Like Madhur Jaffrey and Marcella Hazan before her, Naz Deravian will introduce the pleasures and secrets of her mother culture's cooking to a broad audience that has no idea what it's been missing. America will not only fall in love with Persian cooking, it'll fall in love with Naz.” - Samin Nosrat, author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: The Four Elements of Good Cooking
Naz Deravian lays out the multi-hued canvas of a Persian meal, with 100+ recipes adapted to an American home kitchen and interspersed with Naz's celebrated essays exploring the idea of home.
At eight years old, Naz Deravian left Iran with her family during the height of the 1979 Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis. Over the following ten years, they emigrated from Iran to Rome to Vancouver, carrying with them books of Persian poetry, tiny jars of saffron threads, and always, the knowledge that home can be found in a simple, perfect pot of rice. As they traverse the world in search of a place to land, Naz's family finds comfort and familiarity in pots of hearty aash, steaming pomegranate and walnut chicken, and of course, tahdig: the crispy, golden jewels of rice that form a crust at the bottom of the pot. The best part, saved for last.
In Bottom of the Pot, Naz, now an award-winning writer and passionate home cook based in LA, opens up to us a world of fragrant rose petals and tart dried limes, music and poetry, and the bittersweet twin pulls of assimilation and nostalgia. In over 100 recipes, Naz introduces us to Persian food made from a global perspective, at home in an American kitchen.
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About the Author
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Appetizers & Accompaniments
MUSIC & POETRY
The deep, cushy, cream-colored love seat in our apartment back in Tehran was nicknamed "the American" — expansive, comfortable, without a care in the world. I was four, maybe five years old, and notorious for giving my parents a hard time about going to bed at a decent hour. Many late nights were thus spent curled up on the American, eyes heavy with sleep, desperately trying to keep awake, not to miss a single moment, and eventually lulled into a sweet slumber by the entrancing sounds of the santur, tar (traditional Persian instruments similar to a sitar), tonbak (a traditional handheld drum), violin, and the magical rhymes and rhythms of poetry. My childhood lullaby.
My parents love to entertain, and they graciously embrace the art of Persian hospitality. It was very much the norm to have our house filled with musicians, singers, poets, and lovers of all of the above. These were my poet mother's mentors, peers, collaborators, and friends. There is a deep-seated respect for music and poetry among Persians of all walks and stripes. Traditional, classical Persian music may sound as if out of a dream, otherworldly to the unaccustomed ear. Much like the layering of the heady spices and scents of the cuisine, the music is nuanced and complex, challenging our senses, pushing our comfort levels, yet always welcoming and hospitable to everyone.
Inevitably, our dinner parties would end up with everyone sitting in the round and participating in something like a jam session, inspiration leading the way. Baba, my father, always the life of the party and never short of a joke, made sure everyone was comfortable with a drink in one hand and a mazeh — a taste — to complement the beverage of choice in the other. Instruments were tuned, voices were warmed, and a tray of little bites was passed around to see the night through and welcome dawn. With me and my American soaking it all in.
On those nights that I didn't doze off to the haunting melodies, somewhere in between the longing call of the santur and the warm, honeyed response of the vocals, I would quietly crawl my way to the mazeh platter and sneak little bites — loghmeh — of warm flatbreads dipped in cool savory-spiced yogurt or filled with paneer, fresh basil, and walnuts that had soaked all day in water and salt to remove their bitterness. As everyone applauded the intricate love affair of music and verse, I quickly wound my way back to the comforts of the American. Once in a while, in between a lilt of a song or a strum of the tar, someone would, much to my delight, conspiratorially pass me five garlicky, tangy, pomegranate-marinated olives — zeytoon parvardeh. One for each finger. One by one, I would take my time, sucking the olive of all its tangy juices. Hoping the longer it took me to finish, the longer the music would last, and the longer I could be a part of it all. Hoping finally, I would discover all the mysteries and secrets of the night, and boast about it to my brother the next morning.
I don't know what became of the American. We parted ways in abrupt fashion. No proper good-byes, no closure. I hope that whoever inherited it still curls up in its cushy armrest and, somewhere within the warm folds of its fabric, can still hear the rhythmic beats of the tonbak and the enchanted giggles of a little girl thrilled to have shared in a little mazeh on a magical night. Tangy olive lips smacking and sticky fingers snapping.
* * *
Think of the Persian table as a vibrant, colorful mosaic. Persian food isn't served one course at a time, but rather all the main dishes and accompaniments land on the sofreh simultaneously, family style. Colorful yogurt dips, a platter of fresh herbs, and small bowls of sour pickles all play an essential role in the rich symphony that makes up a Persian meal. These sides harmonize beautifully, accompanying the main rice and stew dishes, hitting all the right notes in service of creating the perfect, balanced bite. But don't feel like you have to set out every single side all the time to enjoy a Persian meal — we don't. A simple side of plain yogurt, a small bowl of Tomato Cucumber Salad, olives, or any bits of fresh herbs lingering in the fridge are perfectly acceptable and encouraged.
This chapter includes our go-to side dishes, which can also transfer to a mazeh platter as an appetizer spread. I've also thrown in a couple of snack ideas that are perfect for nibbling on at any time of day.
Fresh Herb Platter
Munching on fresh green herbs with almost every meal is about as Iranian as it gets. We are a culture obsessed with digestion, and fresh herbs, such as mint, basil, and parsley, make an appearance at our table not only to brighten and lighten every bite, but to aid in the digestion of the richer main dishes. Sabzi Khordan is the one dish at our table that our friends are always most intrigued by, and understandably so. After all, what does one do when presented with a heaping platter of fragrant, fresh green herbs, a few radishes, and raw green onions? (Traditionally, chunks of raw onion are also included, touted to be antibacterial and beneficial for overall health.) Sabzi Khordan translates to "herbs for eating," so ... you just eat it. As the Sabzi Khordan platter is passed around, grab a few sprigs of your preferred herbs, a couple of radishes, and a slice of green onion. Place the herbs on the side of your plate. Scoop up some rice and stew, and as you start chewing, add a basil leaf, or parsley, mint, etc., to the bite already in your mouth. Instantly you will be amazed at how all the flavors and textures pop and come to life. Then quickly repeat to affirm your findings. By the third and fourth perfectly balanced bite, you will forget that consuming a meal without Sabzi Khordan was even an option.
If I'm hosting a dinner party and am feeling inspired I'll put together a more elaborate platter of Sabzi Khordan, boasting a variety of brilliant green herbs, a thick slice of sharp feta cheese, walnuts (soaked to remove their bitterness), and pieces of just-warmed- through flatbread. But on most nights, what you will most likely find at our family table is a small plate of Sabzi Khordan strewn together with any odds and ends of forgotten herbs lingering in the back of the crisper. Not every meal needs to be a complete philharmonic — most nights a simple pickup band hits just the right notes.
The following are some suggestions for the kinds of herbs and alliums that can be included for a platter of Sabzi Khordan. Mix and match as you like, and use whatever is winking at you from the back of the crisper.
Persian basil (look for lemon basil, see here)
PREP AHEAD: The most time-consuming part of assembling a platter of Sabzi Khordan is washing, drying, and trimming the herbs. See here for herb prepping. Up to 3 hours in advance, arrange all the (trimmed, washed, and dried) herbs, radishes, and alliums on a platter. Cover with a slightly damp paper towel, and place the platter in the fridge. If the paper towel dries, sprinkle a little water over it to keep the greens fresh. If any greens are leftover, they can be tossed in a sandwich, stew, kookoo, or aash.
Eggplant Dip with Kashk
Kashki Bademjan is the quintessential Iranian dip that seduces even the most ardent eggplant doubters. Firm, thin eggplant (like the Japanese or Chinese varieties) is first fried or roasted (I roast here) and then cooked through in a little water with a hint of earthy turmeric until fleshy and luscious. But what really lifts this dish and gives it its name is the final stirring in of kashk (here), bringing it to life with a bold kick of umami and delivering the requisite Persian tang and acidity to the more demure eggplant.
Made from cooked-down and concentrated sour yogurt, kashk has an extremely rich flavor similar to a pungent aged cheese like Parmesan. Be mindful that kashk is quite salty, so taste for salt after you add kashk. But fret not, if you can't get your hands on any kashk, this crowd-pleaser of a dip can also be made with Greek yogurt, crème fraîche, or sour cream. And don't overlook the Piaz Daagh–Seer Daagh–Na'na Daagh — fried onion-garlic-mint topping — which brings out the full flavor of the dip. Serve Kashki Bademjan as an appetizer with a side of warm sangak or lavash bread for scooping. Or, for a less traditional presentation, spread it on individual slices of toasted crusty bread. We also like it with a side of plain rice for a quick, light lunch or dinner.
SERVES 8 AS AN APPETIZER
1½ pounds Japanese or Chinese eggplant (about 5 Japanese or 3 Chinese),
Place the eggplant halves flesh-side up on the baking sheet and carefully score the eggplant in a crosshatch pattern, taking care not to pierce through the skin. Brush the eggplant with about ¼ cup of the olive oil. Use more if necessary, as eggplant absorbs a lot of oil. Liberally sprinkle each half with salt and roast the eggplant for about 18 minutes, until slightly browned and softened but not completely cooked through. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic, and cook until the garlic softens, about 5 minutes.
Add the roasted eggplant to the onion-garlic mixture. Add enough water to cover the eggplant halfway, about 3/4 cup. Start with less water and add more if necessary. Sprinkle in the turmeric and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant has completely softened and cooked through and the water has been absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes. Add a little more water if the eggplant needs longer to cook. Or remove the lid to cook off the liquid. While the eggplant cooks, prepare the fried onion-garlic-mint topping.
Turn off the heat and mash the eggplant with the back of a spoon or fork, or use a potato masher. You can also pulse it a few times in the food processor. Mash until the mixture is well combined, the eggplant skin blends in, and no big chunks remain. Stir in the kashk. Start with 3 tablespoons and keep adding as needed. Stir, taste, stir, taste. More kashk? More salt? More pepper? Keep tasting and adding until your taste buds sing.
Transfer to a serving platter and top with about 2 tablespoons of the fried onion-garlic-mint. Garnish with chopped walnuts and a drizzle of extra kashk or yogurt. Serve warm or at room temperature, with lavash or sangak bread for scooping.
MAKE AHEAD: The entire dip can be made 3 days in advance. Gently heat through on the stove or in the oven when ready to serve.
PREP AHEAD: The eggplant can be roasted and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
PLAN AHEAD: Freeze for up to 3 months. This is a great dip to have on hand in the freezer for a last-minute party. Simply thaw and gently heat through on the stove or in the oven before serving.
Piaz Daagh–Seer Daagh–Na'na Daagh
Fried onion-garlic-mint topping
This makes about ½ cup of topping. You won't be using it all in this recipe. Use as much as needed. Store the rest in the fridge or in the freezer and use to top any dips, soups, aash, or even burgers.
¼ cup olive oil (plus more as needed)
MAKE AHEAD: The fried onion-garlic-mint can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Noon-o Paneer-o Gerdoo
Cheese and Walnut Wrap
Loghmeh roughly translates to "the perfect-sized, little bite to pop in your mouth." A loghmeh is lovingly scooped up by a mother, grandmother, aunt, father, uncle, or grandfather, and handed over to a child. A piece of bread to sop up the last of the rice and stew lingering on the plate. For Iranians young and old, the most satisfying loghmeh is the most humble. Bread, cheese, walnuts, and a few fresh herbs — Noon-o Paneer-o Gerdoo. This is the bite that was handed to us as children to tide us over between meals. It can be a quick lunch or dinner when you're bone-tired, when the fridge has run out of its typical offerings, when nothing else will quite do. Noon-o Paneer-o Gerdoo is the bite I reach for on those days when I'm stumbling out of the house in a mad rush. But if I happen to have a few extra minutes to steal away, I'll enjoy my Noon-o Paneer-o Gerdoo loghmeh with a cup of tea and a couple of dates for energy.
Barbari, sangak, or lavash bread Feta cheese or white farmer's cheese A few walnuts, soaked in water if you have time Fresh herbs of choice: Persian basil, cilantro, parsley, mint, anything left over from the previous day's Sabzi Khordan A couple of slices of crisp Persian cucumber (optional)
MAKE AHEAD: Prepare the wrap and store it in a sandwich bag. Stash in your purse, and enjoy it on the road.
Pomegranate Marinated Olives
Taste and memory is how I go about preparing these addictive pomegranate-marinated olives. Zeytoon Parvardeh hails from Gilan Province in the northern region of Iran. Start with your favorite green olives, nothing too salty or briny to compete with the marinade. I'm partial to Castelvetrano olives, which are readily available at most grocery stores. These crisp and bright Sicilian olives hold their own beautifully against the sharp, sweet-and-sour tang of the pomegranate molasses and the heft of the walnuts. In keeping with tradition, I have included, and love, the bright hint of golpar — Persian hogweed. It may be an unfamiliar tone, with its sharp scent and hints of citrus, but it is worth seeking out and including in your repertoire. Zeytoon Parvardeh is best prepared a couple of days in advance to allow the flavors to fully meld. Serve as an appetizer (it's a bright addition to a cheese board), or alongside a rice and stew meal.
1 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives or any other tasty green olives of choice
MAKE AHEAD: Prepare up to 3 days in advance and store covered in the fridge.
Excerpted from "Bottom of the Pot"
Copyright © 2018 Naz Deravian.
Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Prologue The Journey Home 1
Mazeh/Appetizers & Accompaniments 27
Music & Poetry 29
Rice, Tahdig & Grains 99
Kookoo/Iranian Frittatas & Egg Dishes 191
Meat, Fish & Vegetables 215
Stuffed & Rolled 255
Epilogue / Until We Meet Again 347
Sources For Iranian Ingredients 361