As a chef and food stylist, I use a myriad of recipes that are inspired by cultures around the world. My kitchen can often be a virtual “melting pot” of different traditional foods.
On certain days however, we all get cravings for comfort food–dishes that were mainstays in our childhood years.
I remember running into the kitchen as a young boy and seeing my mother put potato slices on the bottom of the rice pot. This would be cooked underneath the rice–resulting in a crispy golden crust called “tah-dig” that the kids would haggle over. It also had a dual purpose of preventing the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot!
Being from a Persian background, I grew up with rice as a main staple. There was always a large bowl of rice at the centerpiece of the dinner table because you never knew who would drop by suddenly. Leftovers were certainly not a problem!
Persian food is known for using many vegetables and fruits in its traditional dishes. Whether in stews or mixed with rice, creativity abounds as anything from apricots to raisins can be used to provide variety.
With citrus trees, fig trees and exotic plants dotting the landscape, it’s no wonder that flavoring is so aromatic in Persian food. Whether it is the zesty taste of lime or the fragrant scent of saffron, meals are often light and healthy.
Not surprisingly then–instead of spice–herbs are king. They are truly an important part of any Persian meal. A bowl of fresh basil leaves, parsley, mint, green onions and cilantro adorned my mother’s kitchen table at breakfast, lunch and supper! It was usually served along with some feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and freshly baked bread.
Known to the Western world as yogurt, “mast” was also part of our daily food. It can be served along with meals, as a warm or cold soup, or as a light dessert. Try serving it with any of the following dishes as a refreshing complement. Enjoy!