There are few memories I hold more dear than the smell of my grandparent’s kitchen – wispy dill and saffron so aromatic, wafting and grand, creeping out from under their doorstep and filling their entire apartment building with might and nourishment. A forever mother and nurturer, my grandmother, now 87, would always have our favorite dishes ready; plates piled high with Persian dill and sour cherry rices, making the beloved tadig (crispy rice) extra crunchy and plentiful, ensuring every khoresh (stew) was piping and present, for us to generously spoon over our rices and slurp up with glee. Meals a universe away from my ‘American’ upbringing and family home, and yet so familiar and fundamental, like my cells knew these bites were meant just for them.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to gather and celebrate shabbat, the Persian new year, Norooz, and togetherness with close friends – an evening ripe with a middle eastern inspired family style feast of seasonal and vibrant Israeli salads, roasted roots, fresh challah, sweets dripping with fresh honey, and my grandmother’s recipes, reimagined with a plant based twist. All cooking together in a friend’s magnificent kitchen, I spent the evening preparing a dill and lima bean rice, baghali polo, and celery stew, khoresh karafs. Traditionally made with rich cubes of beef or lamb, my vegan khoresh is instead filled to the brim with lima beans – an ample substitution packed with protein and fiber, a magical pop of green, and their own kind of plant based ‘meatiness’. Paired with heaps of fresh parsley, mint, and celery this stew simmers for about an hour, allowing all of the flavors to meld and strengthen. Complete with an extra slash of fresh lime juice and life giving saffron, one bowl just won’t be enough. This recipe serves family style potluck or a workweeks worth of divine leftovers. I serve my stew of fresh basmati rice or baghali polo, followed by a piping mug of Persian cardamom chai.
Persian Celery Stew, Khoresh Karafs [makes 4 servings]
inspired by: Najmieh Batmanglij, Celery Khoresh, Food of Life
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large yellow onions, finely diced
2 cups frozen lima beans
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 bunch celery, including leaves, sliced into thin pieces
1 bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, roughly chopped
juice of 3 limes
½ teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until just hot. Add onions and sauté, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in the lima beans, salt, pepper, and turmeric and continue to sauté until turmeric is fragrant, about one minute. Pour in vegetable broth and bring stew to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until just hot. Add the celery and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the parsley and mint and sauté for 10 minutes longer.
Transfer the celery and herb mixture into the Dutch oven, then add the lime juice and saffron water. Re-cover and allow stew to simmer for 60 minutes. Season to taste, serve and enjoy!
Nutritional Information [per serving =2 cups ]
260 Calories, 14.3g Fat, 29.5g Carbohydrates, 7g Fiber, 7g Sugar, 6.4g Protein