Friday, March 12, 2010

The Persian Milkman

I popped out of my mother's womb craving Persian and Middle Eastern foods. So much that my mother would joke that she must have had an affair with the Persian mailman without knowing it. My palate has lifelong ached for the tastes of pomegranate, walnut, chickpeas and coriander and I always love it when I get the chance to dine on this exquisite cuisine. In my hometown, a Persian restaurant does not exist so I find myself oftentimes heading to my friend Shahram's house for some homemade fare in his salon-style environment that features swirling Middle Eastern painted decor and is alive with his exquisite paintings of whirling dervishes and veiled figures.

Persian cuisine is diverse, with each province featuring dishes, culinary traditions and styles distinct to their regions. It includes a wide variety of foods ranging from chelo kabab (barg, koobideh, joojeh, shishleek, soltani, chenjeh), khoresht (stew that is served with white Basmati or Iranian rice: ghormeh sabzi, gheimeh, and others), aash (a thick soup:as an example Ash-e anar), kookoo (vegetable omeletes), pollo (white rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs, including loobia pollo, albaloo pollo, Sabzi pollo , zereshk pollo, and others), and a diverse variety of salads, pastries, and drinks specific to different parts of Iran. The list of Persian recipes, appetizers and desserts is extensive.

Herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, and raisins. The main Persian cuisines are combinations of rice with meat, chicken or fish and some onion, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. To achieve a balanced taste, characteristic Persian flavorings such as saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, and parsley are mixed delicately and used in some special dishes.

Recently, I traveled to Los Angeles with Shahram and attended his exhibition at the USC Hillel Center for Persian Jewish artists. On the way into L.A. we stopped at Sha Abbas in Santa Monica for a traditional meal of fessun jun, meat logs, and milk yogurt soda which was surprisingly carbonated and satisfyingly bitter.

Later that evening at the exhibition I tasted the most extraordinary chickpea cookies made out of nothing but chickpeas smashed and compressed into a dough and coriander.

Next step: learn how to translate my kitchen into a Persian one....

No comments:

Post a Comment