Azita Mehran loves Persian food. As the Iranian-born Blogger of the Week told us Tuesday, not only are the richly spiced dishes part of her heritage, they’re also a crucial link back to her late mother.
Mehran expertly does the ancient cuisine justice, displaying its exquisite flavor combinations in dishes such as chicken, pomegranate, and walnut stew; a slow-cooked soup of beef and celery; and even a simple zucchini and yogurt salad.
But we wanted to dig a little deeper and learn more about what Mehran thinks is so delightful about Persian food. Below, she dishes on the virtues of dried lime, her lifetime supply of saffron, and that one time she attempted a Mexican casserole.
Ghormeh sabzi—an herb-infusedPersian stew of beef or lamb—especially the next day’s leftovers.
Go-to kitchen utensil:
My chef’s knife, since my cooking usually starts with chopping onions.
Most underappreciated ingredient, in your opinion:
Limoo amani (dried lime). It brings out the flavor in most stews and chicken dishes.
Dried limes for sale in a Bahrain market. Photo: Wikimedia
Oddest flavor combo you love:
Pizza with ketchup!
Kitchen “sin” for which you won’t apologize:
Not using a food scale for most of my recipes.
Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij. It’s a must have for those who are new to Persian cooking.
Culinary “eureka!” moment:
The first time that my mother taught me how to make rice when I was seven years old. It’s simple food, but so fundamental to Persian cooking.
Splurgiest kitchen purchase:
Probably my KitchenAid mixer. And, of course, my lifetime supply of saffron.
You’re about to bite the big one. What’s your last supper?
My last supper would start with sabzi khordan (a fresh herb platter), lighvan cheese and barbari bread as the appetizer. For the main course: kabab koobideh (grilled skewers of ground lamb) with mast-o-khiar (yogurt and cucumber dip) and a salad shirazi of cucumber, tomato, and onion. For dessert: Persian baklava and noon nokhodchi (chickpea flour cookies). I would also have to have a slice of New York-style cheesecake, one last time, served with freshly brewed hot tea.
Skewers of kabab koobideh (grilled ground lamb). Photo: Winfried Heinze/StockFood
Proudest food moment:
The first time I made homemade yogurt and it turned out much better than I expected.
Toughest dish you’ve mastered:
Kitchen skill you want to learn:
How to do elaborate cake designs.
Best thing your parents taught you about food:
To always use fresh ingredients and to appreciate home-cooked food.
Ice cream or gelato?
Ice cream, always.
Vanilla or chocolate?
A combo of vanilla and chocolate.
Hamburger or hot dog?
Hamburger topped with caramelized onions.
Dream vacation spot (for eating, of course):
Italian food is my second most favorite cuisine, so my dream vacation would be somewhere in Italy.
Worst kitchen blunder you wish you could undo:
I tried making a Mexican casserole for a dinner party, and instead of two teaspoons of chili powder, I added two tablespoons. Needless to say, no one ate it.
Ingredient that you just can’t stand:
I hate the taste of fennel.
You can only eat one type of cuisine for the rest of your life. What is it?
That’s easy. Persian food, hands down.
Recipes from Azita Mehran:
Have you ever tried cooking Persian cuisine? What dish might you try, if you haven’t?