♪ Music we're cooking to ♪
Soleil, you take a little bite of the radish and at the same time take a bite of your rice and stew. Then chew it all up together. The radish won't taste very spicy and will make everything else in your mouth taste awesome. Got it? - Luna
Persian food. It's all about creating the perfect bite - loghmeh. The balance of different flavors, textures and aromas working together - harmoniously - sometimes in an unexpected and surprising fashion - striking just the right notes on your taste buds and your senses. A well-orchestrated and well-conducted symphony. All this to achieve the perfect loghmeh.
Now only if there was a way to achieve this much sought-after loghmeh in our everyday lives.
The girls started school this past week, even though summer is still officially in full swing ( it is STILL August after all!). But, traditionally with the start of the school year comes the bitter sweet goodbye to my favorite time of year - summer. I find myself desperately clinging to every seductive, juicy bite of the last of the figs. Every crunch of a grape. Every last drop of evening light - slowly fading away, earlier and earlier. How I cherish and miss those epic late night Vancouver sunsets. But at the same time, I feel the pull of autumn. The organization, scheduling, excitement of a new school year and all the new firsts that come with it. Not to mention the first of the apples, pears, persimmons and pomegranates. And somewhere between the goodbyes and hellos I think that this year - just maybe this year - I will be able to perfect the life loghmeh. Find balance in it all.
A heaping platter of Sabzi khordan - which literally means herbs for eating - is always present at the Persian table. A constant companion to the other mainstay side dishes - yogurt (plain or mixed), sour pickles, bread, and cheese. Sabzi khordan can be served as an appetizer with the addition of some soaked walnuts, feta cheese and fresh nan-bread- like lavash, sangak, barbari or even pita bread. Most commonly it is served alongside the actual meal. The fresh herbs can include any combination of basil, parsley, cilantro, mint, tarragon, chives, dill, radishes and scallions. It's this medley of fresh herbs, the crisp bite and spice from the radish and scallion that not only bring balance to the main dish but also heighten it. But perhaps the most important function of a platter of fresh herbs is to aid in the digestion of the actual meal - very much like a salad.
The most tedious and time-consuming part of putting together a platter of sabzi khordan is the cleaning of the herbs. Whether it is for making various stews, koo koos, or simply serving them up on a platter, we use and consume a lot of fresh herbs. Which means bunches and bunches of herbs to clean. I've found the easiest way to go about this is to clean your herbs as soon as possible - so they are readily available for use. I trim the long stems (and save them to add to a broth), fill a clean kitchen sink or a big bowl with cold water and soak my herbs in the water. After a couple of minutes of soaking I Iift the herbs out of the water without stirring up the water too much so all the dirt and grime settles at the bottom. I might repeat this process again with fresh water or I'll give them a quick rinse under running water and then put them through the salad spinner. Then I'll lay them flat on a kitchen towel and let them dry completely. At this point they're ready to be used or you can wrap them in a slightly damp paper towel or kitchen towel and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. They will stay fresh for a couple of days. I also don't get too obsessive about separating the leaves from the stems. Those stems are actually packed with flavor if you're cooking with fresh herbs. Trim off as much as you can and then just run your knife through the stems as well as the leaves for maximum flavor impact.
As for the perfect loghmeh - nothing can beat a bite of nan o paneer o gerdu o sabzi - feta cheese, walnuts and a handful of fresh herbs wrapped in bread. So often given to me as a kid to tide things over. As for the perfect life loghmeh - maybe - just maybe - all things need not be in balance at all times. Sometimes it takes an unexpected turn of events - or actually not crossing everything off on your to do list, or an unexpected bite into a crisp, glorious red radish presented to you on a platter full of green herbs - to make everything feel awesome.
A PLATTER OF FRESH HERBS - SABZI KHORDAN
As much as and any combination of the following you like:
Radishes, ends trimmed
Walnuts, soaked for at least 4 hours or overnight
Any kind of Middle Eastern style bread, lavash, sangak, barbari, pita, flatbread
Wash and trim all herbs. Arrange on a platter and serve as an appetizer or alongside any kind of rice, stew, kabab, or enjoy rolled up in a piece of bread.