Delal, also known as green salt, is a specialty condiment from the Caspian Sea region of Iran, specifically from the Gilan and Mazandaran provinces. Traditionally, locally foraged herbs are harvested, roughly chopped, and placed in a traditional stone bowl along with salt, and pulverized by a repetitive rolling and grinding action using a smooth rock.
The specific ingredients and their ratios vary widely according to regional and household preferences. Cilantro and mint tend to be the primary, most readily available herbs. In contrast, hard to come by regional herbs such as Chochagh (Eryngium caucasicumand) and Khalvash are used in smaller quantities.
There is something extraordinarily special about this salad, which has great significance in Persian cuisine. The bright and refreshing flavors of tomato and cucumber are enhanced by a dressing of dried mint and unripe sour grape juice (Ab Ghooreh in Farsi). Its simplicity makes it relatively easy as a perfect companion to just about any meal.
By many accounts, Salad Shirazi is the national salad of Iran! Whether you’re eating informally in someone’s home, at a more formal dinner, or at a Persian restaurant, you will inevitably come across this salad. Of course, the red and green colors proudly showcase the colors of the Iranian flag!
Eggplants, otherwise known fondly as the potatoes of Iran, have a special place in Persian cuisine. You will find them fried, baked, charred over open fire, or pickled. Their texture ranges from chewy, smooth, chunky, and soft to creamy. They are cooked into Kuku or preserved as a Torshi (pickled) or integrated as a supporting element into a Khoresh or – in this case – featured as the star of the show!
Today I found myself wanting to stay close to home and do all kinds of domestic things. After the chores had been knocked off one by one, I was still longing to do something comforting and truly homey.
Naturally, I ended up in the kitchen, and I started to explore some less well-known Persian recipes. I found myself changing them around just a little to suit my craving for comfort food.
Persian cucumbers have ruined it for me! When you grow up eating cucumbers in the way that Americans eat apples and oranges, you are in for a disappointment the first time you cross paths with an ordinary cucumber. Persian cucumbers are delicate, high on cucumber flavor, and low on the chalky/bitterness factor. Their skins are sweet and soft, though frequently peeled and sprinkled with salt and pepper, allowing the cucumber to be eaten as you would eat a banana.
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!