1 1/4 cups brown rice, rinsed in cold water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion or one cup green onions chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground turkey or beef
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
2 teaspoons coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
1 cup peas, frozen or fresh
2 cups spinach chopped, frozen or fresh
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded, chopped (optional)
Add the rice and several cups of water in a deep pot. The water should be two inches above the rice.
On high heat bring to boil, turn down the heat to medium and simmer for around fifteen minutes or until the rice is cooked through.
Place a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add olive oil, onions and garlic. Sauté for two minutes or until the onions are translucent.
Add ground turkey to the sauté pan. Quickly break apart the meat with a spatula as it cooks all the way through, around five minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir until ingredients, especially the spices are mixed well. Cover pan with a lid and cook on medium heat for around 10 minutes.
Drain the rice in a colander and let it sit until all the water drips out of the colander. Add the rice to the sauté pan.
Mix until the rice turns a light green color from the spinach and meat sauce.
Cover the sauté pan with aluminum foil folding the edges to make it airtight. Place the lid on the foiled pot, reduce the heat to low and cook for another fifteen minutes.
Serve with a side of salad or steamed vegetable.
Do you want to know the dirty secret of Afghan diaspora?
Our elders are addicted to Afghan television.
Yup! Twenty-four hours of non-stop, addictive, live television programming streamed from Afghanistan into living rooms of millions of Afghans that fled Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion in the 80’s. Our old and immobile waste their days away by watching what the young generation considers junk. Despite living outside Afghanistan for over thirty years, the elders have not found cultural roots in their adopted homes such as Los Angeles, Virginia, Sydney, and Frankfurt. Their community speaks their language and lives in a rectangular box.
Every time I call my mom or aunt, I compete with shrieks of soap opera actresses speaking in high-pitched Dari in the background. Talking to Jeja, my mom, during her favorite show is like talking to my fifteen year old—lots of gaps filled with silence and a “what” or “aha”.
Recently I spent a week with Jeja at her home in Los Angeles. We bonded by breathing the same air while sitting side by side in-front of her big screen TV watching Afghan talk shows, comedy shows, and even Turkish and Korean soap operas (yes, they're dubbed in Dari). During meals, Jeja discussed the latest news and the clever plotting of the Turkish soap operas.
As Jeja felt pride in her media savvy-ness I on the other hand struggled a little with the formal Dari and at times asked her for clarification. After all these years, when I translated for Jeja at stores, at doctor’s appointments or at banks, the table is finally turned.
Thankfully there was one show I fully got, Pokht-o-Paz, a cooking show. Aside from improving my formal Dari, I was thrilled to get a recipe out of this experience, even if it was from a show and not from Jeja.
Chef Habib Khashae of Pokht-o-Paz made Istanbuli Palau, a dish I hadn’t eaten before. It turns out that many countries in the Middle World have a version of Istanbuli Palau/Polo. I’m sharing the Afghan version.
This rice pilaf has ground meat, carrots, peas, spinach and flavorful spices. I modified the recipe by using brown rice instead of white and I used ground turkey instead of ground beef. Istanbuli Palau a quick and easy dish you can serve with a side of salad or maybe steamed broccoli on weeknights. The kids loved it and left overs were great the next day.