Per­sian Food from the Non-Per­sian Bride: And Oth­er Sephardic Kosher Recipes You Will Love

  • Review
By – August 31, 2011
I am not kid­ding you when I say, Per­sian- Jew­ish women are like oth­er Jew­ish women, but on steroids — at least in one respect any­way!” Like their Ashke­nazi coun­ter­parts, they have a love for fam­i­ly and rit­u­al and take pride in their children’s achieve­ments. But when it comes to mak­ing food and feed­ing their fam­i­ly… well let’s say they would win the — not gold — but the plat­inum medal in the Olympics of cook­ing. Five or six intri­cate dish­es are the norm for any self-respect­ing host of Shab­bat din­ners. An assort­ment of spe­cial­ty rice dish­es and stews are dis­played at the din­ner table, enough to feed twice as many.

So, when I received the new­ly pub­lished cook­book, Per­sian Food from the Non-Per­sian Bride, by Rey­na Sim­ne­gar, I stud­ied it with a quizzi­cal eye. After all, Rey­na is not Per­sian, and I won­dered how she man­aged to com­pile such a long list of recipes? The old­er gen­er­a­tion of Per­sian women don’t have any con­cept of mea­sure­ments and pos­sess a sub­tle and refined taste for the tra­di­tion­al cui­sine.

 Hav­ing gone through the book cov­er to cov­er, I can tell that Ray­na has done a thor­ough job of pre­sent­ing pop­u­lar Per­sian cui­sine. The Per­sianesque” illus­tra­tions and the col­or­ful images are impres­sive, and so is the ambi­tious num­ber of dish­es Rey­na has cho­sen to show­case in the book. There are two rea­sons that Per­sian Food stands out from the rest of the Per­sian cook­books in cir­cu­la­tion. Ray­na has not only includ­ed chap­ters on mak­ing some of Iran’s favorite breads such as bar­bari and lavash, but she has also ded­i­cat­ed a chap­ter to dessert spe­cial­ties. Chick­pea and rice cook­ies, saf­fron ice cream, and rice noo­dle sor­bet are some the most tra­di­tion­al of the Per­sian desserts, and she has duti­ful­ly (and with much love and humor) giv­en step by step direc­tions to prepar­ing them.

Rey­na also includes many recipes that are not Per­sian but Mid­dle-East­ern inspired, espe­cial­ly in the Appetizer/​Side Dish Chap­ter, includ­ing such dish­es as Ceviche, Moroc­can Car­rots and Salmon. These and oth­er recipes are a wel­come addi­tion since they fill in some of the gaps in tra­di­tion­al Per­sian cook­ing.

Rey­na may have mar­ried into a Per­sian Jew­ish fam­i­ly, but it is evi­dent that she has whole­heart­ed­ly tak­en on the cul­ture and its cook­ing as if it were her own.


Fried Egg­plant

This is one of my favorite Sephardic appe­tiz­ers. How­ev­er, prepar­ing this dish also became a night­mare, because just by look­ing at all the oil I was using I could feel my arter­ies clog­ging! I decid­ed to broil the egg­plants instead. The secret is to use oil spray and to cut the egg­plants thin enough to pro­duce a crunchy and deli­cious result. Below I give you both options and you can make the choice! My Moroc­can friend Michal Bessler, is the genius who taught me this recipe.

Salt­ing the egg­plant before fry­ing will extract the excess liq­uid from the egg­plant so that the pieces absorb less oil when fried and expel no liq­uid when broiled. Salt­ing will also pro­duce a crispi­er result. Please be care­ful and keep your chil­dren away from the siz­zling oil!

Yield: serves 4 to 6

2 egg­plants, unpeeled, washed, and cut into slices 1÷4
inch thick
5 table­spoons kosher salt
canola oil or spray
1 table­spoon chopped pars­ley, for gar­nish (option­al)

Gar­nish Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tea­spoon papri­ka
1/4 tea­spoon cumin
1/4 tea­spoon salt
1/4 tea­spoon pep­per
3 table­spoons lime juice or the juice of 1 lime
4 cloves fresh gar­lic, pressed

1. Lay­er the egg­plant slices in a large colan­der, sprin­kling gen­er­ous­ly with kosher salt between lay­ers. Let stand for 30 min­utes.
2. Rinse the egg­plants in the same colan­der to wash off the extra salt. Dry with paper tow­els.
3. Make the gar­nish sauce by com­bin­ing all ingre­di­ents.

Fry­ing method
1. Add canola oil to one-quar­ter of the depth of a very large skil­let. Place over medi­um heat until the oil siz­zles when a drop of water is driz­zled onto it.
2. While the oil heats, make the gar­nish sauce by com­bin­ing all ingre­di­ents. Set aside.
3. Fry the egg­plant slices in a sin­gle lay­er for 1 minute on each side or until slight­ly brown on both sides.
4. Drain on paper tow­els and serve with pars­ley as gar­nish, or driz­zle gar­nish sauce on top.

Broil­ing method
1. Pre­heat the oven to broil.
2. Spray 2 cook­ie sheets with oil. Place the egg­plant slices on the sheets in a sin­gle lay­er and spray with oil.
3. Broil on rack clos­est to the flame for 5 to 7 min­utes or until the egg­plant slices are slight­ly brown.
4. Care­ful­ly remove the cook­ie sheets from the oven and flip the egg­plant slices with a spat­u­la or food tongs. Spray more oil on the egg­plants and return to the oven to broil for addi­tion­al 5 to 7 min­utes.
5. Remove egg­plants from the oven and serve with the gar­nish sauce and chopped pars­ley.

© Per­sian Food from the Non-Per­sian Bride: And Oth­er Sephardic Kosher Recipes You Will Love, Feld­heim, 2011.

Read Rey­na Sim­ne­gar’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Sephardim Strike Back!

Miss Venezuela Mate­r­i­al

Turk­ish Cof­fee for the Crown Prince

Angel­la M. Nazar­i­an’s writ­ing and award-win­ning vers­es have appeared in the MOTH and New Mil­len­ni­um Press Lit­er­ary Pub­li­ca­tions. She is a con­trib­u­tor to the Hufff­in­g­ton Post, More Mag­a­zine, and to Maria Shriver’s Wom­en’s Con­fer­ence. Her best-sell­ing book, Life as a Vis­i­tor, was pub­lished by Assouline in 2009.

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