I got to make and taste and nibble on a host of yummy Persian goodies whilst I whiled away the time in the city of Angels (Los Angeles) a couple of months ago around Norooz time … when the sweet business of making and buying and eating Persian shirini was at hustling and bustling and fever pitch best. Persian shirini like these delightful mouthfuls pictured above called tut (also spelled toot) – named after and shaped like mulberries – that I made with my very own dainty little hands.
My lovely friends and hosts, Laya joon and Mehdi, also procured a whole host of Persian goodies from baghlava to gottab to bamiyeh and goosh ‘e fil and zaban. Persian sweets that are respectively named after okra and elephant ears and tongue!
It tickled your faithful scribbler’s fancy to notice that quite a few Persian shirini are named for and molded to resemble such disparate, and frankly, weird things from tongue to mulberries to okra to elephant ears … to window panes and spring blossoms! So I thought it’d be fun to take a quick tour of these sweet Persian avatars together and mull it over with each other. Ideally over tea! Let’s get started! (more…)
This post is dedicated to the memory of Doctor پ . A wonderful physician, musician, family friend, and all around lovely gentleman whose presence was a boon to all who knew him and who will be dearly missed. May he rest in peace.
Recently I made a short and sweet trip home for a visit with my folks when among other things my mom made this and this and also did this; and when I got to hang out with Azi2 and also got to go to a do’reh (a regular monthly-or-so Persian get-together among friends who take turns hosting) and have a fun visit with a host of dear and old family friends who I had not seen in a good while. Some of my favorite people in the world. Sight for sore eyes! A true pleasure!
My folks live in the DC Metropolitan area and while it is by no means the new Tehrangeles, there are a good number of establishments where one can grab a quality Persian chow, be it polo khorosh or kashk ‘e bademjan or bastani and reportedly even very good Armenian pirooshki. There are also several good Persian grocery stores scatterd in the area, including a smallish but quite good store near my parents where one does seem to find most everything required to run a respectable Persian household, from kashk to various types of Persian bread to halva ardeh to — as I was thrilled and squealed to find stashed in the fridge — stalks of perky unripe grape clusters! Or what we Persians call ghoreh غوره. (Query: The wine aficionados amongst us may perhaps identify a better name for “unripe grapes”?)
Gentle reader: you may by now have a noticed a pattern with Iranians and their love of unripe fruit and: it’s true! Be it unripe almonds (chaghaleh badoom چاقاله بادوم ), unripe green plums (gojeh sabz گوجه سبز), and now unripe grapes — which are usually picked halfway before maturity.
Are you familiar with that classic Aesop fable of the fox and sour grapes? The story was well known in Iran as well. But what the roobah didn’t know and Persians have known since times of ‘yore is that sour grapes can be quite wonderful!
A staple of the Persian pantry, unripe sour grapes (ghoreh: غوره) and verjuice (or abghoreh: the tart juice of unripe grapes) is used as a chashni (taste, flavor) to add a bright but gentle tartness and deepen flavors in khoresh (Persian stews) and abghusht and tas kabob and āsh (thick hearty Persian soups.)
Fresh sour grapes have a very fleeting season – a few weeks late in spring – so to preserve ghoreh’s goodness for use throughout the year, Persians had several tricks up their sleeves.
One that we’ve already touched upon is juicing the ghooreh to make abghoreh or verjuice. (Fun linguistic fact, the word verjuice comes from the French words verjus which literally means green juice!) Maman says in the olden days before the availability of store-bought verjuice there was a whole ritual where each family would purchase as much of sour grapes as was within their needs or means and then wash and crush the grapes and store the extracted abghureh in a cool dark place in a very specific type of glass bottle with a long narrow neck — that could then be used as chashni the whole of winter.
Another method was to dry out the ghureh and then grind it into a powder (gard ‘e ghoreh گرد غوره) form; or, they would pickle the unripe grapes (in verjuice, or in salty water); and of course now in modern times, ghoreh can be frozen for later use.
Ghureh is extremely beneficial for various health problems. Rheumatism and diabetes among them. Maman tells me a story that when she was growing up, there was a doctor named “Hakim Abghureh” (literally: Doctor Sour Grape Juice! Ha ha!) named thus because whoever went to him with ailments would be prescribed ash ‘e abghureh (a verison of Persian thick hearty soup made with plenty of verjuice) to clear and clean out the stomach and intestine as the good hakim believed that all diseases gather in the stomach and the intestines!
Unless you are a wiley fox not interested in sour grapes, below are directions for making your own: verjuice; ground sour grapes; pickled sour grapes; and the best method for freezing these tart fleeting gifts of summer.
If you come from a Persian household or have had occasion to dine at one, you are privy to the fact that a Persian table at mealtime is considered naked without sabzi khordan (Persian: سبزی خوردن ).
Sabzi khordan literally translates to either “edible herbs” or “eating herbs” and refers to an assorted plate of fresh herbs and raw vegetables. An assortment that might include: basil (reyhan), green onions aka scallions (piyaz che), parsley (jaffari), chives (tareh), coriander (geshniz), cilantro, mint (na’nah), fenugreek (shanbalileh), radishes (torobche), savory (marzeh, origany or sweet fennel), tarragon (tarkhun), Persian watercress (shâhi) and maybe even sliced raw onions. (To see the vast potential variety of sabzi khordan, you might want to feast your eyes on this Google image search for سبزی خوردن.)
The choice of which fresh herbs and how much of them to use to assort the Persian herbs platter are entirely up to one’s whim and whimsy and provisions-at-hand; although typically, sabzi khordan is not really sabzi khordan without the presence of radishes which are crunchy, healthy, add a pop of color, and pack a nice bit of heat.
To make a meal out of sabzi khordan, Click to continue!
Golpar (گلپر ) or Persian Hogweed (botanical name: Heracleum persicum) is a flowering spice plant, native to Iran, growing wild in its mountainous regions. (Linguistic fun: “gol” means “flower” in Farsi, and “par” can mean either “wing” or “feather” so theoretically golpar can be translated into flower-feather. For fun and giggles, I just did a domain search and shockingly, flowerfeather.com is available! Hurry and grab it!)
Golpar seedpods bear a unique smell one may call either pungent or aromatic depending on one’s point of view. For yours truly, a deep inhale takes me back to the deep recesses of spice enclaves in the Grand Bazaar of Tehran, and for that, I’m fond of the smell. Golpar seedpods contain seeds that are ground into a powder form and used as a spice. (Much like cardamom seeds inside the cardamom pods.)
In Persian cooking, golpar powder (golpar koobideh as it’s called) is used in advieh (spice mixture) to flavor rice dishes. For those so inclined, a bit of golpar may also be added to soups – a little bit of it does go quite well with lentil soup.
One of the most popular uses of this particularly Persian spice is to sprinkle golpar over baghali pokhteh, or cooked fava beans. Serving a bowl of pomegranate arils with a dusting of golpar sprinkle is an equally charming and popular use of this aromatic spice.
Another charming use of golpar seed pods is that you can often find it mixed with esfand seeds (اسپند) in the ancient Persian tradition of burning esfand (اسپند دود دادن) to avert the evil eye.
And that my friends, is the tale of a Persian spice called golpar. (“A Persian spice that is often erroneously sold as ‘Angelica Seeds.’)
“In this photo taken Sunday, May 17, 2015, from left, director Ida Panahandeh, actors , Pejman Bazeghi, Sareh Bayat and Navid Mohammadzadeh pose for photographers during a photo call for the film Nahid, at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France. Panahandeh has made a splash with her film debut, landing in competition at the Cannes Film Festival for “Nahid,” a fraught portrait of the byzantine legal complications and social stigmas concerning divorce and remarriage in Iran.” Source
Can’t wait to see this film! And on a shallow note: what a good looking bunch of folks!
Speaking of looks, isn’t Pejman Bazeghi (second from the left, next to the director) a dead ringer for that country music star Blake Shelton? I mean, they could be clones!
Things that make you think! But let’s gallop and move on …
What do we have here?
“Photos: Concours de Saut International held in Tehran
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Concours de Saut International (CSI) is a ranking system for the equestrian competition show jumping. All CSI events are approved by the international governing body of equestrian sport, the FEI.” LOTS of pix at the source.
Hummm! Huh! Very interesting!
You know what else is interesting? Pix of university graduation celebrations in Tehran:
A Facebook friend @SamiraRahimee shared this other awesome pic of recent Tehran University graduates as well. Specifically, these are the graduates of University of Tehran’s Fine Art Faculty, Class of 1385!
Good luck dear graduates! May the world treat you gently and nice.
The jubilant Persian graduates were posing in front of the very well-known, rather iconic entrance of the University of Tehran campus.
— Samira Rahimi (@samirarahimee) May 19, 2015
I’m happy to follow fellow Persian @SamiraRahimee on Twitter because she has some cool dreams!
Speaking of dreams … oh my goodness.
Absolutely adore this scene! Artist painting at sunset along the edge of the Caspian sea in Iran. Source is the very cool Motelghoo Instagram account.
You know what else is dreamy?
This delightful tale of chai and barbari and khorma that Turmeric & Saffron (one of my favorite Persian food bloggers) spins of an idyllic time under a pear tree.
Speaking of dreamy Persian breads, Barbari bread is awesome. Specially when it’s fresh out of tanoor. But lavash bread is no slouch either.
Let’s end this installment of our tour of the Persian Internet on this soft, succulent and lavish note of a stack of freshly baked Persian lavash bread as made by Rise of the Sourdough Preacher — one of my favorite food bloggers.
Khoda hafez, until we meet again!
Let the record show that I enjoy writing. Always have (since I was a wee little thing) and probably always will (till I’m a cranky ol’ person.)
However, there’s nothing on this God’s green earth that I find more stressful than writing things like an “about” section, a bio blurb, cover letter, or worst … the juggernaut of dread: a resume. YIKES! The mere mention of the word itself is enough to make me break into profuse beads of sweat. (By that of course I mean, glowing perspiration, as we all know that refined ladies comme moi do not sweat. All evidence to the contrary not withstanding.)
It doesn’t help either that I’ve made zig zag explorations in my career choices – linear route it has not been I do confess – which makes unjambling it all a rather exquisite nightmare. Oh what a tangled resume we weave when we first practice to jump from this job to that job and that field to this …
Recently, I faced the uncomfortable fact that despite my valiant push-under-the-rug efforts it was high time to polish up and update ‘ye old resume. In the midst of ensuing panic attack angst, I had a light bulb moment to ask for help instead of tackling it myself. One of my Twitter friends has started her own company writing and editing resumes, so I reached out to her and got the help that I needed. Beehive Resumes took my tangled jumble of experience and skills and accomplishments and whipped it into a nifty. organized shape — and for that stellar accomplishment, I’m grateful.
So this here’s a shout out that if any of y’all need to teach that fool of your resume a lesson or two and turn it from a slouching tiger into a roaring dragon (oy vey w/these mixed metaphors), I highly recommend you consider the services of Beehive Resumes.
This is obviously not a recipe post but if this talk of beehives has put you in the mind of honey, do check out this old honeypot turnip chestnut of a recipe re the healing properties of turnip and honey and a nifty DIY cold remedy. Also, be on your tippy toes lookout for another installment in the Drinking in Iran series and a couple of nifty recipes and other goodie posts coming your way soon.
Until then! xoxo
This is tahchin, or upside down Persian rice. Tahchin is made with half-cooked rice that’s mixed with yogurt, saffron, and egg; layered with chicken or lamb; packed and molded (nice and snug) into a casserole dish; cooked in the oven; inverted into a serving dish; and garnished with barberries. Maybe also with slivered pistachios if available. Because: why not!
Tahchin is pretty yummy. One of my favorite Persian rice dishes. It used to be the treat I asked for on my birthdays.
Laya made tahchin for me when I was in Los Angeles. (Recipe: All the way at the end!)
This is my lovely friend Laya. In her kitchen. In the City of Angels. (Vicinity of Tehrangeles.) California. United States of America. Planet Earth. Universe. (What comes after the Universe?)
NOTE: The tahchin inverted in the serving dish.
NOTE: The plate of sabzi khordan – an eclectic mixture of radishes and herbs which is the ever faithful sidekick of all Persian meals.
NOTE: The green sticky tape over the camera on ye ol’ faithful laptop of mine. (Yup, still there!)
This is a closer look at the tahchin, and the aforementioned sabzi khordan (aka plate of fresh herbs and radishes.)
You know how you always find bottles of ketchup and mustard in a diner in the U.S.? Well, you would be hard pressed to find a mealtime Persian table without sabzi khordan. My father, for example, would not even conceive of such a travesty!
THIS: Is an up close and personal shot of my plate of tahchin in action.
THIS: Makes my mouth drool every time I look at it.
THIS: Is torture! TORTURE!
Note the pool of yogurt to the side. As is the wont of most Iranians (and certainly the wont of yours truly) yogurt is nearly always served and enjoyed alongside with most types of Persian food. Like a sauce. It brightens and crackle pops all the flavors & textures.
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