I realize it has been a very long time since my last Persian recipe, but Lolo Peak Brewery is finally up and running very smoothly. Yay! Although, I never quit strength training during all this time, as you can see, I fell short in sharing my recipes with you and today feels like the right kinda day to get back to it.
What I have in mind is a simple and favorite summer side dish that goes very well with most meat dishes. It’s light, flavorful and gives me a chance to brag about the historic city of Shiraz (as if I haven’t done enough already, read more here), home to revered Persian poets Haafez and Saadi. The city is also praised for the architecture of Persepolis, “Persian city”, capital of the Achaemenid Empire, dating back to 500 BC. At a time when the world’s population was around 110 million, 50 million were part of the Archaemenid Empire. No one before or since has had commanded over such a large portion of the world’s population.
Although Cyrus the Great کوروش بزرگ (Kūrosh) chose the site, it was Darius I (Daryush) داریوش هخامنشی who built the terrace and the great palaces. As rulers and followers of Zoroastrianism, they believed an empire contained “many kinds” of people, so artists and craftspeople from all corners of the empire were brought to work on the project to promote combination of cultures and styles. In the stairway picture shown below, the people of the empire are walking into the palace bearing gifts.
Unfortunately Persepolis was later destroyed by Greeks. Alexander the Great, who was mentored by Aristotle, pro-Greek and a self-appointed descendant of half-mortal and half-immortal Greek heroes was also well versed in the culture and manners of the Persian world. After taking over the throne at the age of 20, he set out to conquer all of Middle East and with his military brilliance and charisma was able to defeat the Persian empire. Although, he respected and sometimes adopted Persian customs, Alexander instructed his troops to loot Persepolis and burn the eastern palace of Xerxes as a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens during the second invasion of Greece by Persians. As you can see a good stretch of history is painted by the rivalry of Persians and Greeks, that may have ultimately resulted in their more humble global position in modern records.”What goes up, must come down.” The lesson that is repeated throughout history over and over again.
I hope that this account will add more enthusiasm and appreciation to your Persian cooking. I often make Salad Shirazi and even take it to work. Here I am with a huge dish of it. Don’t worry I didn’t eat it all by myself.
Ingredients (serves 4-5):
- 4 Persian cucumbers OR 2 English cucumbers (seedless cucumbers work best), peeled if skin is too thick
- 4 med. tomatoes
- 1 sml-med. onion (red or yellow)
- 1/2- 1 fresh lemon/lime, juiced
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 Tbs dried mint (Middle Eastern/Egyptian)
- olive oil
- Finely dice the vegetables. The idea is to have 1:1:1/3 (or 1/4) ratio of chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and onions.
- Toss the diced ingredients in a serving bowl. Add salt and pepper. Squeeze out the juice of a lime/lemon and add to taste.
- Add the dried mint and olive oil if using. Mix well.
- Chill for 20-30 min to allow flavors to blend.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Serve cold or room temp.
Keeps for one day.