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.
A peasant food, at its core! And let’s face it, I’d eat like a peasant any day when the dish tastes this rich and yummy, and is yet very simple, quick and inexpensive!
Nargesi’s origin is back in the Caspian Sea region of Iran, where produce and vegetables are abundant. Spinach is a cherished and prized leafy green that is not only eaten raw in salads, but also cooked in various stews. It is a common belief in Iran that spinach adds flavor and more importantly a certain level of viscosity to stews.
Here is another dish in the Kuku series. But this Kuku is quite special, as it highlights a vegetable that has been called the potato of Iran: none other than eggplant. Eggplant is such a unique vegetable, and – as my beloved cooking teacher would say – eggplant is a prima donna ingredient, and I could not agree more!
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!
This is a perfect example of a simple and humble Caspian Sea dish in which large amounts of parsley, cilantro, mint, spinach and green onions are finely chopped and cooked down while brilliant and colorful slices of carrot gently soften in this tangy herb sauce. This dish is typically served with fried eggs or pieces of white fish on top and steamed basmati rice.
This was another dish that I got to make with mom while visiting her in Chicago earlier this year. Mella Ghormeh is a simple northern Iranian / Caspian sea dish which is incredibly simple to make. A tasty dish that starts with sauteing onions, garlic, and eggplants followed by adding dried herbs, tomatoes and water. The eggplants are cooked until they become tender, eggs are then cracked on top and poached in the broth for about 5 minutes. As with most Caspian Sea dishes, it is served with rice and yogurt on the side.