Dopiazeh (Double Onion)
This is the lunch my mom would have ready for me in Esfahan, back when I was in high school… about 18 years ago. Iran’s school system is competitive, intense, and was even more tormenting to me, since my stay in Canada left me with a weak science base to work with.
Education is highly valued and sought after by both sexes in Iran, and unfortunately, one’s social acceptance, class, dignity and pride hinges on their job title, degree, and grades. If you take away all the hours I studied in my room, in the classroom, and a couple of hours of sleep at night, you’d be left with lunch hours.
Walking in through the front door of our house, inhaling the aroma of lovingly prepared Persian food, and being greeted by mom’s smile was among the main highlights of the day. She would make me a plate, while I yapped about school and broke into giggles for no reason (so I was told). Calmly, Maman would look at me and say “ghadr in rooz ha ro bedun ke sar hichi mikhandi” meaning “cherish the days you laugh for no reason”.
As we get older, and more burdened with social responsibilities and the self-imposed pressure to measure up to our collective norms and values, we find less humor in everyday existence. Unstoppable titters give way to laughs that only come about with the assistance of a professional comedian, or a well written screenplay.
If you ever had the good fortune of watching Tibetan Buddhist monks or teachers, they might strike you as ‘childish’, since they lack seriousness and find many things a source of delight and laughter. Most observers find their glee contagious, and join with chuckles, even when they fail to see the humor in the situation……and there is nothing wrong with that. Laughing should not have a proper reason.
This the picture of one of my teachers, Tulku Sang-Ngag Rinpoche trying the Macarena dance (photo courtesy of Radd Icenoggle Photography). He’s having fun, isn’t he?
Now, back to the food that motivated my philosophical rant. I can’t even remember what my mom called it (maybe Goosht-o Piaz?), but noticed it being referred to as Dopiazeh (Double Onion) by some. There is two ways to go about cooking this dish, and I have a preference for the crunchy oven roasted potatoes. Persians include a moderate amount of frying in their cooking, but I prefer to skip the entire process and bake in the oven, which is healthier and less labor intensive.
- 1 lb ground meat (beef, lamb, etc.)
- 2 large onions, peeled and diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 med. russet potatoes, washed, peeled and diced into cubes
- 4-5 Tbs tomato paste
- 1 tsp turmeric
- salt and pepper to taste
Time~ 1- 1.5 hr
- In non-stick pan over med heat, saute onions in enough oil/butter ’till translucent (~10 min). Lower heat and saute longer ’till partially caramelized (~ 15 min or more). If desired sprinkle some sugar to help with browning.
- Add minced garlic and cook (1-2 min). Stir in the turmeric ’till fragrant (~1 min). Use more oil or sprinkle a bit of water to keep the spices from burning.
- Add the ground beef and cook on med. heat (~15 min) while breaking up the clumps as best as you can. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add a 1/2 cup of hot water and tomato paste and mix well.
- Toss in the cubed potatoes, the second batch of the chopped onions and stir. Cover and cook on med.-low heat for at least 45 minutes or ’till the potatoes cook. Add more water if needed.
- Ideally the potato chunks remain firm and the onions a bit under cooked for an extra onion flavor.
- In an oven safe dish, toss potatoes with enough oil/butter. Sprinkle some salt and and roast in the oven @ 350 Fahrenheit ’till they get crispy (~ 45 min).
- Meanwhile, add the second batch of chopped onions and cook ’till tender.
- Mix in the roasted potatoes just before serving.
Serve over rice or with pita bread (closest bread to Persian naan) along with creamy yogurt or sabzi (fresh herbs).
If desired, sprinkle sumac liberally or squeeze some lime over it.
Befarma sare sofreh