Commonly I’m asked, 'what differentiates Persian cuisine from Indian or Middle Eastern food?' I believe it is fresh herbs. Not only do we like to eat a variety of herbs (such as dill, green onions, mint, basil, tarragon) as a condiment to most of our daily dishes, but we commonly incorporate it in our stews and rice dishes. We do enjoy spices, such as turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, to compliment flavors in our recipes, but the use of fresh herbs really distinguishes Persian recipes.
Growing up as an immigrant in the United States, from the time we lived in a one bedroom apartment up until our present day ranch, my mother would always grow her own herbs and incorporate it in all her recipes. Whenever my mother prepares a Persian dish, there is always a small basket of mixed herbs on the table, fresh from her garden, to accompany our food not only with flavor but nutrients! Conveniently, fresh herbs can be purchased in most specialty grocery stores or farmer’s market.
For lunch, or even appetizers, I like to use Lavash bread (flat rectangular bread, available in most Middle Eastern stores), spread feta cheese on top of the entire bread, place a combination of fresh herbs such as basil, tarragon, chives (or any combination of your own personal favorite herbs) over the cheese. On one shorter end of the Lavash bread, I place a row of chopped red tomatoes from the top to bottom, and roll from the tomato side of the bread to the other end of the Lavash bread- forming a roll/wrap. Utilizing a sharp knife, cut little pieces (similar to sushi) and use a toothpick to keep the wrap together, or just make wraps and sink your teeth into this heavenly, flavorful, healthy sandwich! Play around with the ingredients: add crushed walnuts to enrich the flavors and texture; use any other cheese such as goat or havarti; make it an Italian wrap with mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. Of course, this is a great vegetarian meal!