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MARKETS : The Persian Version

April 14, 1994|LINDA BURUM

* Fresh Fenugreek: We've all tasted fenugreek seeds, which adds the musky maple aroma to curry powder. Iranians prefer the greens, called shambalileh in Farsi. They remind me of a sturdier version of clover--the leaves, though slightly firmer, have a similar heart-like shape. Fenugreek's distinct, aromatic flavor is an essential part of khoresh-e ghormeh sabzi , a classic Persian stew loaded with fresh herbs that may be made with fish or meat.

* Persian Chives: Known in Iranian markets as tareh , these are flat and much wider than standard chives or even Chinese garlic chives. Tareh 's sweet, slightly onion-like flavor resembles that of leeks. Along with fenugreek, tareh is essential in khoresh-e ghormeh sabzi and Persian-style herb omelets.

* Baby Dill: Shevid turns up in hundreds of dishes, from soups and stews to the green pea frittata known as kuku-ye nakhod sabz. Shevid 's slightly bitter edge is especially fine in cold yogurt soup.

BASIC PERSIAN FLAVORING INGREDIENTS

* Somagh: Somagh is simply dried, shredded sumac berries. Besides being an all-purpose table condiment, this fruit-scented seasoning eliminates the gamy flavor from lamb and is, therefore, popular in marinades.

* Adviyeh: This mixture of several spices, with cloves and cinnamon predominating, is the Persian equivalent of India's garam masala . That is to say, it's the spice mixture that shows up almost everywhere, alone or in combination with other seasonings. Usually cardamom, ground angelica, cumin and coriander seeds are included and mixed together with ground, dried rose petals. Miller's sells adviyeh in two-ounce packages.

* Limu Omani: These dried Persian limes look like slightly shriveled, khaki-colored ping pong balls. However unattractive they seem, nothing exudes the wonderfully intense flavor of condensed lime essence like them. Limu omani are generally used in stews and soups, often in combination with adviyeh. The limes should be pierced in several places before adding them to the pot so they will release their flavor.

* Zereshk: Some cookbooks refer to zereshk as Iranian currants. They are more correctly known as barberries, and best known in zereshk polo , a pilaf flavored with them.

The berries also add their tart flavor to herbed frittatas ( kuku ) and to "bejeweled pilaf" (known as javaher polo or morassa' polo ), an elaborate pilaf mixed with nuts, slivered orange peel and chicken.

Before using zereshk , pick off any stems and soak them in a colander immersed in a bowl of water until they soften, about 20 minutes. Then lift the colander and tip out the water. Holding the colander over the bowl rinse the berries; the dirt will fall through the colander and the bowl will catch any escaping berries.

* Narenj: Prized for its sour juice and fragrant peel, narenj goes by the name Seville orange in English and naranja agria in Spanish-speaking countries. Its juice compliments fish; its peel, boiled in a light sugar syrup, is often used as a flavoring or garnish, for instance in khoresh-e morgh-e torsh , a chicken stew made with orange juice and fresh herbs.

You can find the julienned, dried peel in Miller's spice section and the fresh oranges, in season, in the produce area.

* Pomegranate Concentrate: If any dish represents the flamboyance of the Persian kitchen it is fesenjan , braised chicken or duck smothered with a sauce of ground walnuts and tart pomegranate juice. Many other dishes call for pomegranate, including ash-e anar , a lamb soup seasoned with pomegranate, ground angelica and assorted fresh herbs.

* Angelica Powder: Angelica ( golpar ) is an ingredient in adviyeh , pomegranate soup and many stews and pickles. It comes packaged in four-ounce packets and is found among the spices.

* Saffron: Iranian saffron, an important element of Persian cooking, has a character all its own. At Miller's it is sold by the mesghal (or mithqal ), a medieval measurement of weight equivalent to about 4 1/2 ounces. You must ask for saffron at the check-out stand.

* Albalu: Sour cherries, best known from the flavor (and dark pink color) they give to the famous pilaf albalu polo , come in several forms: in packets (dried) and bottled, either in water pack or sweet syrup. When fresh sour cherries are unavailable, cooks use the water-pack bottled variety for pilaf. A refreshing iced drink is made from the syrup-pack cherries and the dried cherries are eaten as a snack, like prunes or raisins.

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