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Drinks

Yalda – Cranberry Orange Rose Sharbat – Fierce and Unrelenting

Dear friends, we had the pleasure of sharing our Yalda celebration in the December issue of Sunset Magazine. Thank you to everyone involved for making it such a bright and joyous evening.
This Yalda I leave you with some of the images from our Sunset shoot and a bright, refreshing Cranberry Orange Rose Sharbat.

MUSIC WE’RE COOKING TO
Honey, the color of a California sunset.
Fierce and unrelenting.

Chicken

First Taste – Sour Cherry, Rosé Chicken Roast

Music We’re Cooking To
She leans over the edge of the world. Bold, beautiful and brave. The first light of day gently lays its lips on her saffron-hued cloak. A hushed whisper of a kiss, casting its golden reflection over Oceanus. Rippling triumphantly over seas, rivers and lakes. Lighting up the world. From East to West.
Eos, the goddess of the dawn, rosy fingered and perpetually in love with the first taste of a new day, rises.

Drinks

Strawberry, Rose, and Mint Kombucha – Husband’s Brew

♪  Music husband is brewing to ♪
Please join me and fellow Persian food bloggers as we celebrate the Iranian midsummer festival Tirgan with a virtual picnic. I am also thrilled to have Drew, aka Mr. Husband take the reins on this post. Because a summer picnic is never complete without a bottle of Husband’s Kombucha.
Kombucha – Fun With Bacteria

Three years ago a good friend of mine pulled me aside with a proposition.

Tips

A Sweet Secret – Tuckerman’s Farm Maple Syrup

For a few years now, some time around April we anxiously look forward to a very special package to land (hopefully very gently) on our doorstep. My father-in-law Steve’s home-tapped maple syrup. Directly from his farm in New Hampshire – Tuckerman’s Farm. I am so happy to have Steve share this beautiful story with us. Story and photos by Steve Bjerklie.

Dessert

A New Day – Toot – Persian Marzipan

♪Music we’re cooking to♪
Propel. That’s a good word, Mama. – Luna
Turn up the music. The music we’re cooking to.
Turn it up loud.
I mean feel the rhythm surge through your entire being and bounce off your heart kind of loud.
Louder. Louder. Louder.
Push aside the curtains, throw open the doors and windows.

Soup

City fo Gold and a Farro, Mung Bean, Cannellini Aash

 ♪ Music We’re Cooking To ♪
I expected food, culture, and a unique culinary guide to the city – my adopted city.
I didn’t expect the tears.
I was invited to a screening of the documentary film City of Gold about Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times food writer Jonathan Gold, directed by Laura Gabbert. It was a mid-week event right around dinner time.

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Clinging to Freddie Mercury and a Pot of Rice – Zereshk Polo – Barberries and Rice

Zereshk – barberries – like memories – first need to be sorted through.  Scatter them on a plate as you would dried legumes, and with a discerning eye pick out the older, shriveled and darker looking ones.  Hang on to the bright crimson ones.  Occasionally you might come across a small stone, pebble, or something of the sort.  Give those the boot as well.  While you’re at it remove the little stems too.

Appies

Pretend – A Sweet Pumpkin Borani – Jashneh Mehregan

 ♪ MUSIC WE’RE COOKING TO ♪
Luna, pretend, pretend the princess is on her way to the ball but she got lost.
Ok, but Soleil first pretend she is in her room practicing for the gymnastics competition and forgets she has to go to the ball.
But Luna pretend when she remembers she gets lost. Ok?

Set the pumpkin and orange on the cutting board.  Slice the tops and ends off each.  For stability, for support.

Luncheon

Grilled Lamb Testicles – Donbalan – Diplomacy and a Ladies Luncheon

Music we’re cooking to
The hunt for organic, grass-fed lamb testicles – donbalan – is complicated.
It takes time, patience, perseverance, and courage.
The quest for negotiating sensitive global issues, with potentially disastrous consequences, by means of diplomacy is complicated.
It takes time, patience, perseverance, and courage.
I’m not a big lamb eater.  On occasion, I do enjoy a sizzling, juicy grilled chop.

Pasta

Baba’s Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

Carbonara.
He sends you flying.
It’s controversial.
High up in the air.
The same way hummus is controversial.
You spread your wings, catch your breath, and squeal with delight.
Or guacamole.
It’s innate. The dream of flight.  And in an instant he has given you wings.
To soar.  Beyond your dreams.
Or fesenjan.

He claps once.  Maybe twice.  Depending on how much air you catch.
A recipe can only take you so far.

Dessert

The Recital – Cheryl’s Milk Chocolate Yogurt Pots

She wrote this song about John Mayer. You whisper conspiratorially into his ear.
There was a time when this easy lean into his shoulder, followed by hushed murmurs, carried with it information of a different nature.
But today it’s all about Taylor Swift.
Such is the evolution of a marriage.
He – your husband – looks back at you slightly intrigued but mostly bewildered.

Chicken

The Neighborhood Thief – An Orange Blossom, Yogurt, Saffron, Shio Koji Roast Chicken

Grab your gardening shears.  Grab a basket, a bag, a sack, anything with handles.  Feel the weight and the cool metal of the shears rest against the warm embrace of your palm.  Make the most of this auspicious occasion. You don’t garden.  You’d like to.  But you don’t.
Call out to your shadows.  Announce you are off to forage.  You don’t forage either.

Rice

Scattered Showers – A Green Herb Rice – Sabzi Polo

I wish we could all be together this Nowruz.
I wish we weren’t all scattered across the country.
Scattered across the continent.
Scattered across the globe.
She sits in her dedicated spot at our kitchen table.  Her words echo through the kitchen, twisting and turning, bouncing off you, looking and yearning for a spot to land, eventually finding their way out – seduced by the wide open door and a gentle late winter breeze.

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Shio Koji – A Round Kitchen

Dear friends, I am truly humbled to be included as a finalist in the 2015 IACP Digital Media Awards for Best Narrative Culinary Blog.  What a great privilege and honor to be recognized amongst such amazing, talented individuals.  Thank you all from the bottom of my heart (and pot!) for all your kind words, support and encouragement.  It means the world to me.  Go Tahdig!

♪ MUSIC WE’RE COOKING TO ♪
We have a globe.

Side Dish

Taste – A Collard Greens Borani Collard Greens with Yogurt and Caramelized Red Onion Sumac

 ♪ MUSIC WE’RE COOKING TO ♪
Raw honey.
Like the jar from Trader Joe’s.
Dripping in gold, warmth, and sweetness.
My daughter’s eyes, Soleil’s eyes, the sun’s eyes, shimmer like raw honey.
Dripping in gold.
Showering us with warmth, sweetness, and unyielding love.
And occasionally stubbornness, and intense, deeply felt, unyielding five-year-old emotions.
Pure and raw.

Soup

A Winter’s Tale and a Pomegranate Soup – Shab-E Yalda – Aash-E Anar

Yeky bood, yeky nabood…
‘Twas the longest night of the year.
‘Twas the darkest night of the year.
‘Twas the most magical night of the year.
Soak the rice as the split peas simmer away.  Immerse your hands in the cold water and gently break up the rice into bits and pieces. Feel the familiar beat of nostalgia course through your body.  Memory knocking at your door.  It always begins with a gentle knock.

Stew

The Spice Cupboard – A Story of Love – A Yellow Split Pea and Persian Lime Stew – Khoresh Gheymeh

 ♪ MUSIC WE’RE COOKING TO ♪
Casually he lifts up his shirt.  Revealing cuts and bruises.  A skateboarding injury.  Meant to impress I think.  He keeps the shirt up for a beat longer than necessary.  Awkwardly lingering in the moment.  Electrifying and innocent all at the same time. As a young man in his early twenties – really, still a boy – is apt to do.
Casually I ask him if he needs an icepack.

Dinner

Lost Things – Jashneh Mehregan – A Broccoli Koo Koo

 ♪ Music we’re cooking to ♪
Mama, can you squeeze the clouds to make it rain? – Soleil
Step outside.
Plant your bare feet firmly in the grass.
Let your toes wander. Let them search and settle amongst the rough and dying blades.
What was once lush and green.  What was once childhood.  What was once a vibrant summer respectfully fading away and making room for a crisp and most welcome autumn breeze.
Lost.

Appies

The Politics of Hummus in a Moody Kitchen

♪ Music we’re cooking to ♪
It’s deliciously liberating to not have any attachments.
Soak dried chickpeas in plenty of water over night.
To not feel the glare, pressure and judgment of those wiser than you, those that have come before you, searing your back.  Those mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers, that make a habit of pulling up a stool and comfortably perching themselves on your shoulders, watching your every move.

Dessert

Yellow Flame Pudding – A Saffron and Rose Chia Seed Pudding – Sholeh Zardeh Tokhmeh Sharbati – That Woman

I am that woman.
You know the one.
You’ve seen her around town.
On the 405 – the 101 – and the 10 sometimes going East – on market days going West.
You’ve waited patiently and sometimes not so patiently for her to pull out of “your” Whole Foods parking spot.
You’ve caught a glimpse of her in your rear view mirror at school drop offs and pick ups.
You’ve pulled up beside her at the stop light.

Dinner

Louisa’s Tempeh Kabas with Minty Cilantro Lime Sauce – Persian Hospitality

 ♪ Music we’re cooking to ♪
Much has been written, said, rumored, about Iran – about Persians.  By Persians and non-Persians alike.  Some true – some pure fiction – some thoughtful – some ignorant – some just plain uninformed.  But the one Persian quality that can be wholeheartedly agreed upon by everyone across time and borders is the generosity and excellence of Persian Hospitality.

Dessert

Mothers and Daughters – Strawberries Macerated in Pomegranate Molasses with Rose Water Cream

Once upon a time, a long, long, long time ago, there was a bang which wasn’t really a bang but more of a singular moment in time when all the matter in the universe came into laser-sharp focus and all that energy in there shook around and bounced off of each other and  contracted and contracted until there was no more room so it expanded and BANG! exploded into tiny particles forming protons, neutrons and electrons – forming The Univ

Dinner Stew

An Artichoke, Mushroom, and Sour Green Plum Stew – Khoresh Kangar-E-Farangi Ba Gojeh Sabz – An Official Dinner Invitation

 ♪ MUSIC WE’RE COOKING TO ♪
Mama!  The radio just said Air Force One landed at LAX.  Can the President come over for dinner?  Please?!
What’s Air Force One, Luna?
Air Force One is the President’s airplane, Soleil.  And he’s here!  If Mama says it’s ok then he can come over for dinner.  Can he Mama?  Please?!  You could make Polo with Tahdig.  I bet he would love it.  Let’s call him.

Soup

A Fresh Herb, Bean, and Noodle Soup – Aash-E Reshteh – Azadi

Azadi?  What does Azadi mean, mama?
It means Freedom in Farsi, Luna.
The day before Nowruz – Persian New Year. We are at the Persian Bazaar – aka Westwood Blvd. – doing some last-minute shopping.  The girls pick out the sonbol – hyacinth – a purple one, of course.  Happily they crunch on the ajeel – the nut mix the store owners keep offering them.

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Homemade Kashk

I find the concept of an “acquired taste” a very interesting one.  Exactly when and how does one “acquire taste”?
Growing up in Vancouver, whenever kashk was supposed to be used in a dish my mom would replace it with either yogurt or sour cream –  if we were feeding our Canadian or American friends.

Dessert

A Pistachio Bakhlava Cake – A Confessional – And an Icestorm

♪ MUSIC WE’RE COOKING TO ♪
Confession:  I meant to share this Pistachio Bakhlava Cake with you in time for Valentine’s Day.  It didn’t happen.
Confession:  I also had every intention of sharing another delicious bite of goodness with you in time for the start of the Olympics. But that required making paper-thin slices out of a big hunk of jicama.

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A Music Education and a Pomegranate and Walnut Stew – Khoresh Fesenjan

George Michael and Andrew Ridgely.  They dreamily look deep into my soul – unearthing every little secret and thought as I flop on my bed – chin resting on hands looking even  deeper into their souls – the intensity of my stare almost burning a hole in the album cover – held inches from my nose.  I fancy myself Andrew’s best bud and the next Mrs. George Michael.
Well – we all know how that all turned out.

Dinner

A Swiss Chard Reduction – A Shrimp and Quinoa Paella – Fun Friday

It’s not a graceful entrance.
We crash/bang/sing/stumble/dance/pontificate/drag/whine/laugh our way into the house.  Backpacks hit the the floor with a thunderous clatter. Jackets are tossed in one direction – even though the coat hooks are at arms length – and at kid height.  Two sets of shoes fly up and come crashing back down – briefly electrifying the room with a shower of sparkly lights.

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JARRING TOMATOES – CALABRESE STYLE – PART 2

Continued from Part 1Before continuing my conversation with Teresa about her family’s annual tomato jarring tradition, I’d like to thank all the families involved in this years pomodori event and for sharing the ins and outs of this amazing tradition.  Thank you to the families Tiano, Marelli, Mercuriano, Novia, Cipollone, Corbo, Ferrara and Deravian.  And to my brother Ramin for the great photos (stills!).

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JARRING TOMATOES – CALABRESE STYLE – PART 1

Some cultural traditions (habits?) are very hard to break.  Food as a souvenir is one that stands out in my family.  Whenever my parents come to visit from Vancouver they pack their suitcases with barbari bread (it came out of the oven this morning – I told the baker I was visiting my daughter and grandchildren so he threw in a few extra…) pistachios, toot (fresh mulberries), feta cheese, the saffron Mrs.

Side Dish Uncategorized

Pesto – A Birth and Book Club – Beautiful Ruins

♪ Music we’re cooking to ♪
My water broke at 7:30am.  By 8:00am we were busy putting away all the food Drew had planned to prepare that night for Book Club – The Life of Pi.
It was a bright, clear and sunny Sunday morning in 2006.  Los Angeles never looked more beautiful.  Massive, in-your-face billboards, boulevards vast and desolate, cracked sidewalks and all. The freeways were clear.  For once.

Luncheon

A Platter of Fresh Herbs – A Balancing Act – Sabzi Khordana

 ♪ Music we’re cooking to ♪
Soleil, you take a little bite of the radish and at the same time take a bite of your rice and stew.  Then chew it all up together.  The radish won’t taste very spicy and will make everything else in your mouth taste awesome.  Got it? – Luna
Persian food.  It’s all about creating the perfect bite – loghmeh.

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HOMEMADE YOGURT AND STRAINED (GREEK STYLE) YOGURT – A RAINY PARISIAN AFTERNOON

♪ MUSIC WE’RE COOKING TO ♪
Mama, how about Dada and Soleil go to Spain or somewhere.
How come, Luna?  
Then you and I can go to Paris.  You know, Soleil will be all tired and grumpy and whiny and everything else a 3 and a 1/2 year old is like.
It’s supposed to rain the first time you visit Paris.
I read that somewhere – or someone said that – at some point – somewhere.

Chicken

A Green Beans and Chicken Rice with Lavash Tahdig – A Friday Night Loobia Poloa

Occasionally I’ll be caught standing in front of the fridge or the pantry – a blank look on my face – desperately staring down the goods – hoping that this time, all the produce, legumes and grains have magically developed telepathic powers to convey to me how to prepare them in a mouth watering, nutritious fashion for the whole family to enjoy.  It is a losing battle.  As my six year old Luna is quick to remind me.

Dinner

A Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Sauce and Park Ribs – Food Diplomacy 101

You never see the sun in the night, but once in an ice cream while, you see the moon in the daytime. – Luna
BBQ sauce and pork ribs are not exactly part of my everyday cooking vernacular.  I am not what you might call a BBQ sauce/ribs enthusiast – not even close.  I know there are cookbooks, TV shows and competitions dedicated to this mighty American tradition.

Drinks

A Spring Fling – A Campari and Vodka Cocktail

What can I get you?
He leans across the bar.  Kindly looking into my bewildered eyes.  A simple question he has asked numerous times this evening.  He expects a simple and quick reply.
It’s 6:30pm on a week night and the place is already buzzing with after-work imbibing.  Hipsters and the like winding down the day – or maybe just getting started for the night.  It’s loud, the energy of the place palpable.

Stew

A SPRING FAVA BEAN, DILL AND EGG STEW – BAGHALI GHATOGH

The salty air.  The very salty sea.  A warm seaside breeze.  Hair tangled and knotted in the wind – sticking to very salty lips. 
These are my memories of Shomal – North.
Memories can be very elusive, hard to pin down.  They tease us with a hazy snap shot of what once was – a time long since passed.  A familiar scent, taste, the caress of a warm breeze.

Side Dish

Rice and the Art of Getting to the Bottom of the Pot – Chelo Ba Tahdig

They gather around me with bated breath.  The air is thick with anticipation and hope.If it all goes as planned, the fruits of my labor will be met with thunderous applause and joyous cheers.  High fives and high jumps and quasi-cartwheels all around.  Maybe even a little impromptu jig.
If it all falls apart (literally), shoulders will slump, and slight groans will replace the cheers.  Dissapointed little feet will shuffle back to the table.

Soup

The Best Soup in the Whole Wild World – Lentil and Barley Soup

Mama, this is the best soup in the whole wild world.
Soleil is right, Mama.  Make this soup every day and every night and every afternoon.
Can we have this for lunch tomorrow, Mama?!
Allow me to explain.
Although I’d like to take full credit for all the glowing adulation of my-soup making abilities, I  also need to extend a big thank you to my not so silent cohort – sugar.  The white, refined, not-so-natural variety.

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Our Haft Seen Table

Nowruz celebrations last for thirteen days.  During this time families and friends visit each other and homes are always ready to greet well wishers with hot tea and sweets.  It all culminates on the thirteenth day – seezdah bedar –  with a big picnic outdoors.
We have had a wonderful Nowruz surrounded by good friends and family.

Side Dish

Fresh Herb Koo Koo – Koo Koo Sabzi

Mmmm…what’s that smell, Mama?
It’s koo koo again.  Do you think you’ll want to have more, Luna?
With that smell all in the house, how can I ever say no!
This was our third batch of herb koo koo in three weeks.  After days of koo koo for lunch, dinner, after-school snack; and having exhausted every cuckoo – koo koo joke, I was certain there would be no interest in yet another bite.

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Looking Forward

We are deep into preparations for Persian New Year.
Nowruz (sounds like know rooz).
We celebrate the first day of spring.  New beginnings, new life, new blossoms, fresh green grass – rebirth.  Nature – Mother Earth wakening from her deep winter slumber.
Nowruz this year falls on Wednesday March 20  at 4:01:56 am (PST).  Vernal equinox.    Exactly the moment when the Earth’s axis tilts neither towards nor away from the sun.

Stew

A Comforting Parallel Universe Celery Stew – Khoresh Karafs

The skies have turned grey.  The fog is rolling in.  There’s talk of rain.  Yes, this does happen in Los Angeles.
I need everything to slow down.  A break from the daily routine.  I begin to yearn for my parallel universe.
That alternate life where I curl up on the couch with my boyfreind – now my husband.  Watch a movie at three in the afternoon.

Side Dish

Yogurt – A Love Story – Mast O Khiar

If we were playing that silly “what if you were stranded on a deserted island, what is the one food item you would take with you” game – my answer without hesitation would be  yogurt.
Plain, un-adulterated – nothing added – yogurt.
If I were a poet I would compose volumes of love sonnets declaring my eternal love and devotion to yogurt.

Tips

Saffron – Liquid Gold

It’s time to have a talk.  Yes, that talk. I know, we just started this thing.  We’re just getting to know each other.  It’s been fun.  But if this is going to go on any further I need to know that you’re fully invested.  Ready to take a chance.  Ready to shake things up a little.  Ready to commit.
To saffron.
I know, I know, I’m asking for a lot.  But we’re worth it.  You’re worth it.

Dessert

A Sexy Dates and Walnut Pie – Ranginak

Yes.  I know.  How can dates and walnuts ever be described as sexy.
Well, maybe it’s just time to re-think sexy, and welcome some new players into this exclusive (and elusive?) club.  After all, it’s not all about outward appearances.  Most of the time it’s about how we are made to feel.  And this pie is here to help bring back the inner sexy.  Or so I hear.

Recipes are usually inherited.

Soup

A Turnip Soup – Shalgham

How has this winter been treating you?  We’ve managed to stay pretty healthy.  Well, except for that terrible chest cough that everyone seems to be sporting.  You know, the one that overstays it’s welcome by about a month.  Both girls got it.  Soleil was hit especially hard for a couple of days. Each time she coughed she sounded like an eighty year old man who has spent sixty of those years puffing cigarettes.

Tips

A Thing or Two about Recipes

But you can’t tell people exactly what to use, they have to see what they have in the fridge! – my mom.
When I decided to officially leave home – Vancouver being home at the time – and move to Los Angeles on my own, oh so many moons ago, I knew I couldn’t survive more than a week without a home-cooked meal.  One of the downfalls of being raised on home cooking: nothing else will suffice.

Fruit

Sweet Lemons

I promise every post is not going to be about random fruits and how to juice them.  But here’s the thing – these lemons will cure you.  Well, so say my parents.
At the first sign of a cold, a random sneeze, cough or sniffle – my dad will run out and return with a four pound bag of sweet lemons.

Drinks

Pomegranate Juice – Abeh Anar

This pomegranate brought me back to life!
So said my 6 year old daughter Luna when she got through the very last drop of her abeh anar – pomegranate juice.  Next came the search for any surviving seeds that didn’t have their juice sucked right out of them.  Dainty, stained fingers ripped though the ravaged piece of fruit in hopes of one more little morsel, one more blood-red seed, one more crunch.