Last week, I attended a Persian cooking class taught by a lovely lady named Parvaneh. My friend Michelle had asked her if she would come to her home and teach a group of us the art of Persian cooking. It was a blast! “Parvaneh is a patient, knowledgeable teacher. These combined qualities and her lovely energy made for a fun filled afternoon of cooking and eating by all.
Since Parvaneh is of Persian descent, she taught us how to put together a Persian feast in one afternoon by using traditional family recipes that were handed down to her by her father.
Parvaneh gave each one of us a job to do so that we could all share in the experience. The day flew by as we prepared Persian rice, Mast O Bademjan, Persian meatballs, Persian Salad, Mast Esphenaj and for dessert a gluten-free Ranginak. After the table was set, our group sat down and enjoyed the feast we had prepared together. I realized that the oldest form of social networking is the preparing and sharing of food.
Not only is Parvaneh a self-taught cook, who can whip up one heck of a Persian feast, she also makes her own raw cheeses and yogurts. Prior to the class, Michelle had told her my gluten-free story-, which wasn’t a problem since all the dishes were naturally gluten-free-except for the bread. When I arrived at class, Parvaneh had made me a loaf of fresh, gluten free bread. She informed me that she had never made gluten free bread before. But when I tasted it, it blew me away. I spread some of her homemade herb cheese on the bread and I was in gluten-free heaven. The rest of the class noticed my gluten-free Bliss and followed my lead even though they didn’t have to eat gluten free. The gluten free bread and homemade cheese was so good, it never stood a chance of making it to the table for our feast.
What I found most interesting about Persian cooking is the healing qualities in the spices they use. For example: Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar, Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, and new studies reveal its use in treating Alzheimer patients, Cumin helps boost immune function; and Coriander aids in proper digestion. These ancient cultures somehow knew the benefits of these spices and I’m sure that is what has contributed to their longevity. Having Celiac disease, I love anything that is natural, delicious and helps my digestion and immune function.
Parvenah was kind enough to share her recipe for her Persian spice mix, and also a recipe for Mast Esphenaj. Thank you Parvaneh.
To contact Parveneh: email@example.com
Persian Spices: Courtesy of Parvaneh
What you’ll need:
2 tablespoons ground Cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground Cardamom
½ teaspoon ground Pepper
¼ teaspoon ground Turmeric
1 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
½ teaspoon ground Coriander
Combine all the spices and mix well. Store in an airtight jar
Mast Esphenaj: Courtesy of Pavaneh
What you’ll need:
4 cups Yogurt
1 large onion peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 cups frozen spinach coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon Persian spices
¼ teaspoon Saffron – dissolve in 1 tablespoon of hot water
4 tablespoons of Olive oil
Juice from ½ a large lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1- Defrost spinach
2- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over a medium flame
3- Add the chopped onions and sauté until they are golden brown.
4- Add Persian spices, salt, pepper, and the dissolved Saffron and mix well.
5- Add chopped spinach and cook until spinach is tender (approximately 5-10 minutes)
6- Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Mix well
7- Place the mixture in a deep serving dish and chill for approximately one hour.
8- Add yogurt and fold into mixture.
Serve as a side dish with rice and meat dishes.