A Persian Dinner Party Feast

Persian food is unlike any other cuisine I’ve had before. It balances unlikely flavor combinations like tart, tangy pomegranate molasses and tannic walnuts. Recipes measure herbs in handfuls, not teaspoons or pinches. It feels opulent, drawing from a pantry filled with ingredients like rose water, cardamom and saffron. The only thing Persian cuisine celebrates more than its sweet, savory and sour stews (yes, all three are excellent at once) is its crunchy, crackly golden rice - tahdig.

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slow roasted tomatoes, burrata, pesto n' polenta

i am a creature of habit in all aspects of life. nowhere is this more pronounced than in my morning routine. alarm sounds at 5 a.m., out of bed eight minutes later, brush my teeth, toss my hair up and head straight to the gym. bike for 40 minutes or run for 40 minutes. shower, make-up, hair x repeat every morning.

now, that's an early morning. but, what grounds me each and every day is coffee, more coffee, podcasts and morning news round-ups. each day it's a steady rotation of bon appétit foodcast, radio cherry bombe, this american life or stuff you missed in history class. (ps - the latest TAL podcast "act v" is hands down one of the best). i love the act of starting every day picking up new tidbits of stories or things i quite literally did miss in history class. 

slow roasted tomatoes, burrata, pesto and polenta || planting my roots

once i settle into my office, then begins the morning e-mail round-up. it's the same three e-mails that greet me every weekday morning - nyt daily briefing, politico playbook and the skimm. politico gives me all the wonky, insider-y baseball dc news. skimm makes me lol and feel like i'm chatting with my friends. nyt is the most straightforward and i love seeing what photo they pick each morning. 

but the real nyt e-mail gem rolls in around 10 a.m. each morning - nyt cooking. there is nothing more calming in the morning than reading sam sifton's very pointed view on exactly what i should be cooking that day and why. i am obsessed with his writing style and cannot think of a better crew of recipe developers than those at nyt (hi, melissa clark!). the inspiration for the dish included in this post came from a nyt cooking recipe, "amazingly sweet slow roasted tomatoes."

slow roasted tomatoes || planting my roots

the slow roasted tomatoes here are nestled on top of a bed of warm, rich polenta, creamy burrata and fresh pesto. it's a multi-step process - make the polenta, roast the tomatoes, whip up the pesto, but oh my is it worth it. perfect for a lovely summer outdoor dinner, and let's be real, i'll take any excuse to eat burrata. 

due to the fact that i was making a big batch of pesto for our weekly friend potluck dinner and i have a best friend with a nut allergy, this pesto is nut-free. it delivers all the freshness of your classic pesto, but strips it down to just five ingredients and one simple recipe instruction. 

slow roasted tomatoes, burrata, pesto and polenta || planting my roots

slow roasted tomatoes, burrata and pesto on a bed of polenta

serves four

what you'll need:

amazingly sweet slow roasted tomatoes
1 pound small plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
kosher salt, to taste
 a tiny amount of sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

basil pesto
2 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt

classic italian polenta
3 cups water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup corn grits (polenta)
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup parmesan, finely grated

12 oz burrata
black pepper and kosher salt, to taste
fresh basil leaves (optional, for garnish)

what you'll do:

  1. preheat the oven to 300 degrees. line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. put the halved tomatoes in a bowl and toss with the olive oil. place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the baking sheet. sprinkle with salt and a tiny amount of sugar. place in the oven and roast for 2 hours. remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. 
  2. while tomatoes are roasting, prepare pesto. place all pesto ingredients in food processor and blend until thoroughly combined (about 2 minutes). set aside.
  3. to make the polenta, in a large, deep pan over high heat bring water and salt to a boil; gradually stir in polenta. reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking until mixture is very thick (about 20 minutes); use a long-handled spoon because mixture pops and bubbles and can burn. stir in butter and more salt if you'd like. transfer to serving bowls and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
  4. top each bowl of polenta by arranging roasted tomatoes, a spoonful of pesto and burrata, finish with black pepper and kosher salt, and a pinch of fresh basil leaves, if you'd like. 

hometown heroes

i recently attended food tank, an event-based "think tank" for all things food, where i was surrounded by individuals pushing the envelope for better food policy. it was so energizing to be packed into a room with people who have dedicated their lives to building better, more equitable, more sustainable food systems from the ground-up. those who lived with low-income mothers around the world for months on end to make sure their voices were heard when we talk about malnutrition. those who get their hands dirty in the plots of urban gardens. these are the change-agents who have made and continue to make dc the city it is.

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on making time

this bowl hit all the right notes for me. it makes for a perfect weekday lunch (which i need to be quick and easy to toss in my bag before i head to work), is packed with vibrant flavors and colors, and abounds with the healthiest ingredients. developing the recipe for this unfolded slowly on a saturday, when i had bread baking in the oven and a spotify playlist serenading me. it was exactly the way i want a weekend day to be.

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a christmas feast

for my family's last meal together before we all parted ways for different parts of the country after the holiday break, we feasted on what has become a seemingly classic stoltz meal: rosemary and garlic roasted lamb, hummus, tabbouleh and couscous with pine nuts and mint. the recipes for each of these courses are in the post!

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