Because the placement of Ramadan in the calendar changes from one year to the next, the holiday has no seasonality and therefore in Iran, no specific food is attached to Eid. But this is an occasion for good cooks to outdo themselves, and you can always expect that the Eid meal will be impressive and include plenty of sweet treats to make up for four weeks of self-denial.
Because it’s summer in the Western Hemisphere, it’s a great time to make a classic Persian khoresh, or stew, like this recipe for Seared Chicken with Peaches. Khoresh is the crowning glory of Persian cuisine, where you’ll find jewel-toned combinations of fruit and meat with flavors ranging from from sour to sweet, and spicy to savory. To better understand why Persian stews are so renowned, it helps to know that they’re thicker than Western stews, more like rich casseroles that merit being the center of a meal. Too thick to be a soup, khoresh isn’t eaten with a spoon but instead is meant to be ladled over fluffy white rice, or another whole grain.
This orange-gold stew features peaches, a sweet Silk Road treasure that traveled from China to Iran more than two thousand years ago. Make this dish in summer when peaches are abundant, or substitute plums or pears in the fall.
Seared Chicken with Peaches khoresh-e hulu
2 pounds skinless chicken legs or breasts
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 pound ripe peaches, peeled and sliced into 1-inch wedges
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon saffron, ground and steeped in 1 tablespoon hot
2 cups water, simmering
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 3 tablespoons of the oil to the pan. Add the chicken and sear 6 to 7 minutes per side, until well browned, then transfer to a plate.
In the same skillet, cook the onion over medium-high heat in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil for about 10 minutes, just until they start to brown. Add the peaches, turmeric, cinnamon, lemon juice, lemon zest, saffron, and water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and return the chicken to the pan. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes; then uncover and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pull out the chicken pieces with tongs and cut the boneless pieces in half or in thirds. Put a few pieces of chicken on each plate along with several peach slices and plenty of sauce.
Substitute tempeh or firm tofu for the chicken. If using tofu, drain the tofu and press it under a heavy weight for 1 hour, in order to press out as much water as possible. Before cooking, cut the tofu into slabs 1 inch thick, or cut the tempeh in half to form 2 squares. You may need to use a little more oil for searing the tempeh or tofu. Before serving, cut the tempeh or tofu into thirds.
Recipe reprinted with permission from The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Food Photography credit: Louisa Shafia © 2013