Stuffed grape leaves are a well-recognized and popular dish in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions. Iranians, Turks, Syrians, Armenians, Lebanese, Greeks, and Iraqis have been making them since about the 17th century, albeit with many variations in the name, choice of ingredients, flavor profile, and presentation.
Dolmeh (Farsi), Dolma (Turkish), Dolmades (Greek)
You are likely to see rice and herbs as the main filling for most, while others include ground meat, yellow split peas and other ingredients. Most are rolled into a small log, while some are formed into a square shape.
You say frittata: I say Kuku; you say (Spanish) tortilla: I say K . . . and we are saying the same thing – almost! It is actually a stretch to call this dish a frittata or a tortilla, but I don’t know a better comparison.
Kuku is an Iranian egg-based dish that combines vegetables, herbs and/or meat mixed into the egg mixture along with spices, and is baked or pan-fried to create a light and fluffy savory delight.
This Kuku is another specialty dish from the Caspian Sea region of Iran. This region has such an affinity for simple but exceptionally flavorful dishes that are naturally plant-forward and rely heavily on abundant local produce.
Fall is my favorite season for variety of reasons: the turning of the leaves, the bright and colorful fall foliage, my birthday, and the arrival of harvest-time.
Squashes, persimmons, quinces and pomegranates top the list of seasonal favorites for me. I find the flavors of squashes quite appealing and when you think of it, what’s not to love?! They deliver carbs with a soft texture and a sweet flavor profile that pairs so nicely with many other flavors.
Sekanjebeen highlights the Iranian tradition of mixing familiar ingredients to create unique and exotic flavors. Sekanjebeen is quite simple in nature and easy to prepare: even though it has only 4 ingredients and takes just 30 minutes to cook, you will be rewarded with an unexpectedly delicious summery treat!
The syrup is normally prepared ahead of time in large quantities and then stored in the fridge for quick and easy transformation into an appetizer or a refreshing Sharbat (cold summer drink). As an appetizer, Sekanjebeen is served in a bowl with wedges of lettuce arranged around it. Each person tears off a piece of a lettuce and dips it into the syrup. The experience is hard to describe, each crunchy bite being followed by strong bold flavors.
Warning: Large quantities of lettuce will be consumed!
Want a quick, easy and yet flavorful meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner? Then Persian omelet is the answer! What we refer to as Om’let in Iran is essentially a simple, open faced omelet with very few ingredients but with a Persian twist.
Onions are slowly cooked into golden perfection before being further colored by the addition of turmeric powder. The optional addition of tomato paste and garlic ensures the flavors are enhanced. A few eggs are then cracked on top, and a touch of salt and pepper and a sprinkle of fresh herbs make this dish simply divine.
Soup-e Jow is a delightfully simple and flavorful soup, but is not really well-known in the line-up of Persian soups and Aashes. (Aash is a Farsi word for a thick soup, like a cross between a soup and a stew.) The barley offers an earthy flavor and satisfying chew, while lemon juice contributes a refreshing sourness. Carrots bring a brilliant color, and milk adds creamy richness.
This soup was a favorite of my family’s when I was growing up in Iran, and I remember looking forward to it every time Mom prepared it.
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 . . .
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.
Welcome to the world of herbs! Herbs play a significant role in Persian cuisine, whether they are served fresh as an appetizer with bread and cheese or cooked into Kuku or Khoresh (Persian stews).
Herbs are integrated into Persian dishes not only to brighten up the colors and bring a brilliant herbal taste, but also to create luscious and earthy sauces. Ghormeh sabzi, Saak, and Khoresht-e Karafs are good examples.