Chris at EatAir tagged me for this meme that has been going around the blogosphere: I have to name 5 foods that I think everyone should eat before they die. Thanks, Chris!
This is a difficult task--there are SO many foods I love! Should I go with the classics- avocados, persimmons, chocolate...? Should I pick from among my favorite cuisines of the world- Japanese, Thai, Spanish...? There are so many choices of unique, delicious, scintillating foods and dishes out there that I decided to narrow my field by naming the top 5 Iranian foods that I think everyone should try- these are the foods of my childhood, and might be unfamiliar to some, but I urge you to try to track them down!
photo added 2 sept 2007, courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morello_cherry
1. Sour cherries. These taste distinct from cherries, with a bright and tangy flavor, and they are so good for you. If you can't find fresh sour cherries in the market (they are only available for a short time in the summer) try dried sour cherries or sour cherry preserves. Heavenly.
2. Powdered sour grapes. Yes, a sour theme is emerging! Sour is a major flavor component of Iranian cooking, and cooks achieve it in a number of ways: dried and preserved lemons and limes, lemon/lime juice, pomegranate paste or molasses, the list goes on and on. This powder is made of green, unripe grapes. Put a dash in your next pot of beans, chilli, spaghetti sauce, etc. It brightens the flavor and adds tang and depth, without being overwhelming. Fantastic added to the filling for stuffed grape leaves, stuffed peppers, etc.
3. Zereshk, a.k.a. barberries. Yet another sour thing! Barberries are dried and then used in dishes such as zereshk polo (rice pilaf with saffron and barberries, illustrated below). Definitely a dish to try at least once. It's traditionally served with chicken, which I substitute with mock chicken.
4. Sour orange (can you guess my favorite flavor yet...) These can also be difficult to track down, but are available in the Winter briefly: check your local Iranian or Middle Eastern or North African market. Look for their wrinkled skin and potent aroma. Their flavor is so fragrant and unique. They are an essential component to one of my favorite dishes: zeitoon parvardeh (olive paste.) Throw into your food processor 1. a large handful of pitted green olives 2. 3 or 4 garlic cloves, to taste 3. a handful of walnuts 4. the juice of one sour orange, and whir until blended but not completely smooth. So good on bread with cocktails, or as a side to any entree. If you like the dominant flavors of Spanish tapas or Turkish meze, you will love this!
5. Angelica. This is a delicious and underutilized spice, common to silk road cuisine (Eastern Europe- Caucases- Near East- Middle East- India). A lot of recipes call for angelica, but one of my favorite ways to eat it is to sprinkle it on fresh orange or pomegranate. These combinations evoke wintertime for me as much as baking gingerbread or pumpkin pie!
[Of the above photos, I took the ones of the sour grape powder, barberries, and angelica. I found the rest on the Internet and borrowed them]
Ok, that's my top 5! I have to tag the next 5 people, and this is pretty late in the game, so forgive me if you have already been tagged.
5. Brooke Ashley
what are YOUR 5 foods to eat before you die?