Saturday, November 20, 2010

VeganMoFo: Persian Spinach with Orange Sauce

Please join me for a most delicious Iranian dinner, served in Chinese dishes, with most esteemed company!

Last weekend, while my posts were secretly self-publishing each morning, I snuck off to Central Oregon to spend a few days with my Great Aunt Tashie. Tashie was my grandpa's older sister, and is still doing pretty darn well at age 95. We had such a wonderful time together.

This is the view from her porch. The rainbow isn't always there, though. When it's clear, you can see the snowy peak of Mount Jefferson. There are lots of little squirrels and chipmunks and all sorts of birds frolicking out there. It's so wonderful!

This greedy little chipmunk had a whole pinecone in his mouth and was dashing around like a crazed freak trying to find a place to bury it. So cute.

Tashie spent quite a few years living in Iran. She still speaks some little tidbits of Farsi, has so many beautiful Persian crafts throughout her house, and has many Iranian friends. I've never been to Iran, but I am a total Iranophile, and I especially love Persian food. So, I thought it would be good fun to make a tasty Iranian dinner for the two of us!

Look at the beautiful bowls we ate out of! I was so amazed by them. I'm quite sure it enhances the flavor of the meal to eat out of such a glorious dish.

Rooting around in her kitchen, I found a copy of "In A Persian Kitchen," by Maideh Mazda, and finally settled on Khoreshe Sak: Spinach in Orange Sauce. I left out the meatballs and added in white beans. Take that, meatballs! (*veganized recipe at the end of this post!*)

It turned out incredible! I loved, loved, loved it. Persian cuisine is so elegant... always such an interesting balance of sweet and savory and sour... This dish is no exception - it's got earthy spinach, astringent parsley, sweet orange juice, sour lemon juice, with a hint of spice from cinnamon and garlic... it's really tasty, and most definitely something I'll make again.

By the way, did you notice my glorious tah dig????? It's not perfect, but it's by far the closest I've ever come. Tah dig is the crunchy, golden bottom layer that is an absolute must for a proper Persian rice experience. It is so tasty. However, in all my years of Persian cooking, I have had mighty struggles with the rice. Either I burn the tahdig, or I undercook it and have no crunch... So, with Tashie's helpful guidance and suggestions, look what I got! I was bursting at the seams with joy and gratitude.

My final morning, Tashie even woke up bright and early (not her usual m.o.) and gave me a wonderful tutorial on making Persian rice. I got so many great tips.

Tashie is peeking on the rice to see how it's doing!

I love this picture... just look at the apprehension and concern on our faces! Will it work? Will we get a perfectly domed golden cake of crusty rice???

Well, apparently not. But we were pleased with ourselves all the same. We got a great tahdig and I got to closely observe the whole process, ask questions and learn lots of tips. Tashie is amazing! I love you, Tashie! Thanks for the rice lessons!

Khoreshe Sak: Spinach in Orange Sauce
from In a Persian Kitchen, by Maideh Mazda
veganized by Amey
Serves 4-5

1 can white beans
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp water, as needed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb spinach, finely chopped
1 c parsley, finely chopped
1 c fresh Orange Juice
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp flour
salt to taste

Put the olive oil in a large-sized sauce pan, over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes. Add beans, salt, pepper, cinnamon and saute 5 more minutes. Add water as needed to deglaze the pot.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet add the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add parsley and spinach (you may need to go in batches, but the spinach wilts very quickly). Saute about 10 minutes. Stir regularly, so that it doesn't burn. It will cook down a lot.

While that is sauteing, mix together the OJ, lemon juice (LJ!), and flour, and set aside.

Once the beans and the spinach are ready, mix together in the larger of your two pots. Add in the orange juice mixture. Stir well, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Add salt to taste and serve with Persian rice.

By the way, this isn't Persian... but I made this delicious dip another night and wanted to share it because it was so good and so beautiful. Tashie had a little basil plant in her windowsill, with just a few more leaves to share with the world. So, I went online, and adapted this recipe.

The result was just amazing. I loved the pale celadon green color, and the garlicky yumminess of the spread. As you can see, we spread it on little toasts and had it with our dinner.

Amey's White Bean & Basil Spread
1 15-oz can white beans, drained (liquid reserved)
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small/medium garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 handful fresh basil leaves (+/- 3-4 Tbsp), coarsely chopped
salt and white pepper to taste
water or bean liquid, as needed

Put the beans, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and basil in the blender and push "go"! Blend until smooth, adding water or more bean liquid as needed until you get the desired consistency. Taste, and then add salt and white pepper to suit your palate.


Our mofo journey Around The World in 30 Days continues tomorrow... with yet another exciting destination and a great meal! In the meantime, keep your eyes open for an extra bonus post today... (what will it be????)


  1. tashie is the best!! thanks for sharing your experiences, they sound wonderful. and your crunchy rice looks perfect to me.


  2. I saw your spinach in orange sauce today, and definitely bookmarked it! :) And I've never heard of this crunchy rice intriguing.

  3. In a month of wonderful posts, Amey, this one is my favorite. <3

  4. What a lovely post! LOVED the dishes and your Tahdig looks beautiful and golden!!!

  5. i am a whitey and was married to an iranian for 15 years...rice is one of those things once you get it you have it but there are many mistakes in the beginning...a few things are to have the heat high when first adding the rice...make your pyramid...poke holes and add earth balance melted in water...and then the biggie...cover with paper towels prior to the lid to absorb steam and then add the lid...they sell little sewn caps (that look like shower caps) that you can reuse and wash...still my favorite rice to make...(you can also put potatoes and tortillas in the bottom for tahdig...yum)

  6. Anonymous10:48 AM

    What a great post! Those dishes really are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. And Tashie doesn't look a day over 82!

  7. Wonderful post! I am half Persian and I try to recreate recipes I remember eating but I can never get it right. I saw that you have posted vegan Persian recipes in the past too. I must try these recipes!

  8. Anonymous7:33 AM

    Which book do you think is the best (best tasting or authentic recipes) for Vegans (can be easily veganised or contains many vegetarian recipes? I became very interested in Persian food from looking at websites and then purchasing "Veggiestan" and I have recently purchased "Silk Road", but I would be interested in any suggestions you have.

    Thank you

    Jane, England (


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