A TASTE OF PERSIA: An Introduction to Persian Cooking Najmieh K. Batmanglij
Photos: some recipes Ease: 2-5
I discovered this indispensable jewel in a small book shop near the Kensington High Street in London. I had fallen in love with Persian-style grilling and the intriguing spice sumac while still a student in California 12 years earlier, and I hungrily prowled the shops of London 7 years ago looking for the definitive guide to Persian cooking and grilling. This was it.
As I’ve come to learn, Persian cooking favors souring agents of all kinds, limes (fresh and dried), sour cherries, sour orange, barberries, green (unripe) grapes, turmeric, and of course, sumac. There is also a strong emphasis on large quantities of fresh herbs of all kinds, and the vibrant delicious photos in this slim volume really bring this point home.
Start with any of the grill recipes, perhaps Grilled Fish with Sumac (74), Fillet Kabab (76), or Chicken Kabab (80). Pair with the delicious and healthy Yogurt Cucumber Salad (26) and Saffron Steamed Basmati Rice (90). Meal-in-one rice dishes similar to the Indian pilaus are called Polows, such as Rice with Lentils & Dates (96), and Barberry Rice (110). Then there are the wonderful meat-and-fruit/veg stew-like dishes called Khoreshes – we have tried almost every one of the 13 recipes in the book, and most highly recommend the Rhubarb (132), Peach (136), Green Bean & Tomato (126), and Eggplant (120).
The biggest challenge to preparing this exquisite cuisine is procuring the very unique ingredients (dried whole limes, pomegranate paste or syrup, barberries, advieh spice mix). There is a detailed “dictionary of Persian cooking” included, with the names in English and Farsi of key ingredients, and a list of London grocers in the glossary. American cooks without a Middle Eastern grocer nearby can look to wonderful on-line spice bazaars.