My mother is a great cook and she is always finding new ways to experiment with ingredients and flavours, so she is a great inspiration and mentor to me. The reasons I do what I do is because of my mother’s support and influence: when I was at a crossroads during my university years, deciding between medicine, pharmacy, or journalism, she suggested I try for “dietetics”, an emerging field that married science, art and communication. “With your indecisiveness, you can’t go wrong being in a diverse field such as this one.” She nodded at me, convincingly. Thanks, Mom, for I’ve never looked back since.
Traditionally, dal is central to the cuisine of South Asia, where the combination of protein from beans or pulses with carbohydrates from rice and fibre from vegetables creates a perfect balance of nutrients from entirely plant-based ingredients. Because my mother wanted to try to bring in some Persian flavours, she played around with the amounts and types of spices, but used a traditional dal recipe as follows.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1-1/2 cups water
2 cups sprouted lentils
1 medium lemon, juiced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
pinch of salt
6 cups cooked brown or volcanic rice (optional)
1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion, garlic and spices and saute for 2 minutes.
3. Add cauliflower and tomatoes. Saute for 2 minutes.
4. Stir in water and lentils. Bring to a boil.
5. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 40 minutes until lentils are tender.
6. Stir in lemon juice and salt.
7. Before serving, add the cilantro to the dal.
8. Serve with rice, bread, or potatoes, with a dollop of greek yogurt, of course.
My mother grew up in Northern Iran in a town called Rasht, which borders the Caspian Sea. In keeping, a major protein source in the Rashti diet is fish, but on a day-to-day basis, most eat vegetarian dishes made with beans and eggs. Lamb, chicken and other meats are often reserved for special occasions. This particular dish, playfully called Joojeh Parideh, or translated, the “Chicken Flew Away”, epitomizes traditional Rashti cooking.
3 Japanese Eggplants, washed, peeled and cut into 1/4″ slices
4 tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp cooking oil
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese (not traditionally added, but my mother’s spin on the recipe)
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp each garlic powder, dried oregano, Italian seasoning, and cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Roast eggplant and tomatoes on separate baking sheets for 45 minutes.
3. Place roasted eggplant and tomatoes in a casserole dish.
4. Drizzle apple cider vinegar and oil on top of roasted eggplant and tomatoes.
5. Combine eggs, seasoning and parmesan cheese.
6. Pour egg mixture on top of vegetables.
7. Bake for 20 minutes until egg has set.
Noosheh Jaan from our family to yours!