Herb stew sounds like one of those "recipes" I'd come up with as a kid poking around in the garden for kitchen experiments. After all, in Western cuisine, fresh herbs are usually added at the end of cooking for a burst of greenery and bright flavor. But according to Lousia Shafia, author of The New Persian Kitchen, herb-filled stews are some of the most famous in Iran. Her version is a lighter, vegetarian take on the green stew, filled with cubes of turmeric-laced tofu and fat red kidney beans. But the bulk of the stew is, indeed, chopped parsley, cilantro, and scallions (bulked up with a bit of spinach), and the mixture is surprisingly delicious. The grassy greens cook down and mellow, turning into a fragrant, earthy melange excellent atop fluffy rice or stuffed into a pita.
Why I picked this recipe: Shafia calls this dish one of the most famous in Persian cuisine, so how could I say no?
What worked: It may not be your first inclination to cook down a huge bowl of herbs, but the gentle heat works magic on the greenery--the flavors of the herbs are somehow mellowed and enhanced, transforming these supporting players into stars in their own right.
What didn't: Nothing.
Suggested tweaks: While the recipe lists frozen, thawed, and roasted tofu as the main protein, this stew traditionally includes chicken. If you're not looking to make a vegetarian meal, you can substitute salted and seared boneless chicken meat for the tofu. If you can't find dried limes, you can add several strips of lime zest to the stew.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.