Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sovereign State #11: Azerbaijan

Sabsa Govurma Plovu
Azerbaijani Plov or Rice Pilaf
Roasted Lamb Chops with Herb Sauce (pistou) and Toasted Pine Nuts
Limon Sharbati (Lemon Sherbet)

So not that long ago you could have said the word Azerbaijan and I wouldn't have known what the hell you were talking about.  As a child of the Reagan-era cold war I was taught that The Soviet Union was a scary backwards place full of nuclear missiles and the stone faced children of Stalin would use them with no care of the impending apocalypse.  Back to the days of duck and cover.  Those school desks must have been made of some serious special press wood if hiding under it was my last line of defense.  Alas, here were are.  So back then, Russia and Azerbaijan were all part of the U.S.S.R, one big socialist Soviet extravaganza.  But like a girl with a stupid mean boyfriend/girlfriend, eventually they'll want to split.  Essentially all of Russia's girlfriends said "don't call me, I'll call you".  So now the good ole' U.S.S.R is broken up into like 534 countries or something like that.  Okay, maybe it's more like 10 but it seems like a lot.  So anyways, Azerbaijan is a pretty neat country with it's own distinct culture and cuisine.  It's a land of mutton, saffron, pomegranates, chestnuts, and olives.  

Plov is not an appetizing name for a dish.  I realize it's another language but knowing that doesn't make it sound more delicious.  They need to get a marketing person to come in there and jazz up the name.  You know, "Alrighty then, let's say we call it Rice Spectacular, the Azerbajaini treat!"  Plov is Azerbaijan's national dish.  This tasty rice pilaf goes with everything and there are lots of preparations for the dish.  I made a basic style plov which is basmati type rice with saffron and olives.  For the lamb I marinated it in olive oil with lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs for an hour or so.  Then I got a good sear on a saute pan over high heat and finished them in the oven.  For the Azerbaijani herb "pistou" I tossed some fresh cilantro, fresh basil, fresh parsley, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a little plain yogurt into a blender and pulsed until the sauce came together.  Toast some pine nut in a dry pan over low heat.  Delicious.

So in the States sherbet is frozen fruit dessert.  In Azerbaijan it's their national drink.  I made a lemon sherbet with saffron and coriander seeds.  It's very refreshing and I could see it being great on a warm summer day.  I cut down the sugar to 5 Tbsp versus the usual 10 tablespoons so my teeth wouldn't fall out.  It's almost like a spiced lemonade and the saffron give a luxurious feel to it.  Very unique and delicious.  It would be fun to use this as a starter for a yummy cocktail and I can do so not being from Azerbaijan or Muslim and all.  But even on it's own it's super tasty.  No disrespect at all or anything, I'm just a lush and feel that all beverages are better with hooch in them.  But anyways, here's the rated G version of  limon sharbati.

Limon Sharbati

1/8 teaspoon saffron
1 untreated lemon, juice and zest of
1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
5 tablespoons sugar

Dissolve the saffron powder in 1/2 cup water.
Chop the lemon peel fine and place in a container.
Pour over the peel 2 cups of freshly boiled water and add the coriander seeds. Allow to steep for 4 hours.
Strain and mix in the lemon juice and sugar. Add the saffron infusion and serve the sherbet well cooled.

For more info on this project, read this: 203 Sovereign States

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