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  • Bettina Applewhite

Corona Chronicles: Trip to Iran

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

During the quarantine I had a lot of extra time on my hands. Just like I assume everyone else did as well. I know some of you didn't because you were too busy parenting, teaching, working from home, etc. all at the same time. Sounds exhausting. I continued to go out into the community to work giving out free meals to school-aged children. But after that short day and long weekends with the "outside" not open, I would plan these elaborate meals.

This particular time I was feeling Persian. I was binging old seasons of The Shahs of Sunset. They are always eating on this show and saying how delicious the food is. There's this crispy rice dish called tahdig that is so delicious and the cast members won't stop talking about it. It's a baked rice with saffron and the "best" part are the crispy edges. You know how it is if you like the crispy edges to baked mac and cheese or brownies. Do you also notice that anytime someone comes over their house there's a massive spread of food even if it's just 2 people. But hopefully they aren't wasting the food. I would have snack leftover for days. (Not complaining though. During this time, I've been doing a lot more snacking in front of the TV)

The first time I tasted Persian food was at this yummy restaurant in Northern Virginia called Shamshiry. I had lamb chops which is one of my favorite meats, but what converted me was the Persian ice cream. It was so creamy with saffron and rose water and pistachio. I mean I don't even like pistachio ice cream but this was different. After that I was on a hunt for more saffron ice cream. I couldn't find any locally but I was able to find a no churn recipe for it on Pinterest. It was basically doctoring up vanilla ice cream with all the delicious flavors and pistachios to make the Persian ice cream. It came out great but not as delicious as my first time at Shamshiry.

This weekend I decided to cook saffron braised lamb shanks, tahdig, a cucumber and tomato salad with fresh mint, and saffron ice cream. I was able to bake the tahdig in a pie dish to get that crispy crust. I had a plate big enough to flip the rice over and show the glorious crispy rice. The lamb shanks are resting on a cutting board. The ice cream and salad are in some decorative bowls and I have a Persian feast that's inviting!

What I learned in my brief time of cooking some Persian dishes this weekend was that saffron goes into a lot of the dishes. It's not as hard as you would imagine to make. Unless you have a specialty grocery store close by, you'll probably have to order some spices and ingredients online like barberries and Advieh (a Persian spice mix). But I have started to really enjoy these cooking adventures. I've been using this time to try some new things in my cooking repertoire.

I hope that you've been having some good adventures during your quarantine time. Take a trip on your plate. It's good practice for home entertaining when it's safer for you to have friends over again.

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