Making the acquaintance of this very tasty and quirky Gilaki appetizer called “Zaytoon Parvardeh” was hands down one of the most intriguing culinary discoveries of my first epic trip back to Iran. A bold statement considering Iran is a treasure trove of ingredients and dishes that delight the senses.
You’ve heard of a party in your mouth? This won’t be it. That is to say, there will be no raucous rock & roll party in your mouth. Instead, the dance of the flavors of zeytoon parvardeh in your mouth will be more like a tango … a slow, mesmerizing & utterly sensual tango. How does that sound?
What exactly is zeytoon parvardeh, you ask?
Zeytoon (زیتون) is the Persian word for olives and “zeytoon parvardeh” (زیتون پرورده) literally means “cultivated olives.”
Let me assure you that this bewitching combo of green olives & walnuts & garlic and dried mint — crushed together, then marinated in pomegranate syrup — will definitely cultivate your palette. You will develop a crush! My mouth watered right now just thinking about it.
And guess what, it is vegan to boot!
What Does Zaytoon Parvardeh Taste Like?
Comparing this Persian marinated-olive appetizer to a moody tango doesn’t exactly shed a light on how it tastes, so let me add that its flavor is somehow both serene and yet hyper-alert. OK, that information also verges on vague albeit poetic description. Let’s get more descriptive! Are you sure you’re ready?
The first spoonful of zeytoon parvardeh offers a flavor combination of a bit savory, a bit salty, a bit sweet, and just the right bit tart – in other words, a gorgeous bouquet of flavors! Doesn’t that sound amazing? There is a reason why this Northern Iranian appetizing olive dish has become such a popular fixture in restaurants and at homes. It is sophisticated but also a crowd-pleaser.
And here’s the thing: I don’t even like olives that much but I LOVE zeytoon parvardeh.
What is the Texture of Zaytoon Parvardeh?
The texture of Persian marinated olives is a combination of soft mushy bits (thanks to the green olives) and velvety saucy bits (thanks to the pomegranate syrup spiked with crushed garlic and dried mint) as well as naughty but delightful grainy crunchy bits (credit for these bits goes to the crushed walnuts) — an utterly seductive combo that your tongue will get on its knees to thank you. Assuming your tongue had knees. What? Yours doesn’t? Poetic license dudes!
Want to hear even more ecstatic news? Very few ingredients are needed to make this Northern Iranian culinary stroke-of-genius and no actual cooking is involved in creating this palette-pleaser either — just a few prep-and-assemble steps.
Is it a dip? Is it an appetizer? Is it a side dish? Is it an amuse-bouche?
The answer is all of the above. It depends on your mood and caprice and how you serve it based on what tickles your fancy. You can definitely have this marinated olive dish as either an appetizer or a side dish — and classically that’s how this vegan Persian marinated-olive marvel is usually served in restaurants and at dinner parties. Zeytoon Parvardeh could potentially be served as a quirky salad or an off-the-beaten-path dip as well.
Personally, I’m totally into enjoying zeytoon parvardeh on its own — transcendent spoonful by transcendent spoonful — as a snack or amuse-bouche.
I mean, what’s better than amusing your mouth?
Behind the Food Blogging Scenes Story
Skip to the recipe below if a behind-the-scenes-Persian-food-blogging-story is not your scene. Otherwise, read on, by all means.
I recently received a very cute vintage food processor and I was super excited to bust it out to use for this recipe. But, gentle reader, the cute vintage food processor was a bust — all form and no function. I shed salty tears of disappointment then pulled myself together and MacGyvered it, using one of my household rocks to crush the walnuts. (Yes, I have household rocks! Don’t you? I will totally write about my beloved rocks at a later date. That is a real threat. Uh, I mean a real promise.)
Further complicating the matter, instead of buying pitted green olives at the market like a sane person (they didn’t look that great) I got better-looking olives to pit by hand, but by Jove, these olives were super grumpy team players and de-pitting the half a Kilo of these olives was a journey. A demoralizing journey. My poor fingers. When you are making this recipe, buy pitted olives. That’s an order! Edited to add that it is also essential that you use uncured olives as the salt/vinegar/brine will entirely distort the flavoring of this dish.
Making this tasty vegan Iranian appetizer is a breeze if you get pitted olives & are fortunate to possess a handy-dandy kitchen tool that actually works to grind the walnuts.
Ok, let’s go and check out the recipe!
6 – 8 Servings
- 1/2 kilo (1 lb) of uncured green olives — pitted and chopped up
- 3-6 garlic cloves, crushed
- 150 grams coarsely ground walnuts (approximately 28 walnuts)
- 1/2 cup Pomegranate molasses/syrup*
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon dried mint **
- salt to taste
* Pomegranate molasses (aka pomegranate syrup or “rob e anar” as we call it in Farsi) is readily available at Middle Eastern stores. If you prefer a DIY route, check out my friend’s recipe for homemade pomegranate molasses as originally published on this blog a few years ago.
** In Gilan, the place of origin of this exquisite dish, special local herbs — which scarcely can be used elsewhere in Iran — are used. Luckily there are variations for making this Northern Iranian culinary marvel. According to the recipe from my favorite Persian cookbook — Najaf Daryabandari‘s From Garlic to Onion — dried mint is a sufficiently fine substitute for the allusive local Gilani herbs. I was certainly satisfied with the results.
- Mix all the ingredients in a roomy bowl. Stir gently to mix well.
- Place in a sealed container and refrigerate. That’s it!
Give the mixture at least a few hours to marinate — so that the flavors groove together. When ready to serve, garnish with a few pomegranate arils as a festive touch.
As a side dish, this delightful flavor combo of olives, walnuts, and pomegranate pairs quite well with meat or savory dishes. You can also serve it as a dip or an appetizer. This Persian marinated-olive treat can also be a very nice amuse-bouche whenever you feel like rewarding your mouth with a jolly spoonful jolt of taste and texture.
Refrigerated in a sealed container, zeytoon parvardeh is good to go for at least one week.
Indulge as you wish. As often as you wish. 🙂