Mainstream media paints the people of Iran with two extreme brushes: either they’re Islamic fundamentalists in beards and dark cloaks fantasizing about nukes or ….half naked, binge partying, yacht driving, drunk on Patron, flamboyant rebels on Bravo’s Shahs of Sunset. From meeting and knowing Iranian Americans thoughout my life, I have to say my impressions don’t match that of my descriptions above. One thing these people consistently are though is hospitable, polite, usually well dressed and highly educated people. Out of my Iranian friends, one is a psychiatrist, another an engineer, another a renowned doctor, another a real estate developer. Heck, even my dentist that I adore is Iranian. There is one particular Iranian chef in San Francisco I have kept in touch with for years, and I always admired his culinary genius. That chef is Hoss Zare.
Hoss has this disarming smile and teddy bear persona that immediately makes one feel at home in his landmark restaurant called Fly Trap in San Francisco. He gives patrons of his restaurant “Hossy Hugs,” invites children to the kitchen to participate in cooking and show off their creations, and interacts with his fans from all over the world on his Instagram Page. His trademark dishes include pistachio meatballs with red harissa, honey, and pomegranate, as well as lamb shank stew with turmeric and preserved lime. Hoss and I have kept in touch through Facebook over the years, and I immediately thought of him when I wanted to give Feast in the Middle East viewers exposure to Persian cuisine. When I asked him to come up with something vegetarian for the show, he did not let me down. He took such simple ingredients and whipped them up into a crunchy, chewy, zesty, meaty…vegetarian koofteh.
Koofteh is spelled a hundred different ways, and prepared a thousand different ways, but it’s basically a Middle Eastern meatball. In the Arab world, koofteh is made with meat and onions, in the Tabrizi region of Iran where Hoss is from, it usually has meat with grains in it. I have provided a shopping list below, but I can’t emphasize enough–don’t worry about exact measurements. If the mixture is too watery to make patties, add more panko crumbs. So here is Part I where Hoss shares his easy crowd pleasing recipe. Check back next week for Part II, where Hoss shares his personal story of tragedy, loss, hope, and inspiration. I have provided a shopping list for you below. Please leave me a comment if you would like to see more chef exclusives like this!
Pinto beans (or chick peas)–about a cup
Black beans (or any other kind of beans)– about a cup
Salt and Pepper
Bulgur wheat (or quinoa, or any other grain)–about a cup
Panko breadcrumbs –about 1/3 cup
Za’atar–about 1 tsp
Cumin– about 1 tsp
Cilantro–some chopped, some set aside for roasting
1 Egg (optional for Vegans)
1 large Tomato