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We’re Just Mad About Saffron

Written by Judy Thurlow on . Posted in Uncategorized

By Melissa Pasanen
Photo by Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist

One of the things I love about my work is how one story often leads to another. I was in a warren of small offices in the University of Vermont’s Entomology Research Lab reporting a short Vermont Life piece on growing saffron in Vermont with Arash Ghalehgolabbehbahani, an agroecologist from Iran, and Professor Margaret Skinner.

After the pair explained how saffron-producing crocuses could be grown here in unheated greenhouses, I asked how Iranians would cook with the expensive spice. For that, Arash responded, I should meet his wife. Agrin Davari. Conveniently, he added, her office was in the same building. A few weeks later, I was in the cavernous kitchens at UVM’s Davis Center where Davari and other members of the Iranian Student Association were cooking a Nowruz spring feast featuring saffron in almost every dish, which I reported for Vermont Public Radio. Listen here to the VPR Café episode.

The saffron they were using in all of their dishes, including the main course of chicken (recipe below) is not locally grown yet, but some day it might be. 

Recipe for Saffron Rice With Barberries and Chicken
(Zereshk polow ba morgh)

Adapted from Maman’s Kitchen’s recipe.

Note: Please see the original recipe for the specific way to cook Persian rice that creates a crispy and highly prized bottom layer known as tah dig. To simplify, I simply cooked 2 cups of rinsed long grain basmati with a couple of tablespoons of neutral cooking oil and a couple of tablespoons of butter and salt. After it was cooked and still hot, I stirred in about ½ cup lightly sweetened, local dried cranberries in place of barberries and 1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in ¼ cup hot water. Barberries can be ordered from sadaf.com.

For chicken:

¼ teaspoon ground saffron (this will be about 1 teaspoon saffron threads; place threads in a small bowl and crush them with the back of a spoon) 

6 pieces (about 3 pounds) bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, preferably dark meat such as thighs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon Persian advieh spice (can be ordered from sadaf.com or substitute ¼ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin)

Pinch chili powder

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place ground saffron in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon hot water. Set aside until needed. Pat chicken pieces dry and season well with salt and pepper. Put a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat and add oil. When oil is shimmering, place chicken, skin-side down, and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, until skin is golden-brown. (It might spit fat, cover pan if desired.) Turn chicken and cook on other side until golden-brown, about another 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat.

Reduce heat to medium and return pan to stove. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add turmeric, advieh (or substitute), chili powder, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt and stir together. Add lemon juice and ½ cup water. Stir and scrape up any bits from bottom of pan. Return chicken to pan, turning to coat in sauce. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, checking to make sure chicken is not sticking, about 20 to 25 minutes until meat is cooked through. Serve with saffron-barberry (or cranberry) rice. Serves 4–5.

Recipe: Gilfeather Turnip and Winter Squash Bhaji

Written by Judy Thurlow on . Posted in Recipes

Gilfeather Turnip and Winter Squash Bhaji

Adapted from Lini Mazumdar,
Anjali Farm and Lini’s Indian Tiffins, South Londonderry

At one point, Lini Mazumdar and her husband, Emmett Dunbar, grew Gilfeather turnips at Anjali Farm, but over the years, they have focused on a few specialty crops like pick-your-own blueberries, chili peppers and heirloom tomato plants. In addition, Lini, who grew up all over India, started offering vibrantly flavored, nourishing, home-cooked Indian meals made from seasonal ingredients. Customers order ahead and come to the farm to pick up their multidish tiffin meals packed in round, stacked, metal lunch containers. This curried vegetable dish could be one of several in a meal or simply served with rice and perhaps the spiced lentil stew known as dal.

Note: The Bengali Five Spice mixture called panch phoron contains black mustard, cumin, fennel, nigella and fenugreek seeds; you can substitute whole cumin seeds.

3 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

1 medium (about 1 pound) Gilfeather turnip, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
yield about 2 generous cups

1 pound winter squash, such as pumpkin, delicata or butternut,
peeled (no need to peel delicata) and cut into ½-inch cubes
to yield about 2 cups

1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more
to taste

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon panch phoron spice
mixture (see note above) or
cumin seeds

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh, finely grated
ginger root

1 small dried Thai red chili, crushed, or ¼–½ teaspoon crushed red
pepper, to taste

2 cups firmly packed ribboned kale

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Put one tablespoon of coconut oil in a rimmed sheet pan or large baking dish and place in oven to melt coconut oil. In a medium bowl, toss turnip and squash cubes with 1 teaspoon salt and turmeric powder. Spread in melted coconut oil and toss to coat. Bake 25–30 minutes until a fork easily pierces vegetables and they are slightly colored.

In a medium cast-iron frying pan or other heavy-bottomed sauté pan, set over medium-high heat, toast panch phoron or cumin just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil and lower heat to medium. Stir in garlic, ginger, and chili or crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes until colored. (Add a splash of water if ginger sticks to bottom of pan.) Add roasted turnips and squash along with kale and lemon juice. Stir to combine and toss for 3 to 4 minutes until kale is wilted. Taste and add more salt or hot pepper as desired. Serves 4–6.

Original article by Melissa Pasanen from the Spring 2017 issue of Vermont Life 
Photo by Oliver Parini

Recipe: Gilfeather Turnip, Root Vegetable and Apple Slaw

Written by Judy Thurlow on . Posted in Recipes

Gilfeather Turnip, Root Vegetable and Apple Slaw

Adapted from chef David Smith, Artisan Restaurant at Four Columns Inn, Newfane

Cooking in close proximity to the birthplace of the Gilfeather turnip, chef David Smith explores beyond the expected to use the turnip raw in this sweet, crunchy slaw. It’s a refreshing change during a season when many local vegetables are mashed or roasted and pairs beautifully with almost anything, from roasted meats to sautéed seafood.

1 large (about 1½ pounds) Gilfeather turnip, peeled

1 small (8-ounce) kohlrabi, peeled

1 large (4-ounce) carrot, peeled

1 small (8-ounce) celery root, peeled

1 large lemon, zested and juiced to yield about ¼ cup juice

¼ cup apple cider

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 large Honey Crisp apple, not peeled

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup buttermilk

¼ cup crème fraÎche or sour cream

1–2 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste

2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste

½ teaspoon pepper (preferably white), plus more to taste

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Cut peeled turnip, kohlrabi, carrot and celery root into 1-inch slices and place in cold water. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, apple cider and apple cider vinegar. A few pieces at a time, remove root vegetable slices from water, pat dry and coarsely shred using a food processor or hand grater. Immediately toss shredded vegetables into the lemon mixture. Using a sharp knife, cut apple into slender matchsticks and add to vegetables.

In another small bowl, whisk together shallot, mustard, buttermilk, crème fraîche, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, salt and pepper. Pour over shredded vegetables and apple and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Taste and add more maple syrup, salt and pepper as desired. Makes about 7–8 cups slaw, serving about 6–8.

Original article by Melissa Pasanen from the Spring 2017 issue of Vermont Life 
Photo by Oliver Parini

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