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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ziryab! King of Carmelized Tomatoes! (and the joy and wonder which is Kimmy LaKim).

Today's posting is from my dear friend, Kimmy LaKim. Kimmy LaKim lives in a small town in Conneticut. She owns the infamous Kimmy LaKim Film and TV production company, Streetwise Pictures based in NYC and is a spirit of great love and generosity. I adore Kimmy LaKim.

See her here:

And I can't stop writing her name. Kimmy LaKim, Kimmy LaKim, Kimmy LaKim.

Kimmy LaKim is not her birth name. Her birth name is Kim Jackson (if you're nasty) but I feel, very strongly, she must change it to the aforementioned Kimmy LaKim.

She is my guest blogger today. Here is the wild, beautiful, sexy, amazing, sublime Goddess who is truly one of the best friends I could ever hope for in this life.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Kim Jackson's take on the famous Persian chef Ziryab's "Chicken with Caramelized Tomatoes"!

Take it away, Kimmy LaKim!

I know. She's fucking hot, right?

Here is Kim in her own words:

Ziryab's real name was Abu l-Hasan 'Ali Ibn Nafi'. He was a Persian man who lived from 789-857. It was said that he was given the name Ziryab because of his dark complexion, eloquence and melodious voice. Oooh, doesn't he sound yummy, a tall dark man with a voice like chocolate cream pie....

The eclectic nature of Ziryab’s accomplishments include music, fashion and cuisine. He was a truly a Persian renaissance man and was well versed in many areas of classical study such as astronomy, history, and geography.

He is also known to have invented an early toothpaste and under-arm deodorants and new short hairstyles leaving the neck, ears and eyebrows free, as well as shaving for men. Well, now we're talking...who doesn't love a clean shaven man?

So did this guy cook!??? Yes, not only did he cook but he introducing new fruit and vegetables such as asparagus, and introduced the three-course meal, insisting that meals should be served in three separate courses consisting of soup, the main course, and dessert.

He also introduced the use of crystal as a container for drinks, which was more effective than metal goblets. Prior to his arrival in al-Andalus in 822, there had been no style in food presentation since the Roman Empire. Food was served plainly on platters on bare tables, much as remains the "traditional" style in the middle east to this day. Barbarians!

Ziryab brought with him many dishes from Baghdad, (including the Chicken with Caramelized Tomatoes recipe), introduced fine tablecloths and glassware instead of metal goblets, and developed a new order of service for the table.

This "more elegant, better-bred and modern style" became established in al-Andalus, thence spread across the Pyrenees to Europe, and became the standard service we still use today.

Ziryab changed that....OK, only a gay man has that much passion! It God love Ziryab and thank you for all you did in the name of culture and cuisine.

Tell us more, Kim! How fascinating!

Chicken with Caramelized Tomatoes
Djej b-matisha

Serves 4

4 1/2 lbs. very ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 large chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic chopped
3 tbsp honey
8 tbsp butter
1 cup toasted blanched almonds
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. saffron
1 tsp. cinnamon powder

In a heavy pot, place the chicken, tomatoes, butter, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, ginger, saffron, and 1 cup of water. Cook over medium heat for 45 minutes.

Remove the pieces of chicken from the pot, as soon as they are cooked.

Caramelize the tomatoes by stirring them frequently and then add the honey and cinnamon, still stirring.

Place the chicken back in the pot for a few minutes, to give it the flavor of the sauce.

Arrange the chicken in an attractive serving dish, pour the sauce over it, and top with toasted almonds and sesame seeds.

So, I made this dish a few nights ago with all the tomatoes from our "garden" on the balcony of our fabulous beach pad that we fondly call the Pirates Den. I was specifically looking for a recipe for these tomatoes, because they've started going red and I can't keep up with them!!!

I did not use 4 pounds of tomatoes and also did not peel them (which I now recommend) because we have Roma tomatoes and they are smallish and if I seeded them and peeled them, there would be nothing left. But the sauce still came out good, but I'm looking forward to making this again using the right amount and type of tomatoes.

Now, the garlic was not in the ingredients list, but was listed in the first line of the directions (I love how precise they are), so I just added 2-3 cloves of garlic chopped, because I love garlic. It could not really be tasted because the saffron flavor was very strong...and can be overpowering, so I'd use this sparingly, to taste!

The sauce is very decadent, so I also made some brown rice and added chopped fresh prunes (another Persian favorite), basil and salt while it was boiling. You can make any kind of rice, but I do recommend some kind of side dish to soak up that fabulous sauce!

What I love about this recipe is that it's very easy and it feels so good to be cooking it. I felt very connected to ancient Persia and to this interestingly fearless man, Ziryab. I felt romantic and creative (even though it was someone else's recipe). What a simple pleasure. I love exploring Middle Eastern cuisine and learning more about the culture and origin of the people through their food!


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