with Persian food when we lived in Nashville. Nashville has one of the largest immigrant populations of Kurds in the US, and there was an excellent Kurdish-owned Persian restaurant with a Kurdish-owned grocery store and halal butcher in the same strip mall. We ate there many times; the food was inexpensive and the kids liked it. I started cooking Iranian food soon after and got pretty good at a few dishes.
There aren’t any Persian restaurants here but we do have a wonderful neighbor from Iran who occasionally brings us salad olivieh, red lentil soup, and kebab with grilled tomatoes. I think I’ll have to send my daughter over with a bowl of khoresh sabzi and see what he thinks.
2 lb grass-fed eye of round roast, cut into 1″ cubes
1 can of chickpeas, drained, or 1 1/2 c cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup of cold-pressed sunflower oil (Don’t cut this out, especially if you’re using grass-fed beef)
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
2 black cardamom, smacked with the flat of a heavy knife*
salt and pepper
1 big bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
1 handful of garlic chives or green onions, chopped
1 bunch of cress, chopped
1 head of escarole, chopped
1 lemon, sliced
Heat a large dutch oven to medium high. Brown the beef in batches and put in a large bowl. When all of the beef is browned, dump all of the beef back into the pot with the collected juices. Add the chickpeas, spices, a good half teaspoon of salt, and a good sprinkle of pepper. Stir until well combined. Add just enough water to cover at least half of the meat, it doesn’t need to be submerged. Bring this to a boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let it cook for at least an hour.
After an hour, open the pot and test a piece of beef. It should be very tender. If not, cover and cook for another 30 minutes. When the beef is tender, slowly stir in all of the greens. They will wilt quickly! Then add the lemons and stir again. Cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the stew rest for just a few minutes to let the flavors meld.
Serve with hot cooked rice and a dollop of full-fat yogurt. You can substitute any tender greens like swiss chard or fresh spinach for the cress and escarole, but the combination of parsley, escarole, lemon and black cardamom is really fantastic.
Black cardamom is the larger, coarser cousin of the more popular and common green cardamom. I love black cardamom’s punky, peppery scent and flavor. I often add it to curry blends and always add one or two to a pot of chai. The pod and the seeds can be used as two distinct spices just like green cardamom, but I like to use them together. You can find it in any Indian grocery store.