Hugs & Kisses and Greetings from Tehran!

Hi everyone! I made it! I’m in Tehran! Can you believe it? I still have a hard time believing it.

I am digging the snow-laden mountains and the amazing food and getting spoiled rotten by a dear friend. There’s no way I can express or detail the events, feelings, impressions, and my thoughts right now – I wish I could – but I’ve taken loads of pix and videos, and until I return to NY and have time to decompress and reflect, I’ll the photographs do (most of) the talking.

This first photo is one that I took of 3 cute and vivacious young girls who were only too happy to oblige my request to take their photograph. One of them said: "Oh! Let me first take off my ugly thick socks" and promptly did so and then the three of them posed with the skill and ease of Hollywood stars on the red carpet. Turned out they are architecture students. I loved their energy, enthusiasm and zest. Meeting them really cheered me up.

Click here to see lots of pix from Tehran!

The Perfect Persian Koloocheh – Made by a Perfectly Gracious Lady!

Koloocheh kooloocheh Persian cookie for Norooz recipe posted by Fig & Quince (Iranian food blog)

Maria’s Glorious koloocheh atop Maria’s Great Grandmom’s carpet

When I reached out for a guest post to Maria, one of my favorite food bloggers, she ended up blowing me away by gifting me with this truly glorious koloocheh post that she made and wrote from scratch. I gasped when first I saw a pic of Maria’s kooloocheh on Twitter and my mom looked at it, opened her eyes wide, nodded her head in admiration, and said: “that looks like khaleh joon’s kooloocheh!” Kahleh joon being the auntie who taught my mom how to cook. High praise indeed from my mom and I have nothing but the highest of praise and the humblest degree of gratefulness and a mountain of affection and love for Maria who not only helped me out, but did so with a generous heart and a joyful spirit and in the process created this gorgeous creation that we can all bask in its delight. Maria comes from a long line of women who love food and she cooks from the heart and with passion and enthusiasm. I love her writing and her recipes and admittedly, I plain  love her. Granted, you will too after any interactions. Guaranteed. You must run, not walk, and go and visit her blog. OK, so let’s get on with the post, and please do check out the recipe notes at the end demonstrating the pains and careful measures Maria took to put together the puzzle of a koloocheh recipe and perfect this delicious concoction.

heart black white graphic thumbnail illustration digital

The Perfect Persian Koloocheh – A Guest post by Maria Dernikos

Koloocheh is a Persian treat baked and eaten at celebrations.  These beautiful round golden discs are fashioned with a decoration of indented circles pressed into the dough. Baked with yeast, milk, butter, yogurt and eggs it has a rich dough but inside lies a rich seam of walnuts mixed with sugar and cinnamon.  As they bake in the oven the whole kitchen is immersed in a cloud of cinnamon perfume.  As they cook the smell creates a real feel good factor and a sense of something promising.

Growing up, my mother had friends far and wide and our house was always a popular visit.  My father would always remark that when he came home in the evening he would never know who would be sitting around the dining room table.  My mother revelled in producing a table of food that not only made her guests feel cherished but also so well fed that they had trouble leaving the table.  I would love the buzz in the kitchen as dishes that I had never seen or eaten before would be prepared, with me having the job of servinges them to our waiting guests.

Until recently I had never heard of Koloocheh nor ever tasted them.  The Fig and Quince kitchen asked if I would like to write something.  I know that Azita and her family are preparing for the Persian New Year and I wanted to bring something that would honour that occasion.  As I like to bake I thought the natural thing would be to produce a sweet of some sort and there starts my journey of learning about Persian food.  One of the things I have learnt is that recipes are handed down and that a Koloocheh recipe alters depending on where you live in Iran.  Scattering poppy seeds on the top being one example of this.

This recipe is not one that has been handed down, it is an amalgamation of all those recipes, which I hope will give everyone a piece of the Koloocheh they know and love. So forgive me if it is not exactly as you know it. On the poppy seed issue I have scattered a few on some of them!

I have made the Koloocheh in both a gas oven and an electric fan oven and there is no difference to how they cook.

As this is a dough recipe containing yeast, the amount of water/milk might need to be altered slightly.  A tighter dough produces a firmer Koloocheh whilst adding a little more liquid will give the Koloocheh a consistency more like that of a brioche.

Koloocheh kooloocheh Persian cookie for Norooz recipe posted by Fig & Quince (Iranian food blog)

A delicious torn open koloocheh that’s just asking for it! | by Maria Dernikos

Click here for the recipe!

Norooz ‘a Palooza

goldfish cigar box color pencils Norooz still life by Fig & Quince (Persian food blog)Norooz goldfish, cigar box, color pencils | Pix from Iranian New Year 2012

Norooz goldfish, cigar box, color pencils | Scenes from Iranian New Year 2012

This post written earlier and scheduled to publish while I’m off on my excellent adventure to Iran.

Hi everyone! A bunch of us Persian food bloggers (there’s a whole host of us out there apparently) gathered together under the tutelage of our fearless leader My Persian Kitchen to offer you a Norooz linkup roundup bonanza. The links to all these amazing Persian food bloggers and cookbook writers is below. (We may each spell Norooz differently, but ultimately we’re paying homage to the “New Day” Iranian New Year, born at the birth of spring, and replete with myriad pretty traditions.)

I’m packing and preparing for my trip as I write this post. Since time is of the essence, I hope you’ll accept and enjoy this pictorial roundup offering of some Norooz-themed vignettes, DIY, traditions and of course food! Infused with the colors, optimism and the beautiful promise of that most charming of seasons: spring!

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baby on bed with seed packets and Russian egg spring Norooz by Fig & Quince (Iranian food blog)

Spring is a pretty baby!

It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Well, it’s not spring yet but it will be soon. Soon! Let’s plant seeds!

goldfish sabzeh egg holder pretty Norooz still life by Fig & Quince (Persian food blog)

3 sabzeh amigos & a pretty goldfish

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If you are celebrating Norooz or Easter, don’t forget to grow some sabzeh – sprout some lentil and wheat grassIt’s easy, here’s a DIY guide to growing sabzeh. Just make sure you do a better job than I did with that dude to the right. Poor chap, that is quite a scraggly head of hair. He needs some grass plugs!

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goldfish sabzeh egg holder pretty Norooz still life by Fig & Quince (Persian food blog)

A wheatgrass sabzeh that has seen better days!

Speaking of scraggly hairdos, here’s a sabzeh that is definitely ready for 13 bedar and its journey down a stream!

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Eggs colored with homemade natural dye Persian food blog Eggs colored with homemade natural dye Persian food blog

Eggs colored with homemade natural dye Persian food blog

Eggs colored with homemade dyes per Martha Stewart’s edict

Do you want to color eggs for Norooz or Easter? It’s a symbol of fertility, birth and renewal and it’s fun. You totally should!

Here’s a step by step DIY guide to coloring eggs with natural homemade dye made following the instructions of the doyenne of good and laborious taste: my beloved Martha Stewart. (If you’re going to try just one homemade dye, cabbage offers the prettiest family palette of hues. I love the cabbage dye for eggs. Love it! Try it!)

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Khoresht 'eh fessenjan for Norooz Persian pomegranate walnut stew for Iranian New Year

Khoresht ‘eh fessenjan for Norooz

Whether you are of Iranian persuasion or not, let’s face it, it’s always a good time for fessenjoon – the yummy Persian pomegranate and walnut stew. Fessenjoon: akh joon!

Festive Persian Rice  with saffron, barberries, almond, glazed orange havij polo

Festive Persian Rice with saffron, barberries, almond, glazed orange

And while you are at it, you may want to take a Persian rice from plain to Pawabunga and make a rice dish that is a pretty spectacle fit for any festive feast.

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Persian marzipan mulberry sweet recipe by Fig & Quince (Persian food blog)

Warrior Tut! Alone. Brave. Delicious!

Why not mix ground almonds, cardamom, confectioners sugar and rosewater formed into the shape of a mulberry (or even a Rubenesque pear like the divinely talented El Oso Con Batos did) bathed in a bed of granulated sugar and crowned with a pistachio stem? This marvel is tut and it is a confection that is tout delicious and cute. Pop pop pop into your mouth it goes. Recipe here!

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Haft Seen Illustration Persian New Year Norooz 7 S spread by Fig & Quince (Iranian food culture blog)

This is more like 5 S than 7 S! | Norooz Haft Seen Illustration

And if you’re still wondering what’s up with haft seen and what do those seven S’s mean, do check out this illustrated Guide to what’s in Haft Seen and the symbolism behind this tableau vivant.

Goldfish norooz illustration icon graphic persian new year by Fig & Quince (Iranian food culture blog)

There is an Iranian custom that a traveler must bring back a present for each and every member of family and extended relatives. That present is called a soghati. I definitely hope to bring soghati for all of you. Sharing some of the highlights of my journey to Iran.  Meanwhile, let’s feast our eyes upon a token of the promise of spring’s beautiful soghati - arriving soon at our doorsteps.

Brooklyn pretty spring blossoms | circa last year

pretty spring blossoms found in Brooklyn | circa last year

Now let’s go and check out these awesome Persian food bloggers and taste the wonderful Norooz palooza treats they have in store for you.


Ahu Eats: Norouz 2014 Recipe: Toot – Persian Mulberry Marzipan Candy 
Café Leilee:  Northern-Iranian Style Herb Stuffed Fish
Fae’s Twist & Tango: Naw-Rúz, A New Year Recipe Round-up!
Family Spice:  Norouz Twist on Kookoo Sabzi (Persian Herb Quiche with Chard and Kale)
Lucid Food:  Persian Raisin and Saffron Cookies for Norooz
My Persian Kitchen:  Naan Gerdooee ~ Persian Walnut Cookie 
Simi’s Kitchen: New Blog for Nowruz!
Spice Spoon: Noon Berenj – Thumbprint Rice Flour Cookies with Saffron & Rosewater for Persian Nowruz
The Pomegranate Diaries:  Nowruz Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies 
Turmeric & Saffron:  Loze Nargil – Persian Coconut Sweets with Rosewater and Pistachios for Nowruz
West of Persia: Happy Nowruz, Recipe Roundup, and a Classic: Kuku Sabzi on TV
Zozo Baking: Nane Nokhodchi for Nowruz

boy smiling holding robin blue dyed egg Norooz Easter pretty

To those of us celebrating the Persian new year: Norooz ‘etoon Pirooz!

To all of us on the planet (save for our down-under friends): Happy Spring!

And to our Oz and Kiwi friends: Happy Autumn! (A most poetic season.)

Basically: Happy, happy, happy!

Daffodil flower illustration icon graphic by Fig & Quince (Iranian food culture blog)

Happy Birthday Maman Joon!

Collage cutout Conference of birds posted by Fig & quince (Persian food blog)

Conference of Birds | Collage cutout by Farideh

Today is my lovely mother’s birthday. I’m missing it because today, as we speak, I’ll either be in an airplane or else biding my time in an airport killing time while waiting for the second leg of my flight to Iran.

I’m way too old to be saying this, but: I already miss my mommy!

Collage cutout of three leaf clovers posted by Fig & quince (Persian food blog)

Lucky clovers | Collage Cutouts by Farideh

This blog got started because I wanted to preserve my mom’s wealth of culinary know-how and her beautiful taste. Aside from sharing her recipes, she deftly and effortlessly styles food and has been the stylist of some of my favorite shots in this blog —  like the one for the Koofteh Berenji (our first recipe post.) She has a good eye and has always for as long as I can remember made things – including collage cutouts. I finally put a whole bunch of her collages together in this book and then this other book and then everyone saw what was evident. My mom is just one of those natural born artists.

Twirling Dervish collage cutout

Twirling Dervish | Cutout Collage by Farideh

She loves telling jokes, she tells very good stories. She writes funny poems, she writes poignant ones too. Sometimes I think she has the patience of a saint. She’s just a nice person.

Heart Hearts Hearts | Cutout Collage by Farideh

I am lucky to have her and I know it!

Heart Hearts Hearts | Cutout Collage by Farideh

Happy Birthday Maman joon & may you celebrate many many many more! (So that I can continue to torture you! Ha ha!)

You are an amazing woman and I love you.

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All the collage cutouts by Farideh Hooshiar (aka my mom!)

Till soon mes amies!

I’m going to Iran | Keep in touch or I’ll get lonesome & cry!

Illustration collage sports car toy girl cute by Fig & Quince (Persian food blog)

At one point, I dreamed about driving from Europe to Iran! I’m taking the plane though!

“Where are you going? To Ghandahar?” — delivered in an incredulous tone armed with a figuratively raised eyebrow — is how an Iranian person might address someone who makes a fuss or takes a lot of things with them when going somewhere or on a trip.  I guess back when this phrase of speech started, Ghandahar was the furthest reaches of the earth one’s mind could comprehend. I’m not taking a lot of things with me, and I’m trying not to make a fuss, and I’m certainly not going to Ghandahar, but I am going to Iran. Finally. After 35 years. Well, you already knew that. All told, I will be gone for two months, give or take … approximately … more or less. That sounds like a long time and maybe it will be too long and it’ll drag and maybe it’ll be entirely too brief. Time will tell!

I don’t have any children, so you’d think it’d be oh-so-easy for me to pick up and take off, but, ah … the blog. THE BLOG!

Let me tell you, having a blog is a little bit like having a pet. (Although sometimes I think of my blog as a HUNGRY monster that must be fed again and again and again. But right away, I take it back and say, no no no, oh sweet little blog of mine, you are NOT a monster, you are my moosh ‘eh koochooloo sweet pet.)

You can’t leave your monster, I mean your sweet pet, without food and water and companionship. That’s why I have a few posts I’ve written ahead of time that are scheduled to publish while I’m away. So keep your eyes peeled for those. Further, I’m delighted to say that I have a few interesting and downright fantastic guest blog posts for you as well — thanks to some kind, gracious and entirely adorable blogger and civilian friends. True treats in store for you! I promise. You’ll see! So I hope you’ll continue to come and keep my pet blog company while I’m away so it won’t get lonesome. OK?

Illustration monster pet cute creature smiling alien adorable by Fig & Quince (Persian food blog)

I’m not a monster. I’m a pet. I’ll get sad & lonesome if you don’t visit me often.

And keep in touch with me too so I won’t get lonesome either! I don’t know how actively I’ll have Internet access or, more accurately, how often I’ll have the time or opportunity or desire to get online. I mean, odds are, I’ll be stuffing my face with something delicious instead. But, whenever possible, I’d love to share some Norooz festivities and fun highlights of my travel with you.

I’ll probably keep in touch mostly via Facebook. So, can we please be friends? I’m leaving on the 11th of March, so do “friend” me beforehand. You do want to be friends, don’t you? You might also find me on Twitter and Instagram. If we’re not following each other yet, let’s fix that. Find me so I can follow you back.

I’ll miss reading your blogs and keeping up with your doings but I hope to take a good week off when I return to just chillax and catch up with most if not all of your shenanigans. Meanwhile, if there’s any recipe or foodie type of questions that you have, definitely let me know in the comments or send me an email and I’ll do my best to look it up for you.

Before I sign off, this tantalizing specimen of  cholokabab koobideh  is one of the MANY things I hope to eat:

Mouthwatering cholo kabob Koobideh Iran food delicious posted by Fig & quince (Persian food culture blog)

Mouthwatering cholo kabob Koobideh | Iran

Photo of the cholo kabob koobideh sent to me by a friend who obviously wanted to torture me. Thank you Laya! :)

And this little village near Tehran is one of the places I hope to visit:

Taleghan Village near Tehran | Foothills of Damavand Mountain, Iran Mountain Trees Cow posted by Fig & Quince

Taleghan Village near Tehran | Foothills of Damavand Mountain, Iran

The beautiful photo taken by and courtesy of my lovely uncle John Thompson.

Only a few days away! I can’t wait to get there, honestly! Though I wish I had at least one more week to finish and wrap up things before taking off … And it’s too bad that I’ll miss my lovely mom’s birthday (happy birthday in advance lovely mom) and I’ll sadly also miss a recital by a little adorable rascal … and I’m missing a friend’s very fun birthday party … but, I’m also arriving on the birthday of my good friend who I’m staying with, so … it’s all good. The balance of universe is restored.

I may be poking my nose around around in social media channels until I’m on the plane but as far as this blog goes, this is it, then, this is bye bye for now. Let me grab a couple of Kleenexes. I AM verklempt. Now don’t forget to either find me on twitter or to Friend me - OK?  OK! Let’s please keep in touch! Otherwise, I’ll get really sad and lonesome and I WILL cry.

This trip was for the longest time a dream and now it’s a reality. I’m excited to realize this dear ambition and I wish whatever yours is, it will come true as well. In its time. Under grace.

Happy Weekend & Happy Spring Lovely People! And Till soon!

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.Apple illustration icon graphic by Fig & Quince (Iranian food culture blog)

Growing Sabzeh (sprouting seeds) for Norooz or Easter | DIY

toy shovels DIY how ot grow sabzeh for norooz pictorial guide | photo by Fig & Quince (Persian food culture blog) toy shovels DIY how ot grow sabzeh for norooz pictorial guide | photo by Fig & Quince (Persian food culture blog) toy shovels DIY how ot grow sabzeh for norooz pictorial guide | photo by Fig & Quince (Persian food culture blog) toy shovels DIY how ot grow sabzeh for norooz pictorial guide | photo by Fig & Quince (Persian food culture blog)

“Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two, where there was but one, is both a profit and a pleasure.” Abraham Lincoln – September 30, 1859 – Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society

Seeds garden toy shovels DIY how ot grow sabzeh for norooz pictorial guide | photo by Fig & Quince (Persian food culture blog)

Grow green! No soil required. Just seeds!

If haft seen is the cornerstone of Norooz (the Iranian new year) then sabzeh – the green sprouts and blades of grass coaxed out of lentil, wheat or other seeds – is the cornerstone of haft seen.

I am partial to this pretty tradition of growing sabzeh – it is such an innocent yet profoundly charming thrill. Alas, no partaking in the charm of growing sabzeh for yours truly this year though, as I’m shortly off to have my excellent adventure in Iran.

But if you want to grow your green sprouts for Norooz or Easter or perhaps in honor of Earth Day, fear not fret not, I have 2 archive posts — each a detailed and complete step by step tutorial pictorial guide of how to grow your own sabzeh (wheat grass or lentil grass) without soil. So tiptoe over and check them out:

1) How to Grow Sabzeh for Norooz (or Easter or Earth Day) (2013)

2) DIY Guide for Growing Green for Norooz or Earth Day (2012)

It’s easy! Mostly requiring water, sunshine, and a shiny and patient disposition.

Mind you, to grow sabzeh in time for Norooz (which is March 20th – or check out this site for the Norooz countdown) you should get started no later than this weekend, by March 9th at the latest, as it generally takes 10-11 days from the time you get started till you have a nicely grown tiny field of green sprouts.

15sabzeh-how-grow-DIY-sprouting-seeds-Norooz-pictorial-guide

Go to it and profit and pleasure from producing delightful blades of sprouting grass! With the tacit blessings of both President Lincoln and the ancient Persians.

Happy growing!

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Daffodil flower illustration icon graphic by Fig & Quince (Iranian food culture blog)

You can take a girl out of Iran, but …

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Isfahan nesfeh Jahan square beautiful Iran photo posted by Fig & Quince (Iranian food culture blog)

” Isfahan Nesfeh Jahan” | The main square in Isfahan, Iran

Kayaking in Iran gorgeous river city posted by Fig & Quince (Iranian food culture blog)

Kayaking in Iran | The river in Isfahan

You can take a girl out of Iran but … you can’t take Iran out of the girl.

After 35 years I’m returning for a visit to Iran. The country where I was born; where my grandparents are laid to rest; where I’ve left my heart since the very moment I was away.

I’m leaving NY in less than two weeks, arriving in Tehran just before Norooz, the Iranian new year. I’m excited to be back at such a special and festive time. I can’t wait to set foot on the soil of Tehran; I can’t wait to peek at the snowy peaks of Damavand mountain; I can’t wait to take a bite out of noneh sangak; and I can’t wait to see family, and old and new friends.

There are so many things I want to do and see and smell and taste and experience and feel. I want to travel a bit to a few cities — the fabled ones and also some that are a bit off the beaten path. I want to go and have a good cry at the graves of my grandparents. I want to see the children of those who where children when I left. I want to jump over a chanshanbeh suri bonfire and tell the fire: your red is mine, my yellow is yours. I want to see everyone’s sofreh ye haft seen. I want to go for a sizdah bedar Persian picnic by a stream. I want to see a shopkeeper’s rows of Norooz goldfish swimming in bowls, I want to feast my eyes on the sight of all the spring flowers and shirini, I want to live dangerously and eat a roasted corn dipped in salty water off a side cart; I want to go skiing in Dizin. I want to talk to people, go to the parks, take the metro, go mountain climbing, go to the coffee shops, go to all the museums, check out the art galleries in Tehran, and go to the holy shrines. I want to eat chaghaleh badoom and gojeh sabz, I want to taste the sour-cherry lavashak, I want to sit on a good Persian rug and take dainty sips from a hot estakan ‘eh chai with yek habeh ghand. I want to go to a public bath and get a good dal ‘luck rubdown. I do! And if circumstances permit, I want to climb a mulberry tree and eat mulberries, white and red, as many as I can grab off the branches, to my heart’s content. I want to say hello hello hello because I never ever wanted to say goodbye.

Of course, I’m also already homesick for this home right here, too. The quandary of hyphenated people. I’ll miss my family, friends, neighborhood, neighbors, and my beloved Brooklyn. And I already miss all of you! I’m thankful to be able to share this with you.

It will be an emotional journey, a sentimental journey, and God willing, an epic, adventurous and wonderful journey. I’ve already drawn buckets of feelings from the deepest wells in my being and I’ve shed cleansing tears of a mixture of joy and nostalgia and all sorts of smorgasbord of emotions when I made the decision to embark on this trip; when I bought my ticket; and whenever I manage to sit quietly and contemplate the by now inevitable fact that in less than 14 days I’ll be stepping on the soil of a place that sometimes feels like it was only the landscape of a dream. I’d be lying if I said I don’t have the butterflies as well. Because I do. I do.

But ultimately, this is a journey that I’m driven with every fiber of my being to make. It’s love. You see. It’s love. And I’ve been away for far too long.

1-Iran 2-Iran 3-Iran

Tehran Iran poppies urban landscape building highrise city image posted by Fig & Quince (Iranian food culture blog)

Tehran, Iran

All the beautiful photos taken by and courtesy of my wonderful uncle John Thompson.

Daffodil flower illustration icon graphic by Fig & Quince (Iranian food culture blog)

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