Orange Coast Magazine

Taste of O.C. | Priscilla Mayfield on food

 

Provisioning for 'The New Persian Kitchen' is Easy in O.C.

We're right at home with the healthful, sweet-savory-sour cuisine

In Orange County, we can almost take Persian cuisine for granted. And not only restaurant-wise, though we have everything from fast-kebab takeaways to elegant dinner houses in profusion. Our real wealth is in the ease with which we can gather ingredients for preparing the food at home. This was what was on my mind as I perused Louisa Shafia’s “The New Persian Kitchen” (Ten Speed Press, $25) and began a mental shopping list to take to my beloved Mission Ranch Market in Mission Viejo. (I’ve written about Mission Ranch in Taste of Orange County before, you may remember.)

Our local abundance was significant for Shafia’s book, in fact; the Brooklyn author got inspiration for many of its recipes while staying with relatives in Orange County and participating in Persian provisioning at their favorite stores. “I can tell you that Wholesome Choice in Irvine is one of my favorite places on earth,” she told me in email, “and I'm a big fan of Mission Ranch, too. Many of the recipes in the book had their germination at those two places.”

Wholesome Choice’s popularity verges on the unreal—as anyone who’s shopped there on a Saturday morning can attest. I guess it’s not surprising that its fame is spreading nationwide. But, in O.C. there are enough Persian markets that a personal ranking can easily include not only a first place, but a second, third, and fourth as well. (A list of Orange County Persian markets appears below—find your own favorites.)

Shafia’s earlier “Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life” (Ten Speed Press, 2009) focused on the healthful and the sustainable, and she brings some of that to “The New Persian Kitchen.” With its characteristic bales of fresh vegetables and herbs, grilled meats, and yogurt sauces, Persian cuisine easily lends itself to light, whole-foods eating. But the most unique aspect of Shafia’s look at Persian cuisine is her own dual heritage—her Muslim father came to the U.S. from Iran, and her mother is Jewish American. Shafia finds some overlap in the two culinary traditions, and has interesting asides on the subject in the book.

A recipe for Chile-Saffron Fish Kebabs from “The New Persian Kitchen” follows. My family loved it when I made it earlier this summer with excellent halibut, and it came immediately to mind as I surveyed the surfeit of chiles at the farmers market last weekend. Shafia suggests trying chiles other than the indicated jalapeños, if you like. I love jalapeños, but there are so many good chiles around right now to consider. If you like heat, I think habanero would be fabulous, for instance. Rather than kebab-sized chunks, I cooked fillets of halibut with the marinade. Allow a minute or so additional cooking time if you go this route.

Chile-Saffron Fish Kebabs

In Iran, fish dishes are plentiful in the north near the Caspian Sea. But they take on a different character entirely in the south of the country near the Persian Gulf, where the cuisine is influenced by the flavors of nearby Africa, where tamarind originates, and India, Iran’s hot chile-loving neighbor to the east.—Louisa Shafia

(Makes 4 servings)

1 ½ pounds skinless, firm-fleshed fish, such as Pacific halibut, striped bass, or albacore, cut into 1-inch pieces

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ yellow onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeño chiles, minced

¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

½ teaspoon saffron threads, ground in mortar and steeped in 2 teaspoons hot water

¼ cup plain yogurt

Cilantro

Sumac (available in Persian and Middle Eastern markets)

If using wooden skewers, soak in salty water for a couple of hours before grilling. Thread fish onto skewers ¼ inch apart, leaving 2 inches of space at end of skewer. Place kebabs on rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.

Whisk together onion, garlic, chiles, lime juice, saffron (including water), and yogurt, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over kebabs and turn to coat.

Cook kebabs over hot fire, 3 minutes per side. Garnish with cilantro and sumac.

Orange County Persian Markets

Aria International Supermarket, 2505 El Camino Real, Tustin, 949-281-1880

Crown Valley Market, 27771 Center Drive, Mission Viejo, 949-340-1010

El Toro Marketplace, 23611 El Toro Road, Lake Forest, 949-588-2924

Fresh Choice Marketplace, 9922 Katella Ave., Garden Grove, 714-539-9999

Jordan Market, 24771 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Hills, 949-770-3111

Mission Ranch Market, 23166 Los Alisos Blvd., Mission Viejo, 949-707-5879

Pars Supermarket, 23762 Mercury Road, Lake Forest, 949-916-2444

Ranch Market, 24021 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo, 949-916-9500

Super Irvine, 14120 Culver Drive, Irvine, 949-552-8844

Wholesome Choice, 5755 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, 714-779-7000; 18040 Culver Drive, Irvine, 949-551-4111

Leave a comment:

· Subscribe to comments
Be the first to comment here.

OC Guides

Guides

OC Guides
  • Neighborhoods: Rancho Santa Margarita

    Rancho Santa Margarita’s Plaza El Paseo is a South County suburban mall with a twist. It’s the unexpected finds—a little gem of a florist, cozy spots to sample tea and wine, and a top-notch steakhouse across the street—that put it in a league of its own. Read More
  • O.C.’s Best: Bloody Marys

    Get your vegetables and booze in one convenient—and delicious—serving with what’s been hailed as America’s murkiest and most complex cocktail. Traditionally made with tomato juice, vodka, celery salt, horseradish, Worcestershire, and Tabasco, its origins are widely debated. Here are five superb O.C. renditions of the world-famous drink.

    Read More
  • Hot O.C. Neighborhood: East Side Costa Mesa

    This updated neighborhood doesn’t have to try hard to be interesting, original, surprising, and modern—it just is. Take the mile-long stretch of strip malls along 17th Street, between Newport Boulevard and Irvine Avenue, the heart of the renaissance. Foodies come for the Instagram-worthy Aussie-style meat pies at PieNot, coconut French toast at Plums Café, and braised pork panini at Pitfire Artisan Pizza. And that’s just the Ps. Other homegrown restaurants and shops tip toward lean-and-clean fare, such as the casual Jan’s Health Bar. Plus it’s the birthplace of Mother’s Market & Kitchen. Read More
  • Hot O.C. Neighborhood: Downtown Anaheim

    With a focus on food and community, downtown’s fresh look gets inspiration from the city’s rural roots. It takes resourcefulness to restore and imaginatively reuse old buildings, qualities the city’s founding farming families had, too. The new energy is centered on the Packing District, a two-block stretch of Anaheim Boulevard between Santa Ana Street and East Broadway: the restored 1920s-era Packard Building, now home to Anaheim Brewery and Umami Burger, and the 1919 Anaheim Citrus Packing House, with a food hall of locally based food-and-beverage artisans. Read More
  • Neighborhoods: Costa Mesa

    Chain restaurants and stores dominate most of the strip malls on Costa Mesa’s east side. But at Santa Ana Avenue and 17th Street, look a little closer and you’ll find indie boutiques and cafes tucked in among the usual suspects Read More
 
 
wine blog
 

stuff we love

Charitable Events Calendar

Close

Advertisement