August 1, 2015

Hot Days, Cold Persian Cucumber and Watermelon Salad

by Marjan

“Salad? Again for lunch?” I hear my family ask me with dismay.  I don’t blame them.  On hot summer days, I really find it difficult to turn on the stove or oven to prepare our meals. Therefore, I am always looking for inventive ways or new recipes to satisfy my families hunger with delicious salads that are easy to prepare.
I remember forty years ago when my family and I first came to live in the States, my American friends thought the foods I ate to be alien.  They would stare at me strangely as I crunched into my pomegranate seeds or other ‘exotic’ fruits.  These days, pomegranates are a common house hold name.  Back then, it was considered ‘strange’.

Lately I am witnessing the same trend with Persian cucumbers.  Nowadays, these deeply fragrant cucumbers are seen frequently in main stream grocery stores and restaurants. They are my favorite type of cucumber because they contain the highest ratio of skin to flesh, resulting in concentrated flavor and crunchy texture. I truly believe the Persian diet to be a very healthy one. Often on hot summer days, my mother serves my father sliced Persian cucumbers, feta cheese, bread and herbs. If we don’t have cucumbers, she substitutes watermelons slices or grapes. My father enjoys these simple meals just as much as most labor intensive ones she prepares for him.

So today, I was inspired to serve a salad with slices of Persian cucumbers, watermelon, pineapples,  feta cheese and fresh herbs. I’m glad I did because not only was this salad delicious but really assisted in cooling down our body temperature on this hot summer day. We finished the entire salad and I have been asked to make it again tomorrow! I had to be sarcastic and sigh: "What? Salad again!"
Enjoy this salad recipe as either a main course, appetizer or side dish.  You will find it easy to make, delicious and satisfying

July 18, 2015

Tale of Travel, Friendship, and Culinary Find - Yazdee Cake

by Marjan

Last year, I had the wonderful fortune to travel back to my mother homeland of Iran with my entire family. Ironically I left Iran a week before Anthony Bourdain's journey there for his CNN series Parts Unknown- Iran. For those of us who are born in one culture and raised in another, we have the fortitude to reflect both countries and cultures with (hopefully) an introspective and unique view beyond clamity created by outside forces. Bourdain's sensitivity to my countries deep culture of tradition, hospitality, food, and complexity of the world's impression of 'state of affairs' in Iran brought me to tears. My heart was deeply moved by our mutual experience while in Iran; and my soul stirred with joy to witness an American world renown chef take pleasure in Persian culture and cuisine.

It had been almost forty years since my family initially left Iran to live in the States. As a six year old living in Tehran prior to the revolution, my blissful perspective of my grandmother's house, the grand streets in which I played, good memories of family and friends, and the elegant Shahyad Tower in the heart of the capital city, had all changed upon our visit. My grandmother's house appeared smaller, the streets more narrow and congested, and a veil covered people's faces hiding their struggle and hardship induced upon them from sanctions, pollution, government, economy, and human calamity. Yet when in conversation with those whose paths crossed mine, their vibrant souls, experiences, enthusiasm for life, and will to survive became powerfully palpable while in the land of mystic beauty and culture full of unearthly energy.

My goal was to travel to as many cities during my short visit. I wanted to breath the air and walk the dirt on which many great Kings such as Cyrus the Great and mystic poets as Rumi, Hafez, Khayyam, and luminaries of science such as Avecinna had graced. My footsteps seemed to take me back into a hypnotic dream; my eyes limited my experience in space and time. My heart felt the pulse of a thousand centuries with an ambrosia of rosewater and night jasmine. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of Iranian hospitality and spirit. The harsh reality of oppression seemed like a nightmare that could not possibly be true; but each time I woke up, it was a daunting reality.
Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Kermansha, Abee-yaneh, and Yazd were a few cities I explored in Iran. The history and culture of each bewildered my imagination to the greatness of these robust and ancient cities. Of course, I can write a book about my travels and experiences. For our Savorychic's readers, I would like to share with you a glimpse into my personal journey to the ancient land of Yazd.

While in Tehran with one of my very good friends from San Diego, Nazanin (who introduced me to one of my favorite coffee roasters in La Jolla), we spontaneously planned a short visit to Yazd.
During our short trip to Yazd, we had the opportunity to tour many historical landmarks, royal homes, gardens, in addition to mosques, bazaars, and ancient caravan stops. We learned about the resiliency of the people of Yazd. Prior to modern day pluming and electricity, settlers survived in the desert by ingeniously creating underground water wells, cooling systems in homes and streets, and inventive methods to preserve food and make ice in 'ice wells' called yakh-chall




Of all the cities I visited, Yazd had a special place in my heart. Not only was I exploring this magical historic land with Nazanin, who comforts my heart with her soul, but I was understanding and relating to our mutual friend Mojdah whose family originates from Yazd and has lived in the States for over forty years.

I met Mojdah 25 years ago at USC where we both embarked our studies in the field of dentistry. My admiration for Mojdah has always been for her  strength, intellect, positive attitude, deep spiritual intuition and acceptance of different cultures, food, and practices.

While in Yazd, I learned these unique qualities she embraces to be deeply rooted in the land of the people of which she is from. A good example of this became lucid for me as I explored Jameh Mosque in Yazd; which displayed ceramic tiles encompassing symbols of the swastika (sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism), in Arabic the words Allah and Ali, and also the Star of Soloman (symbol more commonly associated with the Star of David for people of the Jewish faith). All three symbols under the roof of one mosque in central Iran? Yes, it is possible in Yazd! Their truth of accepting different faiths and beliefs under one roof reinforced my truth of Mojdah's spirit whose heart is open to accepting and exploring all cultures, practices and faiths.





Together, Mojdeh and I have braved many of our adventurous travels, culinary finds, and non-conformist beliefs. I owe her much gratitude for sharing her spirit which is boundlessly unique and infinitely accepting of all things possible. Thanks to Mojdah, I have learned how to be a better friend. Therefore, as we celebrate her 50th Birthday this month, I wanted to dedicate this special post to her. My gratitude to her for expanding my world with more color, meaning, and enthusiasm. May she celebrate 50 more years with as much joy, excitement, love and adventure. Thank you Mojdah for being the 'uni' in my life.


Now that you have a little history about my travel and friend, I want to share with you one of my culinary finds which will transport you to the magical land of Yazd- which is also well known for it's pastries such as Ghotab and Yazdee cake (I later discovered it is actually a cupcake and not cake), named after this great City. 

Cardamom, rosewater, and yogurt make this cupcake a little time machine that will transport your palate to the ancient city of Yazd. As you can imagine, my trip was even more sweet thanks to these pastries! I fell in love with Yazdee cake and wanted to share with you the recipe.

Happy Birthday Mojdah and may all of the days of your life be sweet and inspired.


July 4, 2015

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

by Anja

For once, our Swiss Summer is hot and sunny through and through. 30°C/85°F plus for days in a row - this is something we rarely get to experience over here. We spend every free minute swimming in the river or gathering with friends for garden parties. Needless to say, at the Moment I am not too keen to spend my days in the kitchen or anywhere near the oven. But delicious, nourishing food - we still want that. So I prepare a lot a smoothies, salads and cold soups like gazpacho or almond gazpacho. And this panzanella (Italian bread salad with tomatoes) has become a favorite.

We are big bread lovers and go though a loaf of fresh bread almost every day. But every once in a while we are left with some bread gone stale. I usually chop it up and make croutons for salads (fried in olive oil, with some garlic added). But this panzanella here is another great way to use stale bread. We actually love it so much that I sometimes buy an extra loaf of bread to make sure we will have enough to make this salad. Easy to do and so delicious!


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