Thursday, October 09, 2014

Jeweled Carrot Salad: The First International Mehregan Cyber-feast

You guys, I'm pretty excited today.  I feel like I've quietly made something happen, and this post marks it.  You see, I'm very proud of my little blog, but sometimes when I post here, I feel like a tiny mouse yelling out in a huge hall.  I might be saying something good, but who can hear?  

I've wanted to explore writing about Persian food more, and with cookbook dreams having lately re-emerged from deep hibernation (!!), I knew I need to establish expertise, and to find people who cared about it.  After my Thrillist post in July on LA's best Persian food, I started noticing that out in the world, there exists a network of Persian food bloggers. They're out there. I decided I wanted to be part of this world, but how could I do it with the little mouse voice?

Over the last few months, I made a couple one-on-one inroads: I started commenting back and forth with a grad student in Minneapolis named Sara with a blog called Sabzi (she'd found me through Bon Appétempt, bless her heart), and I had a few tentative Twitter interactions with Azita of Fig and Quince, an artist in Brooklyn whose comprehensive and sweetly rendered Norouz posts had caught my eye back in March.  Mouse voice rising.

So you can imagine my delight when recently, I was brought into a Persian Food Bloggers' group.  To learn that there are women and men (well, one man) all over the world who like me, coo over their mothers' old-school cooking practices, get teary-eyed over a whiff of onions sizzling away with saffron, or squeeze in time in an incredibly hectic schedule for preparing elaborate rice dishes just because -- well, these are pretty exciting revelations.  And for these nostalgic diaspora cooks, some of whom even listen to Jason Bentley while they're at it, to bring me into their fold feels pretty awesome.  I decided I wanted something, wasn't sure how to get it, I kept at it, and it found me.

So, I'm beyond proud that today, I'm taking part in a very special event organized by this group: The First International Mehregan Cyber-feast. Mehregan is an ancient Persian festival that marks the fall harvest and honors friendship, affection, and love.  Admittedly, my family never celebrated it, so I don't know what exactly what it involves.  Here at All Kinds of Yum, though, we're big fans of friendship, affection, and love.  And I will always take an opportunity to feast on Persian food (or even just digitally pretend to).  Today, nearly 30 Persian food bloggers all over the world are posting dishes marking this festive day (and I've linked to all of them below!).  They even have a hashtag.  See, here it is:  #mehregan2014. They're very organized, these Persian food bloggers.

For my contribution to this lavish cyber-banquet, I'm riffing off a particularly opulent Persian dish called jeweled rice ("morassa polo"), stealing some of its flavors for a carrot salad.  Pomegranate adds its translucent charm, each seed seeming to be glowing from within.  I was lucky to get my hands on some fresh pistachios, picked right from the tree on a farm in Bakersfield, and added those as well as roasted pistachios and threads of orange zest.  The salad's dressing features orange juice, saffron, and honey, making it lightly sweet and super fragrant.  Overall, the dish feels like fall in Los Angeles: vaguely autumnal, but mostly just bright and sunny.

So, happy Mehregan to you all, and here's to friendship, affection, and love.  This little mouse is roaring with pride, and also very, very hungry.

[Note: Be sure to scroll all the way down and check out some of the tasty treats that Persian food bloggers all over the world have prepared for this day!]

Jeweled Carrot Salad
Makes 4 servings.

Zest of one orange (see note)
Juice of one orange, about 1/4 cup, pulp strained
3 teaspoons champagne vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon pistachio oil (or olive oil)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Tiny pinch saffron (see note)
Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch discs
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup pistachio nutmeats, shelled and roasted (I used purchased roasted and salted pistachio nutmeats)
seeds from 1 pomegranate, about 3/4 cup
1/2 cup fresh shelled pistachios (optional)

Prepare vinaigrette: In a bowl, whisk together orange juice, orange zest (if grated), honey, oils, saffron, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.  You'll end up with more than you need, but you can keep it refrigerated and use it for other salads.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add carrots and cook until they are just barely tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain carrots and allow them to cool.

Combine carrots, orange zest, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and about half of vinaigrette in a bowl.  Adjust seasoning.

A note on orange zest: You can zest your orange 3 ways:
 - With a potato peeler, strip off thin pieces, avoiding the bitter white pith, then cut them into tiny strips with a sharp knife.  Most labor-intensive, but no fancy gadgets necessary.
 - With a zester with 4-5 circular holes, create long skinny strips of zest.
 - With a microplane grater, create a fine mince of zest.

With the first two ways, add the zest directly to the carrots.  With the last, add it to the vinaigrette.

A note on saffron: You can pulverize the strands in a mortar and pestle with a bit of sugar for added abrasion, or in a clean coffee grinder.  Not worth it if you’re just using a bit, though:  just put the strands directly into the honey, rubbing them first between your fingers a bit.

Here are all the participants in the Mehregan Cyber-Feast.

Ahu Eats: Badoom Sookhte Torsh
All Kinds of Yum: Jeweled Carrot Salad
Bottom of the Pot: Broccoli Koo Koo
Cafe Leilee: Northern Iranian Pomegranate Garlic and Chicken Stew
Coco in the Kitchen: Zeytoon Parvardeh
Della Cucina Povera: Ghormeh Sabzi
Family Spice: Khoreshteh Kadoo | Butternut Squash Stew
Fig & Quince: Festive Persian Noodle Rice & Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Yummies for Mehregan
Honest and Tasty: Loobia Polo | Beef and Green Bean Rice
Lab Noon: Adas Polo Risotto Style
Lucid Food: Sambuseh
Marjan Kamali: Persian Ice Cream with Rosewater and Saffron
My Caldron: Anaar-Daneh Mosamma | Pomegranate Stew
My Persian Kitchen: Keshmesh Polow | Persian Raisin Rice
Noghlemey: Parsi Dal
Parisa's Kitchen: Morasa Polow | Jeweled Rice
Sabzi: Yogurt Soup with Meatballs
The Saffron Tales: Khorosht-e Gheimeh
Simi's Kitchen: Lita Turshisi | Torshi-e Liteh | Tangy Aubergine Pickle
Spice Spoon: Khoresht-e-Bademjaan | Saffron-scented Aubergine Stew
Turmeric & Saffron: Ash-a Haft Daneh | Seven Bean Soup
The Unmanly Chef: Baghali Polow ba Mahicheh
ZoZoBaking: Masghati


  1. Wow! What a colorful and beautiful salad. Can't wait to give it a try. And I must say your Thrillist post was my food guide while in LA two months ago ;) So glad to connect through this recipe round up :)

    1. Oh, that's wonderful Leilee jan! Hope I led you to some good places! xo

  2. I get that empty hall feeling, too Tannaz. The color here is pretty incredible. Well done, lady!

    1. Grazie, Francesca jan! So nice to make the acquaintance of an Italian-Iranian-American lving in Amsterdam! Embodying the melting pot! And now both our halls will be a little less empty =)

  3. Love all the vibrant colors of your salad! We've been enjoy fresh pistachios, as well. And pomegranates - yay for fall!

    1. Those fresh pistachios are such a treat! I think I like them even more because their season is so short!

  4. Perfect! So happy you got to join this round up! Great description, photos and dish!

    1. thank you thank you! i'm excited to be a part of it!

  5. Tannaz! So happy we found each other as well. I loved this post...the photos are simply amazing. This is a brilliant riff. I'm going to put it on our dinner schedule for next week. xoxo

    1. Yeah!! Thanks Sara! For your kind words, but especially for bringing me into the fold! Who would have thought I'd find a kindred curly-haired, food-loving, book-loving Persian sista all the way out in Minneapolis!

  6. So lovely, fresh, and colorful ...what a great mixture :) love it ..thanks for the recipe. xoxo

  7. These are beautiful images Tannaz and what a great way to capture both your tale as a blogger and an absolutely yummy, gorgeous looking dish!

  8. I swear I gasped when I saw that first pic.
    It's simply stunning.
    Must be so delicious!

  9. Tannaz, this is truly stunning and striking and appetizing and everything that is good and yummy all wrapped into one post. LOVE it!

    1. thank you my dear, i could say the same for you!

  10. Wow, this is gorgeous. Congrats to you on raising your voice in the food world, it's good to hear you!

    1. Thanks so much, Louisa -- such a sweet thing to say!

  11. Tannaz jan - what a beautiful salad and story. You are a moosh only in the sense that they are adorable and cute! Collectively, none of us has mouse-voice.

    Can't wait to make your salad - the colors and flavors are right up my alley. :)

    1. thanks Ahu! So... I'm thinking of changing my blog's name to Mooshe Jan. Whatcha think? just kidding! =P

  12. From one Jason Bentley fan to another I am so glad you found us and we found you. This salad is beautiful and so is your voice! Thanks so much for sharing Tannaz!

  13. Tannaz, this salad looks incredibly refreshing and delicious! YUM!!!

  14. Tannaz joon, you have such a lovely blog here. I love this post and I love those pistachios. Lucky girl! I miss those fresh California ingredients.
    Oh and as long as we're happy little mice, that'll do, right? :)

  15. WOW!!! Your pictures are so beautiful and your recipe sounds so relic!!! Definitely a must try. Thank you for sharing :)

  16. Came to your blog via spice spoon. What a lovely treat your blog is.
    I had no idea there were so many beautiful blogs of Persian food and
    that everyone is still so active. Thank you for a wonderful dish.


    1. Thanks so much, Vinita, I didn't know either! Spice Spoon is one of my new favorites -- such amazing photos!

  17. Hello Tannaz jan, What a delightfully bright colored salad. Healthy and perfectly named.
    Belated Happy Mehregan! :) Fae - Fae's Twist & Tango

  18. Gorgeous salad this!! And I love the sound of that dressing. Oranges are everywhere here so shall make the best out of them in this salad. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful recipe

    1. thanks for the kind words, Anusha! You'll have to report back =)