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(post, Diana Johnson)
Last week I decided to make a Persian inspired dish in honor of the people of Iran fighting and dying for freedom. I say Persian inspired because I used Panko instead of regular bread crumbs, not traditional in Iranian cooking but I love them so much! I've had several meals cooked for me by my friend's Iranian mother before, but I still did some research before planning my meal. Oh man was it worth it! First we had Salad-e shirazi, a salad of tomato, cucumber and red onion with lime juice and mint. I remember being told this is a favorite summertime dish and I can see why. I didn't go as traditional as making my own flat bread either, instead getting some pita at the store. I made my favorite hummus recipe, and then came the kebabs. Talk about flavorful! These are Kabab Kubideh, which can be made with beef or lamb, I used beef since we're trying out some ground beef from a local farm and I really wanted to use it in a recipe where the beef flavor shines through. The secret to these kebabs... Saffron butter! I have always been fascinated by the Middle East and the beautiful people there. I can clearly remember a night when I was in the 4th grade, laying in bed and sobbing for the children of the middle east. It was during Desert Storm and we lived on base in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. We were very fortunate that my dad had changed positions and didn't have to go overseas, but many of my friends' fathers were. I saw all the wonderful things being done to take care of and support the American children while their fathers were away fighting, and I asked my teacher what was being done for the Arab children. She laughed and said "How should I know? They're the enemy." I was heartbroken, I didn't see how children (or anyone else for that matter) could be an enemy, so that night I cried out to God asking Him to take care of them if nobody else would. Ever since, I have dreamed of going to the 10/40 window, and have seen that dream realized with disaster relief trips to Sri Lanka and Malaysia, and a mission trip to Senegal where we taught basketball to kids who had never even held one before. My admiration for the dedication of Muslims increased as I witnessed first hand their dedication to their faith. Although my belief system is very different, I often pray for that kind of determination to obey God. I have had many Arab and Muslim friends over the years. I never really thought much about the fact that they were either. Hawaii is such a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities that it's easy to not pay attention to differences unless they're pointed out to you. When 9/11 happened, I was driving home the day after the attack and saw two teenage Japanese boys walking behind a teenage Arab girl and taunting her. She looked so afraid that I whipped my car around, jumped out and asked the boys what they thought they were doing. They started calling her names, saying "her people" attacked America, that she's probably a Muslim terrorist. Oh I was FURIOUS! I lit into them right there on the sidewalk in front of a little internet cafe. I asked them how long their family had lived in Hawaii, and when I heard their answer I asked if they thought any of their relatives had been forced to internment camps or faced persecution after Pearl Harbor. One of them hung his head, and said his grandparents had to go to an internment camp. I asked what he thought they'd say about the way he was treating this poor girl, and as his friend tried to protest it was different, he just told him "shut-up" and dragged him away. The poor girl burst into tears and told me she lived in Hawaii all her life, and though she's Palestinian, she's a Christian and was tired of being called a terrorist. I was fed up with seeing persecution so the next day, I went with a group of Christian college students to our local mosque, to give the leaders leis and make a public statement of love and support for the Muslims in our community. There was even a reporter there. As I made this dish, I began thinking of all these people and stories of the Middle East that have touched my life, and it was really a rather emotional cooking experience. The salad is pretty self explanatory, each bite is like taking a bite out of summer, so fresh and bright. The kebabs were a new experience for me. Basically it's ground beef and chopped onions with just a few seasonings (so use good quality beef with lots of flavor). The really special thing about them is the saffron butter I brushed over them, my friend's mom called that her meat secret. I made mine in the oven because we're out of briquets, but these would be great grilled. Just don't make the rookie mistake I did and forget to soak your skewers. That why you don't see any in my picture, because they burnt down like incense sticks and smelled like fireworks! We ate this by scooping up salad and hummus with the bread and topping it with a piece of the beef. You can also lay down a piece of the bread, spread it with hummus, lay on two kebabs (sticks removed) and top with salad and another bread to eat it like a sandwich. Either way, it's delicious. Thank you people of Iran, for showing the world what it means to fight for freedom. Salad-e Shirazi serves 4 Ingredients 1 firm tomato 1/2 english cucumber 1/2 red onion juice of 1/2 lime 1 TBS olive oil 4 leaves fresh mint chopped 1 clove finely minced garlic 2 TBS crumbled feta kosher salt and pepper to taste Instructions Chop your tomato, cucumber and onion into small bits. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Add more lime juice, salt or pepper as needed. Kabab Kubideh makes 5-6 kebabs Ingredients 1 small onion 3/4 lb beef pinch of sea salt dash of pepper 1/4 tsp turmeric 1/4 tsp paprika 1 egg yolk 1/4 cup panko small pinch of saffron 1 TBS butter 5-6 bamboo skewers soaked for 30 minutes Instructions Turn on your broiler. Chop onion finely in a food processor (I used the bulb and some greens from an onion from our CSA). Add beef to food processor and pulse until onion is incorporated. Add salt, pepper, turmeric, paprika, egg yolk and panko. Pulse until well mixed. Toast saffron in a dry skillet on high heat for about 30 seconds. Add butter and melt. Remove from heat and use a spatula to smash the saffron a little and release fragrance and yellow color. Form meat mixture into sausage shape around soaked skewers. Lay on a foil lined pan and brush tops with saffron butter, then flip and brush the other side. WASH food processor WELL! Place under broiler 8 minutes, then flip over and broil the other side 6 minutes or less if getting really brown. Approximate cost/serving: This felt a little pricier because we used grass fed, free range beef for the first time (worth the price!). The amount of beef total was $2. Also I bought pita which is kinda expensive ($2.50 for five). But the rest was cheap and made up for it. The salad was only 75 cents total. All in all the whole meal comes out to about 60 cents for 2 kebabs, 19 cents for a serving of salad, 50 cents for one pita, and 30 cents for hummus or only $1.50 per serving! Vegetarian/Gluten Free: The salad and hummus are vegetarian. For Gluten free substitute rice flakes or another bread crumb sub, and use maybe a gluten free tortilla rather than pita bread.