(Reviewed by JD Jung)
I usually browse the internet to find recipes, since cookbooks just take up too much needed shelf space. Needless to say, it takes a lot for me to buy an actual cookbook. However, there is one that I highly recommend.
Taste of Persia is actually a lot more than your usual cookbook. It covers both food and culture from the area reaching from the Caucasus Mountains to southern Iran, between the Black and Caspian Seas. The languages and religions differ, but the food is somewhat similar. There are common elements, such as walnuts, pomegranates, mint, dried fruits and yogurt, but also different ones.
Recipes include meats, poultry and fish such as grilled kebabs, rich soups and stews —like my favorite “Classic Pomegranate – Walnut Chicken Stew “(Fesunjun Khoresh)— colorful vegetables, flat-breads, rice and pilafs, sauces, marinades, spice blends and desserts.
This comprehensive cookbook also contains a section on pantry necessities and substitutions on difficult to find ingredients.
The photographs and maps are vivid, and along with the stories, the reader learns how the climate and culture affects the food. Author Naomi Duguid explains how the countries of Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan are traveler- friendly since the fall of the Soviet Union. In between the nearly 125 recipes she provides anecdotes of her travels to the region.
These rustic recipes will require practice and perhaps more than one attempt (like some did for me.) It may be tempting to quickly jump in, but make sure that you read through each recipe in its entirety before attempting to prepare. There is a summary of the cooking procedures preceding the ingredients, but the actual instructions follow the ingredient list.
For those home cooks who want to try some delicious, unique dishes, along with learning the related culture, Taste of Persia is for you. However, I won’t stick this one on my bookshelf. It is so gorgeous that I will put it on my coffee table for all to see.