This is a guest post scheduled to publish while I’m off on my excellent adventure of traveling in Iran. By Maria Dernikos, one of my favorite bloggers. If you missed Maria’s glorious kooloocheh recipe post, you should totally check it out and if you are not already reading Maria’s blog, you really must remedy the situation post haste. Maria displays refined tastes, understated penache, and a gentile and utterly sweet charm in every post. Her recipes are great and her stories “sit in the heart” which is a literal translation of “del neshin” a word we use in Persian, which is most apt. The guest recipe is for dulce de membrillo, a delectable sweet made with quince. Fond as I am of quinces and partial as I am to sweets, this is a recipe that I personally found alluring and am confident that you will find the same. Enjoy!
Hi everyone! As part of the continuing series of guest posts scheduled while I’m off on my excellent adventures in Iran, this post is by the lovely Suzanne, aka APugInTheKitchen. Suzanne is a fabulous cook (I can vouch for it firsthand) and she is also a wonderful friend. We met via blogging and in fact Suzanne is the first blogging friend I met in real life and wouldn’t you know it, we then became neighbors and live within “spitting distance” of each other. Which prompts me to ask: who ever came up with that horrid phrase? Who wants to spit and measure the trajectory’s distance? Moving back to a delightful topic: Suzanne’s a warm, caring and generous person and it reflects in her cooking as her food is absolutely delicious. I love both her savory and sweet dishes and covet most of the recipes she posts on her wonderful blog. Anyhow, please welcome Suzanne and let’s go and find out about this awesome looking and sounding sweet dessert – originally published here. And grab a spoon!
This post was written while nursing a coffee in the Mehrabad airport, Tehran, Iran.
I’m nearing the end of my epic trip to Iran but there’s still a couple of good weeks left. I am simultaneously positively pining (pining!) to be back in New York yet absolutely saddened & heartsick by the thought of leaving Iran. The plight of the hyphenated people!
Much like my iPhoto folder, my head and heart are exceeding capacity and busting at the seams — with the abundance of experiences and feelings and thoughts and tastes and sights of this adventure. I need a good bit of alone-time after leaving Iran to fully process this journey. In some ways, the present feels like a dream.
A nice dream though … with things like this:
So far, I’ve gotten to travel to the cities I long dreamt of visiting: Shiraz, Isfahan and Yazd. By the time this post is posted, I’ll be off on a sentimental trip to Kermanshah, the lovely region where my father’s family hails from. I’ve heard flowers are in abundance in the region now and I’m so looking forward to seeing my long-time-no-see relatives and tasting their sure-to-be delicious cooking.
Can’t wait either to sit down sometime in the future and share it all with you in a substantial heart-to-heart.
For now, till soon & have a happy weekend!
You may recall that Khoresh is the quintessential pillar of Persian cooking – a genre of food that encompasses an eclectic variety of tastes and flavors. More elaborate and sophisticated than a typical stew, khoresh is a slow-fusion combination of meat (or poultry or fish) cooked with fresh or dried fragrant herbs and vegetables, or fresh or dried fruits, grains, or legumes.
This recipe is for a type of khoresh known as aloo esfenaj – although some call it the other way around: esfenaj ‘o aloo. It is made with lots of esfenaj (spinach) and also plenty of aloo (plums.) Typically, the type of plums used for the khoresh aloo esefenaj are dried yellow ones known as aloo bokhara , but prunes (dried black plums) are a common substitution, specially outside of Iran where aloo bokhara are not easily found.
My mother reports that my grandmother used to often make khoresh aloo esfenaj — and it is one of my mom’s favorites. It is one of my favorites types of khoresh as well. There’s something undeniably luscious about the combination of cooked prunes, spinach and meat — with that signature flavor profile of Iranian food of being harmoniously savoury, tart and sweet all at once.
As notoriously complicated as Persian rice is to make, Persian stews make up for it by being quite forgiving and easy going, and this delicious khoresh is no exception. In the spirit of keeping things short and sweet, let’s click our heels and head straight over to the recipe.
This is a post written while I travel in Iran.
The other day, someone treated me to lunch in a truly sublime cafe in one of the northern neighborhoods of Tehran.
Days earlier while I was traveling in Yazd there had been an epic hailstorm in Tehran — a storm front that huffed and puffed and hours later made its potent presence felt in Yazd as well, ferociously shaking the lion and sun fabric of the tent ceiling of the coffee shop at the beautiful traditional hotel we were staying at, and delaying our flight from Yazd to Tehran — but on this particular spring day, the weather was just so, and just as one dreams of it being: breezy, clear, cheerfully sunny and perfectly mild.
We chose an outdoor seat, in a clearing lined by cypress tress on one side and surrounded by other tables occupied by what seemed to be a bunch of uniformly very pretty and very trendy Tehranis. Several arrivals were such spectacles that everyone stopped whatever they were doing and stared at the display of fashion and bravado … (if you know what I mean by bravado, ahem.) There was also a very beautiful and somewhat unabashedly communicative cat (such pretty eyes and such a fluffy coat of fur) who was not at all shy about demanding his fair share of food from the gathering at large.
Everything — the location, the menu, the architecture, the landscaping and the food (and beverage and dessert) — was delightful in a low key and gracious manner. Our interlude was leisurely but I was loathe to leave and felt like I could hang out there and nibble, imbibe, people-watch, sky-gaze and admire my beloved cypress trees for days and days!
What follows are some pix from this little marvelous lunch and the good things there were to enjoy.
We had the chicken tandoori wrapped in lavash bread and a kabab wrap. We also shared a terrific salad: crunchy lettuce, olives, feta cheese and crispy pita bread chips served with the most amazingly tart & sweet pomegranate dressing. I loved this salad.
For our drink, I picked …
A lemon, mint and sekanjabin (a mixture of vinegar and honey) drink with crushed ice that was the ultimate in cool fragrant refreshment and with just the perfect hint of sweetness. A winning choice.
My companio picked a pot of the soothing gol gav zaban (borage) brewed tea. It was served in the prettiest way on a little tray with saffron rock candy (nabat) on a stick and two pieces of a Yazdi sweet called Haji Badoom. I wish you could have seen the color of this tea — a very pale purple and rose color although in the photo it just looks like ordinary tea color.
For dessert we shared a wonderful traditional Persian ice cream …
that was sprinkled with solid chips of cream (khameh) …
Need I even mention that it tasted heavenly?
So now you see why I could really have happily spent hours there and would love to go back at least one more time before I return to New York. Meanwhile, I’m off to Shiraz and Kermanshah and I can’t wait to sample the culinary marvels of these cities and share it with you.
Have a delicious weekend and until soon!
Hi everyone! As part of the continuing series of guest posts scheduled while I’m off on my excellent adventures in Iran, this post is by the lovely Tortore, aka Darya, is a most fascinating and versatile blogger. As if food blogging is not hard enough (hello, writing recipes, quelle paine) she writes her posts in both French and English. Darya’s studies have taken her on travels to Syria and Iraq and she often shares very interesting recipes either hailing from or inspired by the cuisine of these regions but she also shares Russian, Italian, American, French and Asian cuisine as well. Darya’s blog is beautiful and clearly a labor of love of passion and one that you will make a habit of frequenting once you visit. Now let’s go devour this refreshing and pretty salad recipe!
The first weekend of September, I helped my friends out in their kitchen, peeling onions, chopping celery, frying fries, and cooking mussels for the Lille Braderie (the biggest “garage-sale-street-fair-mussel-eating-and-beer-drinking-event” in Europe). In the midst of a celery-chopping session, two of my friends asked me what one could use celery for… apart from Moules Marinières. At that moment, the only thing I could think of was Waldorf Salad (yum), but I thought it would be nice to come up with some other ideas as well.
When I went to fetch my local vegetables yesterday evening, I discovered that the “bunch of celery” which I had ordered was so huge that it was almost scary. I don’t usually use more than a stick or two of celery for my recipes, and I was a bit lost at the idea of having to use up that entire bunch. It didn’t even fit in the refrigerator. I had to stick the root into a huge pot of water, and hope the celery would still be fresh and crunchy the next day. And it was! Now that I have used some of it, I could do what I usually do when getting celery: I removed the leaves, washed, dried, and froze them for soups; and I wrapped the stems in foil, and placed them in the refrigerator. Celery doesn’t keep for very long before going limp, but I hope I can share some other recipes with you in a near future. I decided it was high time to give another thought to that question my friends had asked me back in September, and I hope they (and you) will enjoy what I have come up with.
After going through some cookbooks and websites, I decided I would begin with a salad. Not the usual tuna salad or egg salad (though I think I will make an egg salad at some point soon), but a light and fresh salad. I have already mentioned that I enjoy making one-course meals using a whole-grain, as they are quick, tasty, healthful, are usually not very time consuming, and can be made ahead of time. This salad is one of those. Today, I chose to use freekeh, which is wheat, harvested when still green, and roasted; I love it’s slightly smoky taste, firm texture, and the fact that it reminds me of Syria (where we used to eat it plain, drizzled with some clarified butter, or mixed with small pieces of leftover mutton). You could use farro, spelt, wheatberries, oat groats, rye, or any other firm grain you like. I should perhaps advise you against using barley, rice, and buckwheat here (trust me: barley will yield a mushy mess, rice will taste a bit bland here, and the taste of buckwheat is just too strong for this salad). While the grain is cooking, I washed, chopped, minced, and whisked. The cooked grain is then mixed with the seasoning, and allowed to cool. And that’s it! This salad is both fresh and crunchy, slightly tangy, and filling; it was unanimously appreciated in my home, so I hope you will want to try it in yours some day!
This post was written while I travel in Iran.
One night, a few weeks ago, my friends and I ended up eating dinner at a hopping (not fancy but well-known and well-loved) self-service restaurant in the heart of Tehran. Picture a huge salon with a seemingly endless aromatic array of all types of Persian food (you name it) which could be had simply by pointing – a dazzling and dizzying and enticing spectacle for sure but I nevertheless managed to keep my wits about me and remained mindful of taking a few pix for posterity.
This particular gentleman, the head chef, was (as you can see) quite agreeable regarding having his picture taken.
But this other assistant chef/server is giving me a scorching look like nobody’s business. Although, if I squint, I find his expression oddly enigmatic. A Persian Mona Lisa!
Now a note of warning: if you ever make it to Tehran, do not go to this restaurant when you are very hungry. Because you will inevitably pile your tray with a tremendous amount of food.
But they all look so delicious! Must. Eat. Everything!
And pile up the food we did! There were only 3 of us for dinner but we got enough food to feed a good number more.
And because I know you want to know, I am duty bound to tell you what’s what in each tray.
Top left tray contained the following goodies: mixed veggies; torshi (Persian pickles); fava bean rice (baghali polo) with lamb shank (mahicheh); and a can of an obscure beverage called Coca Cola.
Top right tray contained: ash reshteh, a big salad; yogurt with raisins, cucumber and walnuts; and an entree made with tongue (khorakeh zaban.)
As for this bottom tray, it belonged to a greedy but very happy person, and I will let you guess who that person may have been.
Let’s identify the delicious edibles clockwise from the top: a bowl of spinach and yogurt; a beautiful cherry rice with the thickest most wonderful tadig you could possibly want; a tray with a combo of jojeh kabab (grilled chickent) and kabab ‘e barg (lamb kabab); and for good measure — lest this greedy person might not be entirely sated afterall — also a bowl of delicious kashk bademjoon (eggplant and whey dish) topped with fried, dried mint.
It all looked good and all of it tasted from delicious to very delicious, save for the jojeh and lamb kabab, which were lackluster, alas, and ended up as fare for the cute and coddled family pet.
And that, my friends, was just one night and one meal.
I have not even begun to tell you about the marvels of the various types of Iranian bread. Like this “barbarri” bread.
But that is a topic worthy of its own post, so on that mouth-watering note, I take my leave. And because someone (hi Tina!) asked in the comments of an earlier post (which I’m sorry but I really can’t respond to the comments for various reasons): I DO still fit in my clothes. It is a true Persian miracle! (Also, if you missed it, do check out the earliest Lusty Pictorial Tour of Food in Iran.)