Saturday, June 20, 2009
I don't think I realized exactly how blissful my Southern California childhood was until I embarked on a more chaotic, far less idyllic lifestyle in New York City. Aside from riding my bike to the beach and hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains, the additional benefit to being raised in L.A. was growing up with kids who had emigrated from Iran.
Sleepover parties meant homemade Persian dinners of pomegranate chicken, tah dig, strained yogurt, and torshi--tangy, vinegar-cured pickles. My open-minded parents even let me play hooky to spend Persian New Year with my Iranian classmates. It never occurred to me that Iran was anything other than a place of rich history, spectacular beauty, and complex, regional cuisines. (At that age, I didn't fully understand why my friends were forced to flee from Iran, leaving behind everything they owned.)
I have been trying to get to this closed country for the past two years. This week, as Iran is especially top of mind, I am hopeful it will return to the peaceful country it once was for my friends' parents--and that my Iranian adventure will soon become a reality.
In the meantime, I have just returned home with a round-up of my favorite Persian markets in Tehrangeles. I encourage you to explore this side of L.A. and invest $10 in culinary souvenirs that may be new to you: Pickled sour grapes, chickpea cookies, and cardamom tea are all easy to slip into luggage.
Star Market (nan-e nokhodchi, cardamom chickpea cookies)
12146 Santa Monica Blvd
Mashti Malone's Ice Cream (rosewater saffron-pistachio sorbet)
1525 North La Brea Avenue
Rose Market (wall of pickles)
1387 Westwood Boulevard (this stretch is the main artery for Persian culture in L.A.)
Q Market and Produce
17261 Vanowen Street
Photo courtesy of flickr.
While I am on my pickled rhubarb high (thank you, Mother Earth News), I thought I would share another variation of this soon-to-be-classic condiment. New York magazine's seasonal recipes are always intriguing. I am not a competitive pickler; Testing as many recipes as I can only makes me a better pickle girl. Pickling takes practice, people--and apparently an abuse of alliteration.
1 lb. ripe rhubarb
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 cup plus 1 tbs. honey
3 tbs. grenadine
1 tbs. coarse salt
2 star anise
*Note: if you can find persimmon vinegar at a Korean market, use it: Add 1/2 cup to the recipe, and reduce the amount of the sherry and rice vinegars to 1/4 cup each.
Trim the rhubarb stalks, discarding the coarse inch or so at each end. Discard any leaves.
(1) Peel the rhubarb, and (2) cut the stalks into neat batons about 1 1/2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide. Place in flat-bottomed casserole. Put the vinegars, honey, grenadine, salt, and star anise in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. (3) Pour over the rhubarb and cover with plastic wrap. Let cool to room temperature. Taste the pickles for texture. If they’re too crisp for your taste, drain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring back to a simmer, let it cool for a few minutes, then pour it over the rhubarb again, with the star anise. Store in the refrigerator in the liquid. Serve cold. Note: Iuzzini serves with panna cotta, but the pickles are also a nice accompaniment to cheese. (Adapted from Dessert Fourplay: Sweet Quartets From a Four-Star Pastry Chef, by Johnny Iuzzini and Roy Finamore; Clarkson Potter, 2008.)
Recipe courtesy of New York magazine.