Makaroni – Pasta with tomato and meat sauce

ماکارونی ایرانی

What does a pasta dish look like after a Persian makeover? How do you turn a classic Italian ingredient into Persian comfort food?

Well, first you boil pasta until it’s al dente, and then you layer it in a pot with a tomato meat sauce and Persian spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom and rose petals. Before cooking, the pasta on the bottom of the pot is properly prepared to create a crispy Tahdig, much like the prized Persian version of basmati rice. The Tahdig can be made with the pasta itself, as shown here, or with potatoes or tortillas.

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Kayk Yazdi – cardamom and rosewater cupcakes

کیک یزدی

Kayk Yazdi is to Iranians what vanilla or chocolate cupcakes are to Americans! I have yet to serve this cake (“kayk” in Farsi also translates to cupcakes in English) without generating a twinkle in the eye followed by an ear to ear smile. For anyone of Iranian origin, this familiar little treat evokes a sweet and tender emotion, prompting nostalgic stories about a distant childhood eating Kayk Yazdi in Iran.

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Khoresh Bamieh – Okra and beef stew

خورش بامیه

Khoresh Bamieh comes originally from Khuzestan province in southern Iran, where it is traditionally prepared with a tamarind sauce. This variety, which is more common elsewhere in Iran, substitutes tomato sauce for the the less well known tamarind.

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Khoresh Gojeh Bademjan – Eggplant and tomato stew

خورش گوجه بادمجان

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!

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Kuku Sabzi – Fresh herb and leek frittata

کوکو سبزی

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 Khoresht.

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.

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Zereshk Polo – Saffron barberry rice pilaf

زرشک پلو

This is Zereshk Polo, a distinguished Persian dish.

The popular Zereshk Polo features many of the elements of Persian cooking. Barberries, which are quite tart and bright in color, are layered within the fluffy Basmati rice and served with succulent chicken, or if you prefer with lamb or beef .

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Khoresh Ghormeh Sabzi -Beef and fresh herb stew

خورش قورمه سبزی

This is Ghormeh Sabzi, by many accounts Iran’s national dish!

Yes, there are Fesenjoon, Khoresht-e Bademjan and Zereshk Polo, and a myriad of other stews and rice dishes, not to mention a long list of Kebabs. But there is something so very special about Ghormeh Sabzi.

To learn about this dish is to learn some of the very specific nuances of Persian culture, tradition and cuisine.

This dish is an internal contradiction, much like Iran herself. The ancient Persian Empire vs. modern-day Iran; pre-revolution vs. post-revolution; traditional dishes vs. fast food.

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Saffron and pear cake with Seville orange and pistachio frosting

Cayk-e Golabi ba zaferoon

کیک گلابی با زعفرون

There is so much to this cake, but not in the way you might think. It’s a simple cake, even if it does have some unique flavors.

This cake tells the story of my life. Every ingredient, every choice, every combination, and every approach in the cooking method results from the experiences I have had in my life.

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Dast Peech-e Gusht – Persian meatloaf with fresh herbs and barberries

دست پیچ گوشت

You thought only your grandmother made the best meatloaf? Well, who knew, Persians make meatloaf too and they are not shy about stuffing lots of flavors into them. The main component that remains consistent is the signature Persian flavor profile; a touch of sweet that is balanced with sour and the refreshing company of fresh herbs.

Disclaimer: my grandmother did not make us meatloaves!

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Aash-e Sholeh Ghalamkar – Hearty beans and rice stew with beef and herbs

آش شله قلمکار

What looks like a soup or a stew, but is neither? It is Aash!

Aash is a slow-cooked Persian dish that combines a variety of beans, grains, sometimes noodles, herbs, spices and meat. Its texture most resembles a thick soup.

Aash is quite versatile and has many variations. It can be a comfort food, but it can also be served “majlesie style” – meaning the kind of meal you’d serve at a fancy dinner party. It can be the main course, or be served in small quantities as part of a family-style spread. Aash has its roots in traditional Iranian holidays such as Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

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