Today marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, a day of renewal, celebration, and of course food! Honey-based or dipped foods are also a culinary tradition on this day, with the thought that they will usher in, and symbolize, a sweet new year. Searching for some Rosh Hashanah inspiration, we came across Jewish Food Society, a site that covers a diverse variety of Jewish foods from across the diaspora. We love that the site includes all of the different roots (and routes) the recipe went through to reach its current form, in the case of the Texan honey cake, a peripatetic path of Białystok, Poland > Manhattan > Houston. We were delighted to see an entire comprehensive Persian Rosh Hashanah menu on the site. The dishes, shared by Israeli cookbook author Rottem Lieberson, had the route of Tehran, Iran > Sha’ar Haliyah (near Haifa), Israel > Jerusalem > Tel Aviv. We are seriously tempted by Lieberson’s recipes including Fried Eggplant with Mint Vinaigrette, Rice with Barberries, Saffron and Potato Tahdig (seen below), and Toot (Persian Marzipan). Check out the Jewish Food Society’s impressive list of posts to discover more family recipes with roots from around the world.
Tag Archives: Iran
March 21st this year is Nowruz, also known as Persian New Year. This festival, whose name means “new day” in Farsi, is tied to the Zoroastrian religion, and is not only celebrated in Iran, but in other parts of central Asia and the Balkans. The holiday represents the arrival of spring, and the Nowruz table is typically filled with festive foods including seven symbolic items, the Haft-Seen. One of the the items that is a must for the Haft-Seen on a Nowruz table is green sprouts known as Sabzeh, and you can even grow your own. Many of the other dishes served on Nowruz are green with fresh herbs, appropriate for green’s springtime connotations. There are several Persian dishes that are emblematic of the holiday including Sabzi polow ba mahi, a heavily herbed green rice topped with fish and Kookoo/Kuku Sabzi, an egg omelette filled with herbs. The LA Times documents a family’s homecooked feast with recipes for Rice with herbs, pan-fried white fish and smoked white fish (sabzi polow ba mahi), Fresh herb kuku (kuku-ye-sabzi), Rice with toasted noodles (reshteh polow) served with lamb. You can find more Nowruz recipes at Whats 4 Eats, Fig and Quince and My Persian Kitchen.
I read a fascinating article a week or so back in the New York Times about Persian-Jewish Passover traditions, and how these have survived in the Diaspora (in the LA area alone there are 40,000 Jewish Persians). We are fans of Persian food in general. and so were intrigued to learn more about Jewish Iranian foodways. Though many dishes resemble other types of Persian food, One specifically Jewish dish, is gundi, a riff on Matzoh ball soup, which is instead a chicken and chickpea dumpling flavored with cardamon and turmeric. You can make your own gundi with a recipe from Savuer, or try Persian charoset, called Haleg (seen below, on matzoh). More Persian Passover recipes from Reyna Simnegar can be found on her blog.
6653 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60626
We’ve driven past Masouleh on Clark a thousand times, but it was only when we were seeking a spot for a low-key date night that we actually popped in – and we are glad we did. Named after a picturesque town in Northern Iran, Masouleh specializes in northern Persian food, a new regional specialty to us. Masouleh is a family place, and attracts a wide swath of neighbors, locals and Persian families making the special trip. Masouleh is not too fancy, but just a little bit romantic if you have a low key significant other (nice touch: flowers and candles on the table!). The menu at Masouleh is small and straightforward. You will recognize many of the main dishes from other restaurants, however we were also pleased that they had Northern Persian specialties. We started off with a cucumber and yogurt salad, which M devoured too quickly to be photographed. For mains we got fesenjan ($13) – chicken with ground walnut and Pomegranate sauce, served with rice (pictured below). The dish was simple, but hearty, and the sauce took on a deliciously creamy flavor.
For the second entree we decided to do a little something different. Every day there is a northern Persian specialty, and on that day it was an intriguing salty/sweet dish: Gheimeh Nessar, which is made of beef stew marinated with onions, saffron, split peas, sourberries, pistachios, almonds and orange peels served with white rice. The flavor combination had the potential to be overpowering but it was actually perfectly spiced and delicate. Both of our entrees came with a huge variety of side dishes, certainly more than we expected: pita bread, feta cheese with tomatoes, and a cup of the soup of the day, a hearty lentil. We were positively and pleasantly stuffed, but we decided to make a little room for dessert.
To finish our meal, we ordered Persian Ice cream($3), which was flavored with rose water, saffron and pistachio. Maybe a little too much rosewater, but still very tasty. The table next to us got some tempting-looking baklava, and we are looking forward to trying that next time. We highly enjoyed our dinner at Masouleh, and we can’t wait to try some more Northern Persian food. If you’re looking to impress your foodie date, this is the place!
4651 N. Kedzie Ave.
While Chicago is just beginning to get its food cart revolution going, Noon-o-Kebab is pretty close to an enclosed food cart. While Noon-o-Kebab has a nice another location is a bare-bones take out affair. We originally intended to go to Semiramis but a 1-hour wait sent us packing. Noon-o-Kebab’s takeout location was right around the corner and was absolutely jumping with takeout orders and deliveries.
The menu at Noon-o-Kebab’s takeout location consisted of a variety of sandiwches and wraps as well as entrees also available at the main location. For a quick bite on the run we ordered the koubideh, a classic Iranian snakc food wrapped in lavash bread (The Chopping Block has a simple beef koubideh recipe). L ordered the Joujeh Koubideh, which was lavash filled with seasoned ground chicken breast, charbroiled tomatoes and a feta-like cheese ($6.95). M ordered a similar wrap but filled with chicken breast. Other varieties of koubideh were available lamb or beef. The decor at the Noon-o-Kebab takeout location was barebones, but the food is no joke, and is great for a taste of Persia on the go.
5255 N. Clark St
While most middle-eastern restaurants conjure up images of dark, tapestry-lined rooms with low tables and hookahs, Reza’s obliterates these stereotypes, with a bright, airy ambiance and exposed brick walls. Located in the heart of ever-eclectic Andersonville, Reza’s serves up a variety of delicious Persian dishes in a friendly atmosphere. The service is pleasant and on a typical night, the large restaurant is packed and buzzing. The menu is expansive and the portions are generous. Dinner entrees come with a cup of soup, a basket of pita bread and a plate of feta, parsley, onions and radishes as an appetizer. Even without this appetizer, the hearty dinners are big enough for two to share. Reza’s rice-heavy dishes may not be the most authentic or spicy, but they are certainly filling.
Particularly notable are Reza’s kebabs that come in seasoned ground beef, filet mignon, chicken and lamb varieties. Served over a bed of couscous (on request) or dill-spiced rice, these simple, hearty dishes will please even the pickiest eater. A wide variety of desserts (baklava, yum) and drinks (sangria and more) finish off the night well. However, if you are a tea snob beware that their Persian tea is usually steeped too long and is very bitter! All in all, Reza’s is definitely great for a crowd (which is the only way we have ever gone) – especially if you get a couple of the Vegetarian samplers, which include dolmeh, falafel, kashkeh bodemjan (eggplant dip), hummus, and tabbouli.