This lush still life of Mirza Ghassemi (a Northern Iranian vegetarian/vegan eggplant dish) reverently flanked by grapes, cucumbers, radishes and the soft, delicious drapery of lavash bread – all under the watchful guard of a thoughtful lion – is the fanciful handiwork of Yvonne joon! Remember I said that the friendships struck up with some amazing people I’ve met via blogging is one of the best rewards of keeping this blog ? Well, Yvonne, a very funny and fascinating (not kidding, she’s a very interesting person to say the least) American lady who speaks Farsi (fluently, cheerfully, with humorous and elegant nuance; well-versed in even the most obscure slangs to my never-ending surprise and delight) and who I’m tickled pink to have gotten to know and to call a friend is what I call: Exhibit A! Trump card! Now, Yvonne does not blog but she was kind enough to indulge me and accept the task of writing a guest blog post along with the food styling and photography that goes with it. I salute her beautiful work and without further ado, usher you into Yvonne joon’s engaging narrative:
My name is Yvonne and I came to the Fig & Quince blog by accident. A happy accident. The word for a happy accident is serendipity. Serendipity comes from the story of The Three Princes of Serendip. The Three Princes of Serendip is a Persian story. Dang. This has Persian written all over it. Back to Fig & Quince. Somehow, through a friend, I clicked a link and was taken to The Land of Ahhhs. Yummy yummy Persian food recipes. Azita and I chitted and chatted back and forth. Somehow, I ended up here. As a guest chef blogger on my very favorite food blog. OK. That was a little background 411. Perhaps, even too much 411.
But, it gets better.
I’m an American married to an Iranian. I know anyone wise enough to be here, also knows Iran is Persia and Persia is Iran. My oldest daughter’s sixth grade HISTORY teacher didn’t know that, but, I digress. I lived in Iran for three years and I am an ardent Iranophile. Beautiful country, beautiful people…kind, generous, thoughtful people. A culture rich in tradition and history. I was and am in love. My introduction to the cuisine didn’t start out on such strong footing. I should mention, I came to Iran a vegetarian, who didn’t drink tea, coffee or soda. I came during the Iran-Iraq War. There were food rations. I was told I really needed to eat as a local and be thankful for what was offered. OK. I got it. I tried. I ended up eating a lot of potatoes with mast (yogurt), rice with torshi (pickled veggies) and every delicious Persian bread available. I was stubborn. The same courtesy bites I demanded of my children, I forced on myself. Well, some bites, like sheep head (kaleh pocheh), were NEVER gonna happen, but little by little, I became a connoisseur of delicious Persian fare.
My tastes seemed to run most closely with the food of Gilan and its people. Gilan is a state in Northwest Iran. Gorgeous country. People who lead a largely plant-based diet, with rice and fish supplements. So many delicious meatless dishes from which to choose and I choose the glorious Mirza Ghasemi. Follow me on a journey of taste sensation, from a basic, simple, “Say What?” recipe, to a contented being, unencumbered by the exhaustion some dishes insist upon. A grilled eggplant, garlic, tomato and egg dish which melts in your mouth, as you scoop it in with fresh Persian bread. Oh, you can eat it with rice and using utensils, but, where’s the fun in that?
Oh. Have I mentioned I’m now vegan? It’s been almost a year. Uh huh. Ey va. (A Persian expression of exasperation or disbelief.) So, here’s the thing. If you’re vegan, just omit the last step with the eggs, if not, do your egg thing. Either way, “Nooshee Jon et!” (Bon appetit in Farsi.) If you have leftovers, I’m available. Who are we kidding? Leftover Mirza Ghasemi? Kheili khandeedar. (Very funny.)
MIRZA GHASEMI (Simplified with Vegan Option)
- Eggplant (2) medium
- Tomatoes (2) medium chopped
- Garlic (1/2 of 1) medium garlic clove diced
- Turmeric (1/2) tbsp
- Eggs (2) medium whisked (omitted for vegan option)
- Tomato Paste (2) tsps
- Olive oil (2) tbsps
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bake or broil the eggplant until soft to the touch. A knife should go in and out easily or the eggplant begins to look like it will explode. Choose your option. Remove the eggplants from the oven and let them cool. Cut the tops, peel the skin off and cut into small cubes.
- Fry garlic in turmeric and olive oil over a medium heat until nicely golden. Add eggplant and fry for another few minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and tomato paste, salt and pepper (initially, a tbsp of salt and tsp. of pepper, increasing at end, to taste.) Cook until all liquids have evaporated. While cooking and stirring, (careful to scrape bottom), whisk eggs well and add to eggplant/garlic/tomato mixture. (Unless, you’re vegan or cooking for one. Then, OMIT eggs.) Another few minutes of stirring and cooking, tasting for needed salt or pepper additions and beeya nekakoneed. (Come look.)
This is a party in your mouth. Eat it with flatbread, herbs and salad. I like to scoop it with a good sangak. (A crazy-delicious Iranian bread. If you buy it in Iran, beware of the hot rocks on which they are baked still in the bread. No one told me how hot they were. I think it’s a game in Iran. Watch the kharajee, foreigner, dance. Still love you guys. If you buy your sangak outside of Iran, rocks are removed for your convenience.) Heck: pita, taftoon, lavash…any of them will gratefully do.
Feeds (2) . Well, it should. You can increase the size of the recipe by simply multiplying the ingredient amounts by guess how much? TWO. For each additional TWO people. Uh huh. That easy. Baleh, joon’am. (Yes, my dear.)
Well, that’s my contribution. Being a food blogger is much harder than it looks! I think I shall once again step back and be the humble admirer I was destined to be. Just feed me. Persian food. Upon demand. Kheili mochakaram. (A BIG Thanx!)
The pleasure is ours Yvonne joon! Bee nahayat lotf kardi! Thank you for a healthy, simple and delicious recipe and a superb post!