Zereshk Polo, Iranian Chicken and Rice by way of Armenia with Larra Haftevani

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Larra and I met through work. We became fast friends, bonding over our shared interest of hip hop and cats. Mostly cats, but also a lot of hip hop.

This girl is one of the biggest hustlers I know – not only does she work full time, she also recently landed a new job in marketing while getting her MBA at the same damn time. She also has a bumping social life and can cook like a fiend. How???

The other weekend, Larra graciously invited me over to her home in Williamsburg to cook me her mother’s Zereshk Polo. This dish is magical. Native to Iran, basmati rice and chicken are simmered together with saffron and studded with raisins and dried barberries (think of them as really small, really tart cranberries).

The key to this dish, she taught me, was to infuse saffron in hot water, creating a mind-blowingly beautiful deep-golden-orange hued “tea”. She used this tea to season different components of the dish separately, which gave the rice a delicious floral aroma and deep yellow tint. After she was done cooking, she melted butter (!!!) into the tea and drizzled it on top of the rice. Unbelievable.

Over copious amounts of red wine and plates full of Zereshk Polo, she told me about her family’s journey to LA from Iran by way of Armenia, and why this dish means so much to her. More after the break!

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Coconut Curry Kabocha Squash Soup

IMG_3570Here’s a deliciously warming soup, easy enough to make on a weeknight after a long day at work. Super nutritious kabocha squash is simmered in coconut milk and spiced with garam masala along with some other good stuff. The result is a creamy and surprisingly filling soup, perfect for this sweater weather we’ve been having in Brooklyn.

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Brown Rice Jook with Shiitake Mushrooms

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I was really struggling last week. After finally succumbing to the relentless cold that has been plaguing the office (and all of New York City, it seems) for weeks, I took two days off. Sometimes, when you’re body is running on fumes, you just have to listen to it and slow down.

Growing up, whenever I felt under the weather my mom, grandmother and aunts were always armed and ready with an arsenal of random traditional Chinese remedies. There was always a specific cure for whatever ailed me at the time. Their repertoire included pungent antidotes like Tiger Balm (an old-school, Chinese Vick’s vapor rub on steroids) for when I was congested,  and “Dit Da Jao”, a soy sauce-colored herbal wine used to rub on my many bruises (I was a clumsy kid).

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