Monday Meal Review: Iran

THE SCENE

Beep.

Beep.

Beep.

I was waiting to pay at Whole Foods, watching my food come down the belt with one eye and shooing Ava away from the chap stick display with the other. Other than that, I might as well have been asleep.

I’ve been working hard. Lately, that’s all there’s been time for. Working to be a good mom. Working to be a good wife. Working to not melt in the 100F temperatures Tulsa has been sustaining for a month now. And, of course, working on work.

My brain was tired, and the steady beep of the scanner only lulled me deeper into a trance.

So, when the happy voice said “What’s the pomegranate syrup for?” it took me a few seconds to realize they were talking to me.

I looked up, unglazed my eyes, and smiled.

“What?” I said, looking vaguely at the bottle in the girl’s hand and then up at her name tag. Farisa, it read.

“The pomegranate syrup?”

Farisa was bagging my groceries. She was friendly, polite, and interested in me as a human being – not just a customer.

I told her it was for dipping kabab koobideh in – that I was making Iranian food later on.

“Ahh, yes,” she cheered, with a knowing smile, “I’m from Iran!”

My eyes lit up.

The next five minutes were spent in eager chatter about what I was making, how to make it, and what a good omen it was to meet someone from Iran the day I was to cook Iranian.

Ever conscious of the line piling up behind me, I hurriedly asked her if she’d ever had doogh, the minty yogurt drink from Iran.

“Yes, yes,” she nodded enthusiastically. “It’s wonderful! Yes. You’re meal is going to be perfect.”

And, just like that, I was energized.

As I walked out the door, I swooped down and gave Ava a kiss on the nose.

I’ll never get over how International Tulsa is. Nor will I ever get over how often these fateful encounters have happened over the course of this blog – I’ve written about Belarus, Bulgaria, Finland, Ghana, and now Iran – but there was also my friend’s Austrian wife, my German neighbors, and more.

You could call it chance.

You could call it crazy.

But, when you think about the really big picture, here’s what I’m thinking:

The fact that I keep meeting the exact right people along the way, exactly when I need them most, is a sure sign that I’m on the right path.

Correction: that we’re on the right path.

Let’s eat the world!

THE FOOD

Sour Cherry Rice [recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

This dish is incredibly impressive. The rice comes out fluffy and dry (as it should), and looks lovely decorated with a smattering of sour cherries and caramelized onion. The pistachios, softened from their time steaming, were possibly my favorite part of the entire dish.

What I like least about this dish:

It’s easy to overcook the rice. You need to have your stove set as low as possible and check the rice once or twice. Mine only took 30 minutes (but the top of the rice looks less done than the inside, so I overcooked it slightly). Also, if you flip the pot over (exciting!) and some of the bottom stays stuck, have no fear. Simply scrape it off and pile on top of the mound.

Kabab Koobideh [recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

The slightly sour sumac with the mild spice of turmeric made for a fabulously fragrant kabab that was not overly hot. This should be a good mixture for all palates. My absolute favorite part? Dipping it into the sweet/tart pomegranate syrup. I had to restrain myself from drowning it in the stuff.

What I like least about this dish:

Next time – for the fun of it – I’d like to try a blend of 50-50 beef and lamb. Whatever you do, be sure you use a juicy cut – about 90% lean seemed perfect.

Iranian Cucumber Salad [recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

The sour flavors create a refreshing side dish, while the mint punches it up a notch, so you know you’re not in Kansas anymore, so to speak.

What I like least about this dish:

Nothing here, although Mr Picky was rather dismayed, exclaiming “It tastes like pickles!” He’s not a fan of pickles, although he was proud of himself for “eating way more of this than any pickle anywhere.” Let the record state…. he had five bites.

Doogh [recipe]

What I like most about this dish:

As strange as the combination of ingredients seemed on the page, I found doogh to be incredibly refreshing. It was also thinner than I expected, so it wasn’t heavy.

What I like least about this dish:

While it was good and easy to make, I think it would be better with real carbonation (from a soda fountain), as suggested by Laura Kelley in her book The Silk Road Gourmet.

Ava’s Corner

Be sure to watch all the way to the end. You’ll be sure to love it.

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Comments

  1. 90% fat, or 90% lean meat?

    Looks delightful!

  2. Jessica Bennett says:

    First of all, the links to the recipes aren’t working. Second, you do have the most amazing experiences on meeting people from the countries you are cooking. It’s truly. . . amazing is the best word I can come up with, but it’s really more than that. Serendipitous, maybe. And Ava is really growing up- adorable video as always.

  3. Richard Westwell says:
  4. Sasha Martin says:

    @Astrid – ha ha – 90% lean ;)

    @Jessica – Serendipity is a great word for it. The links are fixed – there’s something wrong with WP shortlinks lately…

    @Richard That’s a nice recipe, too. It will be even thinner than my version, as I have a 2:1 water to yogurt ratio.

  5. So I forgot to comment earlier in the week. I shared an apartment my senior year of college with this girl who is Armenian, but was born in Iran. She and her family moved to the U.S. when she was two, but her culinary tradition definitely has an Iranian/Armenian/Turkish tradition. One of the things that I still do, as a result of my roommate, is to get Persian cucumbers, cut them up and serve them with honey. Yum. This salad also sounds good.

  6. Brian S. says:

    Iranian cuisine is old but, looking ahead to Iraq, their food is even older. Five thousand years ago, the kings and top leaders hired professional chefs and they wrote down their recipes. Some have been preserved. One recipe is for chicken pie, and says something like this. Put chicken meat on platter, cover with chopped gizzard and liver and bread crumbs, pour sauce over it, cover with pie crust and bake. 5000 years old. Sounds like the pie I ate at White Lion Restaurant a few weeks ago.

  7. Sasha Martin says:

    @Stephanie – cucumbers with honey has to be the most unusual sounding salad … but somehow wonderful!

    @Brian – sounds like real comfort food, great for a cold winter’s night!

  8. Hi Sasha:

    The recipes look and sound wonderful. I’m glad the three you used from Silk Road Gourmet worked well for you!

    I’m looking forward to Iran next week. It may prime you for participating in my Ancient Mesoptamian Cookoff to be held throughout August and September. Its sort of an Iron Chef – Mesopotamia where people take ingredients from the Yale Babylonian tablets and create dishes based on those ingredients.

    Check it out, and if you have an ounce of spare energy – join the fray and cook with us!

    I made a lamb and carob stew with coucous (based on Yale recipe XIX) for family dinner on Saturday and it was delicious!

    Laura

    Laura

  9. Sorry for the double post, but I wanted to point out – for those challenged with buying international groceries – they can just make pomegranate syrup at home by slowly reducing pomegranate juice.

    And it is delicious on meat.

    Congrats on the successful skewering as well!

    Laura

  10. We used to get the Gujarati version of doogh – I think it’s called chaas – at a restaurant in Sunnyvale, CA. It was THE BEST and most refreshing thing possible to have on a hot day, but everyone we introduced to it thought it was awful! Will have to try to make a version of this sometime…thanks for reminding me of it!

  11. That’s great, another fateful meeting, I have met Farisa from WF too, she’s is so friendly. There is another sweet half Syrian, half American who is very friendly too. Told our very good Persian friend to check out this week’s food.

  12. elisa waller says:

    i used to make a cucumber salad at the healthfood store ….it was sliced cukes, with a rice vinegar, ( a spalsh of orange juice) and honey dressing , sprinkled with sesame seeds….i quess it seems like an asian dish (hence the rice vinegar)??…but one of my faves! delicious meal sweet sister!

  13. Very sweet ending! One of my best friends is Persian so we often eat Persian rice (and other things) at her house. Sour cherry rice is for special occasions. My favorite part of Persian rice is the crunchy part that forms on top…mmmh

  14. Sasha Martin says:

    @Laura – Great tip on the Pomegranate syrup – thank you :) The skewers were fun; I was a bit intimidated at first, but – thankfully- the texture of the meat came out right, so it stuck well. Your cooking challenge sounds amazing. I love, love, love the concept. I think one of the items I made for Iraq just might work!

    @Angeline – I think people generally have an aversion because they expect something sweet. I was sure to warn my husband about it and he fared a lot better than he might have otherwise. Still, it’s a challenge if you’re not used to such flavor combinations. Personally, I liked it!

    @Ruby – Isn’t it funny how Tulsa is like a small town in so many ways.. despite being a city.

    @Elisa – Thank you very much xo

    @Nuts about food – yes, the crunchy part is the best. I found with this dish that a large onion was difficult to get crusty, but if I used a medium one, I had a better shot at it (I made this dish twice). The first time I made it is photographed. The second one is in the video, and you can see it didn’t get crusty. Still, it was tasty.

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