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My cookbook: "Tehran to New York"

On the Norouz day of 2020 spring, I finally published my book. The manuscript is titled: "Tehran to New York: A culinary bridge between Persian and Western cultures" and aims at presenting a unique blend of classic and contemporary Persian recipes, as well as samples of Western-style cuisine, offered in a Persian context. It is important to build bridges between cultures, and not walls. This book aims at constructing a bridge between the Persian and Western cultures. The book may be ordered here:  

Eggplant Tahchin with lemon tahini sauce

Tahchin is a Persian dish made by mixing parboiled and drained rice with yogurt and saffron custard and spreading the resulting mixture on the bottom of pots or baking pans. The dish can either be cooked in a pot (see here, and here) or baked in an oven (see here, and here). To make the presented Tahchin, the author has utilized a rather unusual approach; with the rice mixture being treated as a pie shell, spread on a large baking dish, and the resulting shell later filled up with a vegetarian eggplant mixture. The chosen flavor profile is also not Persian but is more inclined towards Arab and Middle Eastern flavors. 

Eggplant stuffing:
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 TBSP sugar
1 large Italian eggplant, cut to medium cubes
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 TSP fresh thyme leaves
¼ TSP Allspice
¼ TSP cinnamon
¼ TSP cardamom
½ TSP salt
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP Urfa pepper
1 TBSP sumac
Rice layer:
2 cups Jasmine, Basmati, or long grain rice
7.05 Ounces (200 gr or ¾ cup) thick 2% yogurt
2 TBSP vegetable oil
½ TSP salt
1 TBSP saffron solution
Tahini sauce:
½ cup tahini
½ cup water
1 lemon
1 TSP granulated garlic
Few drops of liquid smoke (optional)
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
To garnish:
½ cup pine nuts 

Make the eggplant mixture by adding the oil and sugar to a large pan. Add the eggplant, onion, garlic, and red pepper pieces. Saute on medium heat until the eggplant is soft but not cooked through. Add the thyme, all the spices, salt, and the tomato paste. When spices are toasted, add a splash of water to mix in all the flavors. Mix in the sumac and Urfa and remove from the heat and set aside to cool down.    
Parboil and drain the rice, following the instruction as seen in this post. Mix the rice with yogurt, oil, salt, and saffron solution. Spread the mixture on the bottom of a large shallow pan (approximately 12 Inches [~30 cm] in diameter). Spread the eggplant mixture atop. Cover the pan with a piece of aluminum foil and bake in a preheated 350F (~175C) oven for 45 minutes.

In the meantime, make the tahini sauce with mixing all the ingredients. Spread the sauce on the eggplant mixture immediately before serving. Alternatively, you can cook the sauce by spreading it 15 minutes before the baking time finishes. Garnish with pinenuts and serve.


Would Aleppo pepper be a good substitute for Urfa in this recipe?
I just made this recipe - here is my feedback:

Overall - absolutely delicious. I love the sweet vegetable filling with the custardy rice.

The adjustments I made - instead of Urfa pepper, I used Aleppo pepper. This was a fine substitution, although the Aleppo pepper isn't very hot. I also used a 10" diameter cast iron skillet instead of the 12" frying pan specified in the recipe. As such, I didn't use all the rice or vegetable filling.

Points to improve - my tahchin was not at all crispy. I would put it in at 400 or 425 instead of 350 to ensure the crust develops. Also, my rice was not as yellow as in the recipe. I think my saffron solution may have not contained enough saffron (I used a pinch - maybe it needed a teaspoon), or perhaps I did not use hot enough water (I used hot tap water, boiling may have been a better choice).

I would definitely make this delicious recipe again, with the improvements.