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Milk Street Vegetable Makeovers (Ep 411)

Persian Jeweled Rice (Javaher Polow)

Start to finish: 55 minutes (20 minutes active) | Servings: 4

This rice pilaf is named for the colorful dried fruits and nuts that embellish the saffron- tinted basmati rice. The bright color of raw pistachios is best here. Traditionally, jeweled rice is a labor-intensive dish; we've created a simplified version that's visually stunning as well as richly, deeply flavorful. We almost always toast nuts to enhance their flavor and texture, but here raw pistachios are best, as they are more vivid in color and subtler in flavor than toasted or roasted.

Don't forget to rinse and drain the rice. Rinsing removes excess starch so the grains cook up fluffy and light.


  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1¾ teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios, chopped, divided


In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the saffron with 2⅔ cups water. Microwave on high until the water has a yellow hue, about 1 minute; set aside.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium, melt the butter. Add the onions and 2 teaspoons salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and light golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the rice, cumin, cardamom, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring, until the grains are lightly browned and no longer translucent, 4 to 7 minutes. Stir in the saffron water, carrots and cranberries. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to low, and cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid and the carrots are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork, then stir in the orange zest and ¼ cup of pistachios. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a shallow bowl and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup pistachios.

Persian Tomato and Cucumber Salad (Shirazi Salad)

Start to finish: 30 minutes (15 minutes active) | Servings: 4

Ripe summer tomatoes shine in this simple salad inspired by a recipe from Najmieh Batmanglij’s book “Cooking in Iran.” To make the dish out of season, try Campari tomatoes (sometimes called cocktail tomatoes), which have a better texture than other varieties in the off seasons. English cucumbers have fewer seeds and thinner skins than the typical garden variety. Even better are smaller Persian cucumbers. If you find them, you'll need 12 ounces. And simply slice them into ½-inch rounds; no need for seeding. The dressing is bracingly fresh and sharp; if you prefer a mellower, slightly richer salad, drizzle in the optional olive oil just before serving.

Don’t bypass the step of salting the cucumber and tomatoes. They will release about ½ cup of liquid, moisture that otherwise would make the salad watery and dilute.


  • 1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces (see note)
  • 1½ pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, white and green parts reserved separately
  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest, plus ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS In a large colander, combine the cucumber and tomatoes, then set in the sink. Sprinkle the chopped vegetables with 2 teaspoons salt and gently toss to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes, tossing once or twice to encourage the liquid to drain.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the scallion whites and ½ teaspoon salt, then use your hands to gently rub the salt into the scallions until slightly softened and wilted. Stir in the garlic, mint and lime zest and juice; set aside until the cucumbers and tomatoes are ready.

Transfer the cucumbers and tomatoes to the bowl with the scallion whites. Add ½ teaspoon pepper, the scallion greens and cilantro and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, then drizzle with the oil (if using).

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini and Lemon

Start to finish: 40 minutes | Servings: 4

In the Levant, cauliflower often is deep-fried and paired with tahini. We ditched the deep- fryer and opted for high-heat roasting. But first we coat the cauliflower with a little cornstarch mixed with oil, tomato paste and tahini. The starch helps the florets develop crisp, nicely browned exteriors. A little hot sauce in the coating adds some piquancy; we preferred brands that aren't too vinegary, such as Cholula and Tapatío. Cilantro and lemon, added just before serving, brighten the colors and flavors.

Don't forget to line the baking sheet with foil, then coat it liberally with cooking spray. This helps prevent sticking and scorching. Also, don't stir the cauliflower as it roasts; undisturbed cooking allows the florets to crisp well and brown deeply.


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons tahini, plus more to serve
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2- to 2½-pound head cauliflower, trimmed, cored and cut into 1½- to 2-inch florets
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedges to serve

INSTRUCTIONS Heat the oven to 500°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray generously with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, tomato paste, tahini, hot sauce, cornstarch, 2 tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the cauliflower and toss with your hands, rubbing the mixture into the florets. Transfer the cauliflower to the prepared baking sheet and turn the florets cut side down as much as possible. Roast without stirring until tender and lightly charred, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the cilantro and lemon zest. When the cauliflower is done, transfer to a platter, then sprinkle with the cilantro-zest mixture. Serve with lemon wedges and additional tahini for drizzling.

French 75

Start to finish: 5 minutes | Makes 1 cocktail

A half-teaspoon of a saltwater solution—and Angostura bitters—give exceptional balance to this slight tweak on the classic French 75. We liked the clean flavors that resulted from almost-equal proportions of gin and sparkling wine.


  • ¾ ounce lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon 4-percent saltwater solution
  • 1½ ounces gin
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces sparkling wine

INSTRUCTIONS In a cocktail shaker, combine the lemon juice, simple syrup, saltwater solution, gin and bitters. Fill the shaker with ice, then shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Pour into a coupe or flute glass and top with the sparkling wine.

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