Tangy Rice Pot with Chicken and Green Beans

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Let’s talk about sumac. In the US, it’s not a very common ingredient. I’m going to be 100% honest with you, internet… When I first saw a recipe with sumac as an ingredient, I immediately though about poison sumac, the third in the itchy trifecta of poisons ivy, oak, and sumac. Why would anyone want to eat that?? No one wants to and turns out, no one is. Looking into it, I learned that the sumac spice is made of ground Rhus coriaria berries, one of several dozen of plants in that genus. Poison sumac on the other hand is officially Toxicodendron vernix, but it used to be known as Rhus vernix! Hence the colloquial name that matches the other sumacs.

I came to realize that I’ve had sumac many times before, in restaurants and in pre-made spices mixes like za’atar. I just didn’t know what it was! When we started cooking more Turkish dishes since we started this blog, the lack of sumac in my spice cabinet became more noticeable. {Check out our sumac tag for other recipes we’ve made featuring this spice!} It took us a little while to find some, but check out your nearest Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocer. Now that I’m an experienced sumac consumer, I want to put it on everything! I mean seriously, I have no idea why this spice hasn’t crossed over into mainstream American kitchens yet… It is delicious and can add such a unique flavor to many different dishes. I made up this dinner around the leftover lemon I had in the fridge from making Lemon-Lime Ricotta Cookies, and I thought I’d combine tang with tang and add the sumac. It worked well without being too sour or overpowering. It’s a perfect one pot dish for a weeknight, with fairly minimal hands-on cooking time.

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Tangy Rice Pot with Chicken & Green Beans

Ingredients: 
  • 1 tbsp+ neutral oil
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup rice, uncooked
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (~3 tbsp)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ~1lb fresh green beans, snapped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Select a saute pan with tall sizes (alternatively, a dutch oven would work). Heat the oil over medium.
  2. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with salt & pepper. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken to the pan. Cook for just 3-4 minutes, reducing the translucency, and then remove to the side. (The chicken will not be cooked all the way at this point.)
  3. Add a bit more oil if needed, then cook the garlic and onions. Season with some more pepper. Cook until fragrant and softened, ~5 minutes.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan, along with the rice, stock, spices, and lemon juice. Stir. Make sure rice is submerged in the liquid.
  5. Top with the green beans, pushing them down into the liquid gently. The green beans do not have to be completely submerged.
  6. Bring to a boil and then immediately lower heat to low. Cover, ensuring that the liquid is only lightly simmering.
  7. Cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes. Roughly halfway through, stir and then re-cover.
  8. Watch closely towards the end. Depending on your variety of rice, you may need a little more liquid or a little more or less cooking time.
  9. Season with additional salt as need. Ours definitely needed it, but we also used salt-free chicken stock.
Serves 4.

Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

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Happy first day of spring! Or if you’re of Persian descent, Happy Nowruz! Nowruz literally translates to “new day” and is the name for the Persian new year, which occurs on the vernal (spring) equinox. The holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years and is a holy day from the Zoroastrian tradition, though it is a completely secular celebration for most, especially in the modern day. It has been a long-standing national holiday in Iran and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Caucasian and central Asian countries have declared it a national holiday for themselves as well. The holiday welcomes spring with a variety of traditions. Spring cleaning, visiting friends and family, a Santa Claus-like figure called Amu Nowruz with gifts for children, an elaborate table setting called haft seen, other festive decorations, and of course, eating are all parts of the traditional celebration.

This soup isn’t a traditional Nowruz dish, but most of those gorgeous dinners and sweets involve a little more time than we have on this weekday evening! Actually, I’ve found several variations of my source recipe around the internet – apparently they’re attempts to copycat a beloved soup at a Persian restaurant in Chicago called Reza’s. So we’ll consider this soup a stepping stone towards a real Nowruz celebration one of these years coming up! (I really wanted to make ash-e reshteh, but didn’t have all of the ingredients. It seemed like a cop out to fudge on the ingredients of the traditional Nowruz first night soup, so we bailed on that idea. Maybe next year!) We made another lentil soup recently (Turkish Red Lentil Soup), and while there are some similarities to this one, the flavors end being totally different! This soup is hearty and filling (thanks lentils!), but seems like a perfect welcome to spring with its bright and tangy flavors. Consider it the perfect culinary bridge between winter (warm, hearty) and spring (bright flavors)!

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Persian Spiced Lentil Soup

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium tomatoes (or a 15oz can crushed tomatoes)
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp (+) sumac
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • Salt & pepper
  • Optional toppings: yogurt, feta cheese, lime wedges
Instructions:
  1. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Season with pinch of salt and a few turns of fresh black pepper. Cook until softened and fragrant.
  2. If using fresh tomatoes, chop quarter them and blitz them in a food processor. Then add the tomatoes, along with the stock, herbs, and spices (except for the fresh parsley).
  3. Bring the pot to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered for 20 minutes.
  4. Now add the lentils and return to a simmer for another 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are cooked.
  5. Add the chopped parsley and cook for just another few minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.
  6. Serve with additional sumac, parsley, or a squeeze of lime on top if you like. A dollop of yogurt or a few chunks of feta would also be delicious!
Serves 4 as an entree; ~6-8 as a starter or side