Kashk Bademjoon – Eggplant spread with whey and mint

کشک بادمجون

Among all the eggplant spreads in the world, Kashk Bademjoon is unique! In this Persian dish the eggplant is the star, taking center stage with an up-and-coming co-headliner, Kashk. Kashk is most often referred to as liquid whey: tart, aromatic and salty, bringing a deep umami experience to the dish.

Name a culture, and it has a version of eggplant spread. Baba Ghanoush (Middle Eastern), Baklazhannaia Ikra (Slavic), Melitzanosalata (Greek), Mirza Ghasemi (another Iranian one), and the list goes on . . .

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Salad Olivieh – Chicken and potato salad

سالاد الویه

Salad Olivieh is a chicken and potato salad that has won most if not every Iranian’s heart! To mention Salad Olivieh to an Iranian is to watch an excited smiling face staring back at you and to hear tales of where and how they used to eat this salad. Most of us would have it wrapped in a thin lavash style of bread and eat it as a sandwich.

Salad Olivieh, originally a Russian dish, gained international fame at the turn of the century and became wildly popular. Because of Iran’s proximity to Russia, a number of Russian dishes have found their way to Iran via the Caspian Sea area.

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Shami-e Lapeh -yellow split pea and beef patties

شامی لپه

In the West, we have the burger with all its glorious variations. In Iran, we have the Shami with many regional influences. Shami resembles a donut, with a hole in its center.

In the North of Iran, there is the green Shami, in which the beef patty is packed with fresh herbs and creamy walnuts. This variety, however, integrates spices into the meat, which is then mixed with cooked yellow split peas and processed in a food processor to create a smooth and creamy texture. Finally, it’s fried to golden perfection!

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Maast-o Khiar – Yogurt with dried mint, cucumber and raisins

ماست و خیار

Yogurt is no stranger to Persian cuisine, and is frankly a mandatory side item on the table. Each region of Iran offers its own unique version of a yogurt dish to accompany a Persian meal.

In the North by the Caspian Sea, the specialty is a garlic and shallot yogurt, which has an intoxicating quantity of Persian shallots mixed into thick and creamy yogurt.

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Mirza Ghasemi – Smoked eggplant spread with poached eggs

میرزا قاسمی

When you think about it, just about every culture has its own version of an eggplant spread. Iran has no shortage of its own variety of eggplant dishes. As a matter of fact, it has been said that eggplants are the potatoes of Iran. Eggplants are so easy to love for their flavor, texture, and adaptability to the flavors you offer it – and for those exact reasons, it is also easy to dislike! Throughout my years of teaching cooking classes and engaging with students about eggplants, I have not come across any other vegetable that was so controversial!

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Zeitoon Parvardeh – Olive Tapenade with pomegranate

زیتون پرورده

Zeitoon parvardeh is full of umami flavors, a mixture of olives, creamy ground walnuts, and fresh herbs topped with pomegranate and a unique Persian spice called golpar, a hogweed seed.  This is a Caspian Sea specialty that also uses locally grown herbs that are unique to the area and otherwise not available elsewhere. Hence for the recipe, I have simply eliminated it and increased the quantity of the other herbs!

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