Monday, November 3, 2014

Persian Green Herb, Chicken & Bean Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi)

Persian Green Herb, Chicken & Bean Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi)
Includes Vegetarian options
Serves: 4
Difficulty: Moderate
Persian Green Herb, Chicken & Bean Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi) 

This green stew studded with beans is one of the most famous in Persian cuisine. It can be made with chicken, lamb, beef or works surprisingly well with tofu which is frozen, thawed and baked to give it a meaty texture. The bulk of the stew is, indeed, chopped parsley, cilantro, spinach and scallions, and the mixture is delicious. The grassy greens cook down and mellow, turning into a fragrant, earthy mélange served alone or atop fluffy rice or stuffed into a pita. It might not be your first inclination to cook down a huge pile of chopped herbs, but the gentle slow heat works magic on the greenery transforming them into flavorful spoonful with each bite. I used Rancho Gordo red beans once again – making them from their dried form. However one could use canned, rinsed kidney or red beans if time does not allow use of heritage beans. Once again, we can use our dried limes for the citrusy boost often found in Persian cooking. If you cannot find dried limes, you can add several strips of lime zest to the stew.

Start this recipe the day before you plan to serve it if using fresh dried beans or if using tofu. Soak the beans overnight and cook as described in the following posts, you will need about ½ lb. of dried beans.
Minestrone Soup – link here once it is posted, or Caribbean black bean soup

  • 2 lb skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs
  • 4 Tb grapeseed or olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 C cooked beans of your choosing (one 15 oz can) rinsed and drained.
  • 2 C vegetable or chicken stock, hot
  • ½ lb spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 C tightly packed, coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 C tightly packed, coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 C thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 dried limes, soaked in hot water to cover for 15 minutes
  • 3 Tb freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for finishing

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat and 1-2 Tb grapeseed oil to the pan. Lightly salt the chicken breasts and thighs.  Add the chicken to the skillet and sear for 6-7 minutes per side, until well browned, cut into bite sized pieces, then transfer to a plate until ready to add to stew.

While the chicken or tofu cook, caramelize the onion.  Heat a large deep skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 3 Tb grapeseed oil, followed by the onion. Brown the onion for 10 minutes, until it starts to darken, then cook slowly over low heat for about 30 minutes, until it is dark brown and about half its original volume. Add the garlic, beans, chicken or tofu, stock and bring to a boil; then turn down the heat and simmer partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Cooked chopped chicken
Add beans, caramelized onions and simmer
Add the spinach in large handfuls, adding more as each batch wilts, then stir in the herbs and scallions

Chopped parsley & cilantro
Pierce the limes and add them to the stew along with their soaking liquid. Simmer for 20 minutes. The herbs should be tender but still bright green. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.  
Stewing with dried limes
Turn off the heat and let the stew rest for 15 minutes. Remove the dried limes before serving. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil before serving, over white rice or stuffed in pita.

For tofu option:
  • 1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu
  • 2 Tb grapeseed oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric

To cook tofu:
Drain the tofu and cut into 1-inch thick slabs. Freeze until solid, about 6 hours, and then defrost in the refrigerator overnight.  Squeeze the tofu slices to remove excess water. Preheat oven to 375 degree F.  Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 Tb of grapeseed oil, 1 tsp salt, a few grinds of pepper, and the turmeric. Add the tofu and toss to coat it in the seasoning. Spread the tofu on the baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes, flipping the slabs once halfway through. The tofu should be golden and springy.  Let cool and dice.

Nooshe jan! (Bon Appetit)


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