Blue, white and red are the color theme of this week. It is 4th of July, celebrating Independence Day in America. A lot of barbequing will take place this weekend. Not to mention many desserts with the triple color.
So I decided to pay homage to this day with a traditional Persian dish called Albaloo-polo (cherry rice) that seems to be the closest to the US flag in colors. Plus the sour cherries are in season right now and what can be better than using fresh ingredients. The sour cherries were delivered to me right on time for the occasion, courtesy of my cousin, Sorraya, who picked them from her sour cherry tree in Michigan.
The sour cherry rice is one of my all time favorites. It is considered a formal dish that is mainly served in celebratory events like weddings and anniversaries. The sour cherry rice is a tasty sweet dish that can be paired with mini meatballs (click the link to see how to create the meatballs under direction, steps 1, 2 and 3) or a rotisserie chicken or even.
Happy 4th everyone!
Prep time: 30 min.
Cooking time: 1 hr
Ready in: 1 hr 30 min
4 cups sour cherry, pitted & reserved juice
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 cups basmati rice (1 1/2 cup cooked preserved for garnish if desired)
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons saffron, brewed
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
1 large Idaho or Golden potato, sliced
1 cup blueberries
1. Place the pitted cherry (including its juice) & 1/2 cup of sugar in a pot and let it sit for 5 minutes. If there is not enough juice with the cherries, you may add 1 cup of cold water to the mixture. Then put the mix over medium heat and bring to boil. Lower the heat. Taste the syrup. Depending on the origin of sour cherries, some may taste sweeter or sourer. If you prefer it to be on a sweeter side, add the rest of the sugar. I used Michigan sour cherries and only added 3/4 cup of the sugar. I also added 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to give the syrup a pleasant kick. Let simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Make sure all the juice is not evaporated. After simmering, my sour cherry mixture yielded ¾ cup of syrup which later I poured half of it over the rice and used the rest as sour cherry granita. Yummy!
2. While the syrup is in the making, wash Basmati rice under lukewarm water. Drain. Repeat rinse and drain (4-5 times) until the water runs clear. This will help to wash away the excess starch and prevent the rice from becoming too mushy. Fill the pot with cold water 1 ½ times more than the amount of rice. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt to water. Bring to a boil. As soon as the rice appears to be floating on the surface of the boiling water, give it 1-2 minutes. Before the rice foam overflows the pot, pick it up and drain it into a colander. Rinsing it quickly with some cold water gives rice a shock and helps the grains to maintain their shape.
3. Since this dish contains sweet syrup, it is best to put a layer of thin flat bread like Lavash or flour tortillas at the bottom of the pot so the rice won’t be burned when the syrup travels down toward the bottom. If possible, use a non-stick pot since the rice will be sticky at the bottom. Put 3 tablespoons of canola oil in the pot. Then add the flat bread to cover the bottom as much as possible. Then add enough rice to cover the bread. With a skimming ladle, spoon out cooked sour cherries and scatter over rice, trying to keep off of the edges. Continue layering until all is done. Top with a small amount of syrup along with brewed saffron. Place on medium heat and cover. As soon as little sweats form inside the lid or steam comes out of the pot, lower heat and wrap the lid in a kitchen cloth or two sheets of paper towel and cook for another 20 minutes.
4. Place the almonds with butter in a skillet and sauté over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until roasted.
5. Before serving, mix the rice gently in the pot. Transfer the rice to a serving dish. Top with roasted almonds.
6. For star-spangled rice, I sliced a big potato and used a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut potato slices. In another pot, I added 2 tablespoons of oil with a tad of brewed saffron. Then I arranged the star potatoes at the bottom and used about 1 1/2 cup of cooked white rice to cover the potatoes. Add 3 tablespoons of water. Place the pot over medium high heat and cover. Once again, as the steam comes out wrap the lid in paper towel and lower the heat. Let it cook for 10-15 minutes.
7. To copy the navy blue color of the flag, I experienced with some blueberries. Place the blueberries with enough water to cover and slowly let it simmer until the juice runs out. When the color is deep enough, mix some rice from step 6 with the blueberry syrup and start decorating the Sour Cherry Rice with it. The color has a deep purple hue to it which I believe is healthier and more delicious than blue synthetic food coloring.
The making of this dish was a fruitful journey, both literally and metaphorically.