Shami – Herb and meat patties

شامی

Shami is often referred to as a meat patty, though realistically it is more about herbs and ground walnuts than it is about the meat. Throughout Iran, you will find a multitude of Shami varieties using different types of meat, often with added chickpeas, yellow split peas, or red lentils.

This version from the Caspian Sea region was one of my favorite dishes when I was growing up. Though I had no idea of the effort that went into preparing them, I knew there was something very special about these patties. There was nothing ordinary about them: Mom used her finger to poke a hole in their centers, so they came in a form you’d more often associate with a bagel or a donut. And all the herbs transformed the meat into something incredibly tasty, rich, and aromatic. I can still remember the scent that would emanate from the kitchen, signaling that mom was cooking Shami again!

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Kuku Gerdu – Walnut and herb frittata

کوکو گردو

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.

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Sabzi Polo ba Mahi – Herbed rice pilaf with fish

سبزی پلو با ماهی

Sabzi Polo is one of the more popular herb-rice mixture dishes in Persian cuisine, known not only for its use of abundant fresh herbs but also for its close ties to the Persian New Year celebration, Nowruz.

Iranian’s obsession with herbs in large quantities, fresh or dried, is no secret. You will find many dishes – ranging from yogurt, to stews, to soups and rice dishes – that incorporate at least one herb, or more often a whole medley of them.

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Ghalieh Mahi – Fish in a tamarind and herb sauce

قلیه ماهی

The cuisine of Southern and South-Western Iran is known for its rich, bold flavors and the creative use of tamarind, dates, regional spices and of course, seafood from the Persian Gulf! This stew is a great representation of the region’s dishes: slightly spicier, and with a different flavor profile.

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Aash-e Mash – Mung beans and herbs soup

آش ماش

Here is another great entry in the long line of Aashes – thick, hearty soups – in Persian cuisine. Much like others in the series, this Aash incorporates an abundance of fresh herbs, Kashk, a Persian whey sauce, along with crispy garlic, caramelized onions, and the aromatic mint sauce!

Though the main ingredient for this Aash is the mung bean, the turnip is the true star. Persians have a long history of love affairs with turnips! To be more accurate, Persian moms have a long history of forcing their children to eat, drink, and breathe turnip in its various forms for its health benefits!

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Aash-e Anar – Pomegranate soup with meatballs

آش انار

This is Aash-e Anar, another of the popular and well-loved members of the Aash family, with many enticing and creative seasonal variations.

Aash has always been front and center of Persian cuisine. This is a Farsi term used to describe a thick style of soup that often combines a variety of beans, grains, sometimes noodles, herbs, spices and meat. 

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Aash Gholvat – Potato and herb stew with eggs

آش قلوت

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

Aash has always been front and center in Persian cuisine. This is a Persian term used to describe a thick style of soup that often combines a variety of beans, grains, sometimes noodles, herbs, spices and meat. 

There are nearly 50 varieties of Aash. Aash Resteh, Aash Jow and Aash Sholeh Ghalamkar top the list, followed by less recognized and more regional Aash dishes.

This Aash definitely packs a ton of flavors into a surprisingly simple vegetarian dish. The usual suspects in this Aash are Sabzi (fresh herbs in Farsi), and sprinkled on top fried dried mint leaves and caramelized onions.

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Kufteh Pesteh – Meatballs with pistachios and pomegranate

کوفته پسته

Yes indeed, this is another Kufteh (meatballs in Farsi) in the long line of meatballs in Persian cuisine. Except this one is just jam packed with incredible and unique flavors that are enhanced with the addition of fresh herbs and sparkling arils of pomegranate and the crunch of the much beloved emerald green colored Iranian pistachios.

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Khoresh Rivas – Beef and herb stew with rhubarb

خورش ریواس

Khoresh Rivas is yet another Persian stew that celebrates the abundance of fresh herbs and Iranians’ never ending love affair with sour flavors. In the rest of the world rhubarb’s sourness is almost always moderated with sugar or strawberries, but Iranians use rhubarb in savory dishes precisely because of its sour flavor.

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Kalam Polo Shirazi – Cabbage and rice pilaf with meatballs

کلم پلو شیرازی

A traditional and popular dish from the city of Shiraz, Kalam Polo consists of cabbage and small meatballs layered into rice, with – of course – an exotic combination of spices, herbs and flavors.

Shiraz, known for its beautiful gardens and its deep poetic tradition (it was the home of both Hafez and Sa’adi), is also a significant contributor to Persian cuisine, to which it brings its own unique identity. Shirazis are proud of the many local ingredients and foods that reflect the region’s climate, culture and lifestyle. Shiraz wine, anyone?!

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