This Thanksgiving marks the very first time ever since my family moved to the U.S that I won’t be observing this secular holiday haven of food and gratitude on American soil. I’m in Tehran (as you know) where I’m beginning to feel more and more at home, and yet, as is the peculiar and paradoxical wont of the hyphenated identity, I’m also away from home and miss family, friends, and biking across the Brooklyn bridge; and I’m homesick for that glorious je ne sais quoi of foliage and glitter and decadent cinnamon-laden frothy coffee concoctions that is the fall and the holiday season in New York.
I’m not making a turkey dinner to mark the occasion because frankly, I’m lazy, and instead I’m getting together with a dear old school chum. That will be a celebratory feast in and of itself.
Thanksgiving is of course as much about food and family as it is about gratitude. Personally, I am deeply grateful for myriad blessings big and small this year, taking none for granted, and yet, on a Debbie Downer note, I can’t help but be forlorn by the brutal and appalling turn of events in the world. Then again, I take a deep breath and recall sage words of wisdom of how each of us can be agents of change by the way we behave and react to the world; and remember a Persian poem that goes: “There’s much hope in hopelessness, and at the end of the darkest night is the light of the dawn.”
Here’s to hope and dawn and light and all that is good and delicious. I wish each and everyone of you celebrating this festive holiday to have a wonderful and warm gathering and bellies filled with turkey and cranberry and yummy stuffing (yum yum, miss it already) and for the rest of us, I wish hearts filled with kindness and gratitude. (If you want to listen to a great podcast on the subject of gratitude, Google TTBOOK’s “Gratitude Attitude” – it’s quite enlightening.)
In lieu of recipes and pictures of a feast, what I have for you are some photos that I hope will be akin to a visual feast of sorts.
Here’s the story of this pic: one time we were at home minding our business when the doorbell rang and lo, we were offered these two bowls of “nazri” Persian saffron rice pudding aka sholeh zard (a good recipe here.)
“Nazri” is the food or alms that believers make and offer to the public-at-large (or feed to the needy) in the hopes of having their prayers answered.
These sholeh zards were really good by the way! Quality ingredients! Pistachio, cinnamon and almonds and the perfectly light touch of rose water. YUM!
Ooh! This refreshment (back in Kermanshah) was such a treat: fresh shahtoot (red mulberries) picked from my cousin’s fruit garden, frozen, and served with a little silver spoon in a little bowl. Each bite was ice cold and sweet and tart and crunchy and so good I wanted to weep! Ha ha. I’m half joking. I do want to weep now though when I can only look at its photo and don’t have any to gobble up. (The pretty paisley fabric is called “termeh” by the way.)
Just recently I went to my friend’s awesome cafe, called Golo Morgh Cafe in Lavassan (a mountainous and posh suburb of Tehran) where among other things, I enjoyed this luscious tart. The thick coffee table photo book next to the tart was a treat as well, but I only got to leaf through a very few pages of it! I very much hope to return to this cafe again and again.
These are called “albaloo khoshkeh” or dried sour cherries. Among the most favorite childhood snacks of my childhood. What can I say except that are: SO. GOOD! And addictive. Very very addictive.
On a particularly nice and bright and brisk day, one of my friends and her husband took me mountain hiking in Darakeh. What a day! We hiked the rocky trail with the roar of the river snaking around and underneath our path and practically each step of the way was filled with happy hikers and vendors offering everything from persimmon to to walnuts and pomegranates. For lunch we stopped at a mom and pop popular cafe for the most exquisite fesenjan I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting and before that, once we had spent nearly two hours hiking, we lounged on wooden beds lined with threadbare Persian carpets in a garden with tall walnut trees and the sound track of the stream flowing through it and ordered tea. Our tea tray came laden with lemons and dates and the windfall of the azgil (loquats) were the rewards of a chance encounter with another friend.
On that note, I’ll take my leave and go make myself a nice cup of tea.
Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!
Friends! I’m still here!
But that, I mean I’m still writing here on the blog (hello hello) and also that I’m still here in Iran. One reason for my extended stay is that I’m going to be one of the speakers at the upcoming TEDxTehran 2015! Isn’t that exciting? The theme is paradigm shift and I will be talking about … what else? FOOD! But of course! I’m thrilled and terrified all at once. Wish me luck, please! OK? (I will post a couple of days before the blessed event with further details including how to watch a livestream, etc.)
Meanwhile, I’m in Tehran as I said, which: YAY, where I’m progressively feeling more and more like a local and yet also still observe and absorb everything with the big delighted eyes of a tourist. In some ways, this is the best of worlds, because it makes even ordinary things like a day spent running errands filled with bubbles of fun! I thought I’d share with you photos of one such November day, an overcast and rather gloomy day (doing boring every day things) but one that nevertheless was punctuated again and again with sightings that firmly planted a smile on my face.
Hope you’ll enjoy this little photo tour of a day in life in Tehran as well.
Here we have 3 gents near Laleh Park bending down to skim the headlines at a newspaper kiosk. A common sight!
And here we have lavashak lollipops! Say WHAT? Wonders never cease. (Lavashak is the name for Persian fruit roll ups, usually made in thin flat sheets. This newfangled lollipop version is a rather genius interpretation of this traditional and very popular snack!)
I frequently walk by the Laleh Hotel (formerly known as Intercontinental Hotel) and the flamingos and the flowers and Alice in the Wonderland mushrooms are rather cheerful sightings as I pass by.
I dig this art poster depicting an Ashura scene (an important religious historical event) and I shamelessly begged the gallery manager for a copy. (Per Yvonne joon’s sage guidance!) But I then never did make it back there to pick it up. For shame!
The gallery itself is a small but well appointed one, situated inside the Laleh Park – a large and quite wonderful park (filled with many delights) – a subject that deserves its own post. One day soon, perhaps!
Motorcyclists in Tehran are a menace. A MENACE I tell you! And any and all sightings of them in action fill one (or at least moi) with appalled and fearful derision. However, this harmless stationary candy-red motorcycle with its clean and well groomed fuzzy red hand-warming handles did make me chuckle with appreciation.
I happened to follow in the trail of this young Iranian family for half a block as we all headed down on Vessal Shirazi street in Tehran. I dug the cheerful orange accessories of the young mother, and I mean, look at that cute little baby with his red hat! Whose gloomy day wouldn’t be brightened by such an quietly inquisitive adorable little face?
I also got a kick out of passing by this fruit cart spilling with its cargo of pomegranates and oranges and appreciated the vendor’s time-honored Persian practice of sipping tea while conducting business.
And here we have stuffed animals merrily posing for a group portrait in front of Tehran’s Contemporary Museum of Art!
This is the same museum by the way that very recently exhibited this! Incredible! I got to check out that exhibit twice and this Friday hope to go to the opening of another major exhibit. This museum is another subject that surely deserves its very own post. Sometime!
And finally, let’s conclude this post with these delicious treats – which is precisely how this shekamoo concluded and rewarded her long day of running errands.
Any day ending with kooloocheh (@MariaDernikos is a treasured friend and stellar fellow food blogger and her kooloocheh recipe guest post is stellar as well! Natch!) and noon ‘eh panjareh is indeed a bright day!
And that’s it folks, till we meet next, and till then, hugs and kisses from Tehran, Iran and its pastry-shop-filled streets and snowy dusted mountain peaks.
Hi everyone! I’ve been traveling and frolicking in Iran as you may know. Before taking off, I’d written a bunch of blog posts to publish in my absence (so that you wouldn’t forget about me … you didn’t, I hope?) but still, it felt like taking a break and I have really missed talking to you all! I’m ridiculously excited to be back and gabbing with you again.
So what’s new, you ask? (more…)
Let’s start perusing the Persian nooks and crannies of cyberspace in part #4 of Internet: Persian Style series! with this fun photo of a group of Iranian soap opera actresses gathered for a birthday. The photo was posted on Twitter by @Sidewalk Lyrics (love all of her wonderful postings! You should totally follow her) who quipped thusly: “There’s more botox than cake.” Ha ha!
But … I mean, I don’t know … maybe I’ve become desensitized by the Kardashians and Hollywood actors like Mickey Rourke et al, but these ladies (except for one glaring exception, ahem) look pretty normal to mine eyes. What do you think? Way too much botox? By the way, I had no idea there were Iranian soap operas! How fun! By another way: I’ve never had botox but I’m considering it. I am considering it, child! If you can’t beat them inject yourself with botulism toxin and join them. Or something to that effect!
— Nima Akbarpour (@nima) July 30, 2015
This banoo (lady, that is) by the name of Farnaz Hashemi is the only woman in Iran whose occupation is the making and fitting of horseshoes. A farrier, that is. (Interesting article in Farsi at the source.)
— Sarah Joon (@Farrah_Joon) May 19, 2015
Where is my badbezan? I need to both fan myself and fan the kabob! :)
This is too funny and entirely awesome!
A photo posted by Pegah Pashai (@pegah.pashai) on
Iranians (Persians) are big on serving fruit when expecting guests. The fruit is washed and arranged artfully into a pyramid shape on a serving platter. I have to say this is one of the most delightful arrangements I’ve seen so far and I have seen my fair share of Persian-style fruit arrangement. I love how the hosts used grape leaves in the bottom layer. Such a lightheartedly tasteful and creative touch!
Oh this is a funny vintage ad I found on Facebook. I’m guessing it is circa late 1950’s or early 1960’s. It’s an ad for hairspray with the brand name of “Taft” which was so popular that it was the generic term for hairspray.
The highlighted line of the copy on top reads: “Like an invisible shield, Taft keeps your hair in place exactly as you wish.” And the bottom highlighted line of coy reads: “Taft is an essential toiletry of every lady!”
But of course!
A photo posted by toiran.com (@toirancom) on
And let’s end round #4 of our Persian Internet odyssey with this shot of office workers in an Iranian startup company. There’s a surge of tech-savvy entrepreneurial enterprises in Iran, apparently. Which: cheers and hip hip hooray for progress.
Until we meet again, I bid you a fond farewell and I remain your chaker va mokhles and abd va abid blogger.
[This post scheduled to publish while I’m on my Epic Trip to Iran, part 2.]
Saffron (called za’faran زعفران in Farsi) is a lovely spice. It adds color, flavor and fragrance to food; and to top it off, saffron boasts an incredible range of health benefits as well, including acting as an appetite stimulant and digestive aid.
Adding to the lure and allure of saffron is that it is harvested from pretty, purple crocus flowers. No one could invent a cooler, more gorgeous packaging! Nature is the supreme artist. Divine, one might even say! ;)
Isn’t this photo a beautiful vision? The image is courtesy of @Freejust1, a Twitter friend who harvested these beauties from his own garden in Kashmir. (A Kashmiri garden that has a fairy tale view of mountains by the way! Remember from the post about azgil aka loquat? Scroll down to see!)
Here’s a photo of saffron crocus plants growing in the beautiful gardens of The Cloisters in New York. (An enchanted corner of New York City that you must visit.) The Cloisters gardens also boast of pear and quince trees! Very pretty.
If you ever get a chance to look closely at saffron flowers you will detect that nestled inside the crocus flower’s pretty purple leaves are 3 fragile crimson colored antennas — I call them antennas but they are properly called “stigmas”– which when harvested will become 3 saffron threads. No stigma in this game!
Can you now then venture a guess as to why saffron is so expensive? Plucking flowers by hand and carefully separating the 3 saffron stigmas to harvest just 3 saffron threads takes a good bit of time; and it takes a heap of delicate saffron threads to make just yek mesgal (tiny bit) of zafaran. How many flowers does it take to produce just one pound of saffron? “Something like 50,000 flowers!” [Source] Isn’t that something? And that, my friends, is why saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. But: worth every riyal and dinero and dollar and pence!
Don’t you wish you could grow your own pretty crocus plants and harvest saffron? I surely wish I could plant a field of dreamy purple haze. [I love this blog post about someone who did just that and planted saffron crocus and harvested saffron threads.]
With its diverse utility and stunning and alluring aesthetic lure, it makes sense why saffron is beloved globally in nearly every culture’s cuisines. One example being the cuisine of Kashmir where per our friend @Freejust1 (who bestowed that beautiful photo of saffron flowers above) saffron is used in kehwa, tea without milk, in halwa, and also in many preparations of mutton.
Saffron is of course a treasured staple ingredient and cornerstone of Persian cuisine – in some ways synonymous with Persian food. Nothing beats the glorious aroma of saffron-laced Persian food spreading its heavenly angel wings in the kitchen; or the gorgeous crimson color that saffron so generously bestows upon food at first touch; and of course nothing rivals the crowning glory of saffron in Persian cooking: fluffy crimson-crowned Persian saffron-scented rice.
Myriad Persian recipes (not just rice dishes but everything from dessert to stews to caramelized onions to Persian ice cream) count saffron as a vital ingredient.
The foundational first step of using saffron in any and all Persian recipes starts with 1) grinding saffron into a fine powder and then 2) making ab ‘e zafaran or saffron water,
Both are quite easy to do once you’ve seen how it’s done. Let’s check out a few homemade videos on “how to grind saffron” and “how to make saffron water” and for good measure, I’ll also include a very simple recipe for making saffron tea.
How to Grind Saffron
You know what I love about grinding saffron? The wonderfully enticing ensuing aroma. I also love the soothing rhythmic soundtrack when grinding saffron in a traditional Persian ha’van (pestle and mortar.) In the video below check out my little nephew grinding saffron in a darling mini Persian havan with his darling wee hands.
(I scored this cute little “ha’van” in Isfahan on a trip with my lovely aunt. I must, must, must write soon all about Isfahan.)
Would you like to see a grown up version of grinding saffron? Why you are in luck and here’s Laya in LA LA Land show you!
Laya’s tip for grinding saffron: To finely grind saffron threads in a mortar and pestle Laya recommends that you add a sugar cube to it. This is a trick Laya learned from her mother – Mrs. Lavassani – an accomplished lady who started a school called Honarestan in Tehran. (The very same school where Roza Montazemi, a revered Iranian cookbook author, was one of her students.)
How to Make Saffron Water
Making saffron water (dissolving ground saffron in hot water) is one of the steps in countless Persian food recipes. Nothing is easier. Would you like to see how to do it? Watch Laya!
As you can see, all you need to do to make saffron water it dissolve a bit of ground saffron in hot water and brew for at least 10 or so minutes to release its color, flavor and aroma. Easy breezy!
How to Make a Quick Saffron Tea
To take advantage of the many health benefits of saffron, it makes sense to partake of saffron as often as possible, ideally on a daily basis. But who has time to make Persian saffron-kissed rice every day? A good, healthy, and easy way to get your saffron fix is to make saffron tea. Here’s how:
Make tea as usual in a teapot and add 1/3 teaspoon ground saffron. Brew for 10 minutes and you’ll have a wonderful and fragrant saffron tea. I drink this w/out sugar but if you’d like, it goes well with nabat or a cube of sugar. You know what else goes great with saffron tea? A COOKIE!
And that’s it folks!
Khoda hafez till we meet again and may until then & forever more your kitchens be imbued with the heavenly scent of saffron!
A family taking photos in Ibn-Sina’s (Avicenna’s) Tomb. He was an Iranian polymath regarded both in Europe and the Middle East as one of the most significant thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age. #Hamedan, #Iran. Photo by Khashayar Sharifae @khashayarsharifae #everydayiran خانوادهای در حال عکس گرفتن در آرامگاه ابنسینا. #همدان، #ایران. عکاس: خشایار شریفایی
A photo posted by Everyday Iran (@everydayiran) on
family taking photo at Ibn Sina tomb
[This post scheduled to publish while I’m on my Epic Trip to Iran, part 2.]
Let’s start perusing the Persian nooks and crannies of cyberspace in part #5 of Internet: Persian Style series! with this paparazzi style family portrait. What did we all ever do before smart phones? I wonder if Ibn-Sina would have enjoyed putzing around on his smart phone? I have a feeling he would have greatly enjoyed it actually. Ancient polymaths: They are just like us!
Probably the last shot of #isfahan #ajamistan #aks_baran #afterlight #bazar #esfehan #esfahanziba #friend #grandbazar #iran #insiran #instagood #instamood #instadaily #instadaily #irantravel #instapersia #instaesfahan #light #mosque #mustseeiran #naghshejahan #vsco #vscocam #vscoiran #vscoaward #ايران #اصفهان #بازار
A photo posted by فرنا! (@farnazzzz) on
Such a quiet and serene shot! It feels like a short poem. In one of my favorite cities in Iran: Isfahan. (Nesf’e jahan!)
Maybe masked portraits would dethrone the reign of the selfies? Doubt it.
Anyhow, the lady in the photo is holding a children’s music album called “Red Autobus” to cover her head. She mentions how a chance conversation at work prompted the purchase and that the music, while geared towards children, can be enjoyed by all who enjoy cheerful and fun songs.
The early spring is end of nawranj season in my hometown in Khuzestan. As a child, spring rituals included going to the orchards and picking the last of the crop. Then, cooking them in a fire under the shades of a blossoming tree. The orchards are no longer – but the ritual continues.
A photo posted by Pedestrian (@pede5trian) on
A photo posted by REORIENT Magazine (@reorientmag) on
This is the Iranian singer named Ramesh in the pre-revolution Iran of the 1970s. When it came to pop stars, Googoosh was number #1 in popularity and then there was Ramesh. Googoosh was all coy and charm, and Ramesh was all edgy and fierce. Image found via @reorientmag a hip, trendy and nearly scholarly magazine “celebrating contemporary Middle Eastern arts and culture.” And celebrate it does, with style to spare!
Thus concludes our relatively sedate yet hopefully entertaining round #5 tour of some interesting nooks and crannies of Persian cyberspace.
[This post scheduled to publish while I’m on my Epic Trip to Iran, part 2.]
I pretty much live on green smoothies – a blending of yogurt and veggies and fruit. My blender is the hardest working member of the household you might say, I suppose, and it is not entirely rewarded for its labor, save for showing signs of wear and tear. No day spa for my (non union) blender! Oh no!
My green smoothie concoctions have served me well, morphing here and then with seasonal ingredients and moods. I’m a creature of habit when it comes to what goes in my smoothie, a serial monogamist, that is to say I’m loyal to a fault to a particular combo until one day, I’m not, and boom, it’s time to move on!
There was a time when I was fixated on using macca powder and goji berries; there was that time when flax seeds were a must; there was a bout of using soy or almond milk instead of dairy but for a long while now, I have a very streamlined staple list of ingredients.
Right now my magic formula for making a delicious and super healthy green smoothie potion is to take a whole bunch of fresh kale (at least 2 cups, use more to thicken smoothie, less if you like your smoothie with less “grassie” flavor) a large ripe banana (a MUST ingredient, as it is the only sweetening agent), water to dilute (one cup or more depending on how much kale I use) and one cup of whole plain yogurt. That’s it. And it’s great — a balanced if not dazzling flavor. But recently I’ve also been on a kick of Persianizing my green smoothie and have concocted my own mixed spice Persian advieh that hits the spot and delivers a punch of health benefits into the bargain. It’s a keeper!
What does it takes to Persianize my green smoothie?
Here’s the cast of the usual suspects, in a line up, from left to right:
Not pictured but an exquisite and requisite little touch for both health and that je ne sais quoi touch: rosewater and saffron water!
There was an error retrieving images from Instagram. An attempt will be remade in a few minutes.