Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
One woman’s labor of love to archive her family’s heritage results in a gorgeous cookbook that feeds us body, mind and spirit
When my daughter graduated from college and moved back home a few years ago, she started cooking and experimenting with Persian dishes. She asked me about traditional Persian recipes such as Ghormeh Sabzi (Herbed Stew) and Polo Gojeh (Tomato Rice). It was then that I realized that if I didn’t write down our family recipes, the important stories and our language would be forgotten in a matter of a generation or two.
That was my incentive to write a cookbook called Persian Delicacies: Jewish Foods for Special Occasions in which I highlight Iranian food and discuss some of the customs of Persian Jewish families.
I felt an obligation to document and to pass down the recipes as well as the stories of our immigration from Iran to the next generation.
I reached out to my friends and family members and asked for their signature recipes. I wanted to collect our family stories through the prism of food and preserve them for posterity. Most of the people I asked for help from were generous in sharing their time and their specialties. My sister’s mother-in-law shared five of her famous dishes that she prepares for Shabbat (Friday night) dinners. There are also recipes from my mother, my sister, my aunts and uncle and even an exotic Syrian recipe from my cousin who is married to a Syrian man.
This labor of love took six years to compile, translate and edit. At times, the project became so overwhelming that I had to set it aside for a few months before I could resume my work. I almost gave up a few times. My family played a huge role in keeping me motivated to complete the project. What started as a small family cookbook became a 250-page tome that was finally ready for publication. I even interviewed nutritionists and doctors and incorporated their advice.
I’m proud to have published a book that can be of value to the younger generation—and I invite you to share in my family’s heritage via your kitchen.
Here are three recipes from Persian Delicacies:
Avocado & Spinach Hummus
This recipe was a creative invention with the ingredients that I use almost every day. The spinach and avocados give a rich color and a smooth texture to this staple. I’ve used this recipe as a pasta sauce as well; it’s a lighter alternative to pesto. Avocados are packed with vitamins E, K, folate, carotenoids, potassium, lutein, fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids. Eating avocados can help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
- 1 cup raw (or canned) chickpeas
- 2 cups water
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 1 cup baby spinach
- ½ of a ripe avocado
- 1 small shallot (or a clove of garlic), peeled
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 or 3 sprigs of dill (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- ¼ cup vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- If you’re using dry chickpeas, soak them overnight. Drain the chickpeas and cook in 2 cups water on medium-low heat until the chickpeas are soft
- In a blender or food processor add all the ingredients and blend until smooth
- Serve in a medium bowl
- Season to taste and garnish with a sprig of dill or spinach (optional)
This colorful salad is packed with vitamins and minerals. Sunflower seeds are rich in B-complex vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, calcium and vitamin E. Squash is rich in manganese – a mineral that helps boost bone health. It helps the body’s ability to process fats and carbohydrates. Squash is also a great source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, folate and riboflavin.
- 1 cup red leaf lettuce (or romaine lettuce or arugula)
- 1 cup baby spinach (or kale)
- 1 avocado, cored, peeled and sliced
- ½ cup cooked and sliced (or cubed) butternut squash
- 1 medium or 2 small red beets, cooked, peeled and sliced
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or pomegranate molasses)
- 2 Tablespoons avocado oil (or olive oil)
- ¼ cup shelled sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- To make the salad dressing combine the olive oil, pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar), salt and pepper in a cup or in a Mason jar. Set aside
- Arrange the lettuce, spinach and avocado on salad plates
- Arrange the squash and the beets around the greens. Get creative with your design
- Shake the Mason jar before dressing the salad. Sprinkle sunflower seeds (optional)
Tahchin is traditionally made using yogurt and chicken. This is a vegetarian version. If you prefer a non-dairy dish, you can use mayonnaise instead of yogurt. Barberries are the traditional topping for Tahchin, but you can omit them or substitute dried cherries or dried cranberries. If you are not a fan of eggplant, you can substitute mushrooms.
- 3 cups cooked long grain or basmati rice
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 egg (or 2 egg yolks)
- 1 Japanese eggplant, peeled and sliced plus 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 Tablespoons saffron mixture
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or clarified butter)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup Barberries (optional)
- Prepare the saffron mixture. Set aside.
- Place the sliced eggplant in a colander. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon salt over the eggplant to get rid of the bitter flavor. Let stand for 10 minutes. Pat the eggplants dry with a paper towel.
- In a large bowl mix the rice, yogurt, eggs, saffron mixture, lemon juice, and salt until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Pour half of the rice mixture into a greased, round or rectangular baking dish or glass dish. Add the sliced eggplant and pour the rest of the rice mixture into the dish.
- Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 minutes. Bake for up to an hour for a crispier dish. (Garnish with barberries that have been sautéed in butter or oil and 1 small shallot if desired).
*For a non-dairy variation use ¼ cup of mayonnaise instead of the yogurt.
You may also enjoy reading Recipe: Mum’s Everyday Dal — Red Lentils with Sizzling Spiced Oil, by Aarti Sequeira.