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Behind the Scenes – Kosher Inspired Magazine Photo Shoot

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Do you love food magazines?  If you answer is yes we have something in common! I always tell my husband that all I need to feel I went on a vacation is 5 minutes of peace, cuddled up in my bed with a nice glass of wine and a good food magazine or cookbook.  If you are a mom, you know very well 5 minutes of peace means 5 minutes alone…no kids, no husband, no in-laws, nothing…just you! Isn’t that nice for a change? But that’s just so rare…that’s why, if you get 5 minutes of peace this month, at least have with you a good food magazine!

In owe of Marina…

I was asked by the new and exciting Kosher Inspired Magazine to write an article about Purim. This was a super exciting opportunity for me because I loved the first issue of their magazine so very much! It was all about Chanuka and they even had a different doughnut recipe for each night! It was fantastic! Beside, it was such a breath of fresh air to see that religious Jews can put their act together and make a top-of-the-line magazine! I felt so proud! It was also perfect because my cookbook was due to be born around Purim and what better way to celebrate this holiday than a lavish over-the-top Purim feast?! It was perfect!

Making sure everything is “picture perfect”!

I wanted to share with you a few pics from behind the scenes for the photo shoot of  the Purim issue of Kosher Inspired Magazine.  My cookbook’s photographer, the one and only Marina Karassellos, flew in from Chicago to take the pics. Marina is insanely cool. She is the person you would want to be stranded with in a deserted island. She is best friend quality and SO much fun. We didn’t even need wine to laugh out loud all day long.  She has a very special energy and you just feel like hugging her the whole time. See her talent for yourself in her website by clicking here.

Marina…such a breath of fresh air!

I was getting hungry….

Marina’s specialty is capturing the beauty of real food in natural light. She gets excited over textures, colors and plated compositions.  In the shoot she was successful in capturing the hues of Persia’s past. The light was subtle and romantic. The pictures were dramatic yet at the same time there was softness; almost a shimmer like a whisper of untold stories. The banquets of Queen Esther came back to life!

Marina will kill me for posting this picture…

I wrote the article for this story. My intention was to make every single Jew (Ashkenazi and Sephardic) realize we both come from Persian royalty.  Even though we have been far removed from that past, the exotic and tantalizing foods of Iran are still there…waiting to be re-discovered…almost like the feeling of déjà vu!  I invite every one to try to mimic our beloved Queen Esther and make a royal Persian feast for our families to celebrate the holiday of Purim. The menu I share with the readers is absolutely decadent yet incredibly easy to accomplish. Here is a little sneak peak of what’s hiding in the pages of Kosher Inspired:



Salmon Kebab


Chicken with Eggplant (Joojeh Budemjune)

Persian Steamed white Rice (Chelo) with Purim Theme Tadig

Yellow Split Pea Stew (Chorosht’e Lape)

Tabouleh Salad

Beet Salad (Salad’e Chogondar)


Persian Halvah

Learning how to take pics from the best!

I hope you will join me in this journey! To subscribe to Kosher Inspired (comes along Mishpacha magazine) click here and to obtain my cookbook “Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride” click here or here.

Yep…I think I just found my calling! Thank you for the tips Marina! and thank you for my cousin Channah Barkhordari for taking these pics!

This is how your kitchen will look after a photo shoot…do yourself a favor and don’t try this at home!

Nushejan! Hearty Appetite!


Roasted Garlic

Friday, July 30th, 2010

There is not a single Shabbat dinner in my house that goes by without a bowl of roasted garlic!  There is something magic about the aroma of garlic roasting in the oven.  It makes every one at home come to the kitchen and ask what it is I am cooking.  And there is nothing like my husband’s happy face when I bring a little bundle of roasted garlic and place it next to him to spread over a warm and decadent slice of Challah!

I learned this recipe from my good friend Ronan Armin, he might be a great Dentist, but sometimes I wonder if he should have been a Chef! Here are the tricks to make the best-roasted garlic ever!

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a 12″x12″ square of aluminum foil. With a knife, slice the top from each head of garlic. Separate into cloves and remove excess skin, without peeling each clove.

Pile the  garlic in the middle of the aluminum square. Pour 3 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Gather all the aluminum corners, making a bundle. Doesn’t it look like a garlic head sculpture?

Place in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes until the garlic has caramelized and each clove can be easily squeezed out of its shell. Serve warm.

Here it is!  Ready to be spread over bread or squeezed into your mouth when no one is looking!

Shabbat Shalom everyone!!

Rice with Lentils and Caramelized Onions — Adas Polo

Friday, July 16th, 2010

So, we are in the “9 days” and we cannot eat yummy juicy meat or chicken…what? You didn’t know? Well, to be honest with you, there were many years I didn’t know either!  Let me give you a fast tutorial of what is happening this time of year in the life of an observant Jew:

The 9 days start from the first day of the month of Av until after the fast of Tisha B’Av.  These 9 days Jews all over the world mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temple.  Hence, since meat and wine rejoice the heart, we refrain from those pleasures.

If you have ever lost a loved one, you can easily relate to this.  The pain is so intense, that the thought of having a feast does not even enter your mind.  Imagine how the Jews felt at the time of the destruction of the Holy Temple.  Not only many lost their lives and that of their loved ones, but Hashem’s presence departed as well.

Now, let’s go back to food please. There is something I must let you know: There is a morbid side to this rice: It is commonly served at Persian funeral receptions! In fact, the first time I had this rice was at a funeral. Lentils contain high levels of protein and are also among the best vegetable sources of iron. Also, lentils are common food for mourners in Judaism because they are round, symbolizing the life cycle from birth to death. The good news is that one can also have them all year long!

I love serving this rice when Parshat Toldot is read, because it describes the time when Jacob purchases the birthright from Esau with the red lentil soup Jacob served Isaac while mourning his late father, Abraham.

Here are the lentils boiling…the secret is to get them “al dente”…you must remember that word from your days in college…because most of us back then would eat pasta almost every day!

Here is my rice boiling away! The water looks yellow because most Polos take turmeric to look cool and yellow.

Caramelized onions…there are few things in life that are as good as a spoonful of caramelized onions.  You can see them go from raw to caramelized in these pics.  Make sure to add some turmeric as well.  Believe it or not, the caramelizing process takes about 20 minutes, but we both know it is worth it!

And they finally meet!  The delicious savory lentils together with the sweet touch of the onions make this dish irresistible!

This dish would not be complete without the irreplaceable potato Tadig…YUM!

Here it is!! Served with fish of course.  The recipe for the salmon is “My Favorite Baked Salmon”. Both recipes, fish and rice, will be available in the cookbook!! Don’t forget to click if you want to be the first to know when it comes out!

Thanks for reading!! See you next time!

Channah makes Gondy!

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

So, what is gondy? I like to call it the Persian Mega Matzaball!! Gondy is absolutely delicious and it is my kid’s favorite food since they were able to munch! Gondy is the staple Persian food at the Shabbat table (along with Chelo) and there is no life in a Persian home without juicy yummy gondy and a drizzle of lime juice! This recipe will be in my cookbook, in fact, this recipe belongs exclusively to Persian Jews for gondy is a Jewish Persian dish non-existent in non-Jewish circles.

When I got married, I inherited not only an amazing culture but also an amazing family! I have now tons of really cool interesting and talented cousins. One of these fabulous cousins (she would be our third or second cousin, I can’t remember…Persian family trees look more like medusas’ hair than trees) is the lovely Channah Barkhordari! She came today to make gondy for the first time! Can you imagine what that means to me?! I am not only honored to be teaching her, but also so thankful I have one less dish to make! I do want you to know, Channah’s mother is one of the best cooks I have ever met. I happen to be teaching Channah this dish because she is away from home expanding her brain in college!

Check out some cute pics of Channah…who by the way was not expecting to be posted at all…so I thank her for letting me post these pics even though she had no time to get all dolled-up!  After all, let’s face it…don’t we all cook in shmatas?!!

Here is gorgeous Channah starting her task.  She is wearing my onion goggles!  They are the best to keep your eyes tear-free and also your makeup intact! She did not wear her contacts that day, so these were a must!

Wait a minute! We need to peel that onion before we cut it Channah!  This was our first big laugh!

There goes an onion from solid to liquid! Channah looks like she is working in a lab…hey, a kitchen is a lab!

Another cool gadget!  The love of my life, my kitchen Aid! Channah don’t forget to check those eggs for blood spots! How funny, it looks like the eggs just came from  the rooster’s toosh! Playing with the gadgets was one of Channah’s favorite things!  She realized there is a lot to shop for in the future! Which girl doesn’t like that?!

She is ready to make the gondy!!  She is using one of my favorite tricks…the ice-cream scoop!  Make sure you have a “meat” ice-cream scoop handy and make those gondy balls all the same size.  WAIT!! Channah, the water must boil before the gondy goes in…here goes another LOUD laugh!

Now we are on business! This is the dance of the gondies!  The next step is to add some canned chick peas and colorful zucchini! This was Channah’s most beautiful gondy yet…we needed to document him!

This gondy was crushed…what a tragedy!

DONE! She used my beloved Ruffoni copperware…it is like fine jewelry for a girl who loves to cook!  Great job Channah!!  Don’t forget to click on notify me to get my book and you too will be able to make Gondy like a pro!

Looking forward to sharing more beautiful Persian food with you!!

Thanks for reading!

Wedding Theme Tadig!

Friday, June 11th, 2010

When my friend Zoe Teegarden told me she was coming to me for her last Friday night dinner as I single girl, I could not stop thinking of my wedding themed Tadig!  I decided to use this opportunity to share it with you and to answer a lot of very good questions friends have about the art of Tadig making!  Now, please realize that I might end up going to “rice hell” for sharing all these tricks-of-the-trade with you…however, it is worth it just to make our lives much more easier!

First let’s get creative with Tadig!

Look at how I use cookie cutters and bread to make Tadig themes.  Use your imagination!! Here is the Tagid for Zoe and Greg…MAZAL TOV!!

Some of the questions are:

How early in the week can I make this rice in advance for Shabbat (Friday)?

There is no question…. nothing tastes better than fresh-made tadig.  However, we all have a life, so you can use this trick.  You have two options:

1)   You can make Tadig, let it cool and refrigerate the pot (up to two days).   Make sure to drizzle ½-cup of water mixed with 1/4-cup canola oil on top of the rice to bring it back to life and then reheat over a low/medium flame an hour before serving.

2)   You can make Tadig, let it cool and freeze the pot.  Let it defrost several hours before serving it without disturbing the rice. Make sure to drizzle ½-cup of water mixed with 1/4-cup canola oil on top of the rice to bring it back to life and reheat over low/medium heat 1 hour before serving it.

WHAT?!! Who has room in their freezer or refrigerator for a big pot of rice?!!

Totally!  I don’t have room either!  So, use handy disposable 9-inch x 13-inch aluminum pans with lids.  I love those things! When I have to make rice in advance, I don’t even steam it.  I simply drain it:

Then I set up my aluminum pan ready for tadig, just like I would set up my pot.  Add oil, turmeric and I even sometimes add potatoes!

After adding the rice, see it here with white rice and with “Rice with Lima Beans and Dill — Baghala Polo” I simply freeze it or refrigerated.  When ready to defrost and serve, I steam it in the oven (covered) at 350 degrees (after adding ½-cup of water mixed with 1/4-cup canola oil on top of the rice to bring it back to life)

To obtain tadig, I set the pans on my electric blech (hot platter) about 2 hours before serving and forget about them! I don’t know about your blech, but mine is like a Shabbat microwave!  The tadig made this way is absolutely delicious and huge!

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it useful for you next Tadig adventure!!

Behind the scenes: How the pictures for the book get done!

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

I have always been a lover of aesthetics and beauty.  When it came time to style the food for the cookbook, I was made sure it would be absolutely fabulous!  This is a small example (there are over 1,000 pictures) of the making of one of the dishes in the book.  I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the most incredible and talented friend and photographer Marina Karassellos for taking every single picture for this cookbook.  If I were lost in a deserted Island I would choose Marina to be with!  She is full of energy and so much fun to work with.  There were many long days and it seemed like it would never end, but we made it! There is a gorgeous professional picture for every single dish! Click here and check out her blog and witness her magic!

I would also like to thank my friend Devida Zimble for allowing me to borrow her exquisite dishes for the many photo shoot.  Devida has the most amazing taste and the biggest heart!  I would also like to thank my friend Liora Youshaei for helping cook genuine and gorgeous Persian food for the photo shoots.  I would have never been able to make it without you!  There would be no book without my personal assistant Corina Lemus, for cleaning up after my messes!  And last all my supportive family, including parents, sisters, brother-in-law, children and specially my precious husband, Sammy Simnegar, who I owe basically everything!

Marina and Reyna at the last photo shoot

A blank canvas!

Persians love flowers, so I used a lot of editable flowers throughout the book

I like to show food in its natural state, so I decided to dig in!

Picture perfect!

Pictures from Spa for the Soul where I was featured speaking about my family’s story!!

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Dear friends,

It was a huge pleasure to have been involved in this event!  I was very inspired while preparing for this talk and even more inspired while giving it.  This past Friday May 28, 2010 more than 70 women both religious and non-affiliated lit  Shabbat candles  in honor of all of our ancestors that lost their lives Al Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d’s name.)  It felt very special to know that, while I was lighting Shabbat candles, there were so many women sharing tears of joy and hope for the future! Thank you for joining me!

If you want to know more about lighting Shabbat candles click here and join me every Friday doing this special mitzvah!