Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash and Beans

Butternut Squash Rice

“When are you going to change that cookie picture on your blog?” – recently a good friend of mine reproached me nicely.  She is right. I have been away for too long. But my mind has always been here, really. Please bear with me as I disappear and emerge from the abyss of silence from time to time. I am not quitting blogging – I am here. Just a bit (actually a lot) slow for the myriad of reasons for which I am not going to complain. All is well and life is beautiful and colorful.

Speaking about colorful. Rice pilaf can be colorful too. Just like the one in the recipe below, in which rice is happily married with sun bright butternut squash and pretty tiny brown beans. I’ll tell you more about this delicious rice pilaf.

This pilaf comes from Azerbaijan where it is also called balgabagli ash. Many variations of rice pilaf made with butternut squash are made across the country. Some call for butternut squash only to mix with the rice, others take additional ingdedients, such as dried beans, while others require meat for a more elaborate taste. This particular recipe comes from the regions of Balaken and Zagatala and I learned to make it from my aunt, an excellent cook of the region’s dishes.

Butternut Squash

Here the slightly sweetened butternut squash is sprinkled with dill seeds, the region’s cooking staple. You will love what the dills do to the squash – lots of aroma and flavor. The meat addition is cooked separately and is either combined with the cooked rice before serving, or served separately in a bowl, to pass around. Another method to make this pilaf with meat is to arrange tender raw pieces of young lamb onto one half on the bottom of the pan along with the butternut sqush that takes the other half, then spoon the rice on top and steam together. This recipe is my all-time favorite.

Note that no saffron is used in this particular rice pilaf. And a generous use of butter is welcome in the authentic recipe. I use it moderately though.

I hope you enjoy it. And forgive me while you enjoy it (smiles).

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Savory Cheese Cookies

Savory Cheese Cookies

I made these cookies a few days ago using the recipe from my friend Nur’s newly launched  blog in Turkish. I posted the picture bragging about my accomplishment on AZ Cookbook’s facebook page. Requests for English and Azerbaijani translation ensued soon after, which was expected, I think not because the picture was grand (you see the same picture here), but because “cheese” in the name of the cookies made everyone wonder how they taste – cheese, hmm. I would have wondered too. You can enjoy these delicious savory treats with a cup of hot sweetened tea, with a glass of cold milk, or just plain – good all the way. Nur, thank you for the recipe!

Savory Cheese Cookies

Adapted from Damla Sakizim blog

Makes about 40 cookies

Ingredients:

For the Dough:
3 cups  (or more, as needed) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
8.8 oz (250 g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (do not heat and melt!)
6 heaped tablespoonfuls of grated Mozzarella cheese
1 egg white

For the top:
1 egg yolk (or 2 if small)
Paprika

Directions:

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