To help us learn more about Persian (a.k.a. Iranian) food, we turned to culinary authority Najmieh Batmanglij. In addition to insight on Persian culinary traditions, she provided us with recipes from her book New Food of Life.
What to buy: Pomegranate juice has exploded in popularity and is now available at most high-end grocery stores and online.
When buying saffron, choose threads rather than powder, which is too often adulterated with turmeric.
Angelica is frequently used in Persian cooking. Ground angelica can be found at Middle Eastern markets, in spice stores, or online.
- Yields: 4 servings
- Difficulty: Easy
- 1 large or 2 pounds firm-fleshed white fish, about 1/2 inch thick: sea bass, halibut, cod, rockfish, or orange roughy
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil or butter
- 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup pomegranate juice or 3 tablespoons pomegranate paste
- 1 tablespoon slivered candied orange peel
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 tablespoon angelica petals or powder (gol-par), for garnish
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, for garnish
- Rinse fish in cold water. Pat dry with paper towel and rub both sides with 1 teaspoon salt.
- Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large frying pan and brown onion and garlic. Add all the ingredients except the saffron water and lime juice and cook for 3 minutes. Mix well and remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the fish in a baking dish. Stuff it with the mixture from step 2 and pin or sew the cavity shut. Pour the saffron water, the rest of the oil, and lime juice over the fish.
- Place the fish in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes (until the fish flakes easily with a fork), basting from time to time.
- Arrange the fish on a serving platter. Pour the sauce from the baking dish over the fish. Garnish with angelica petals, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds.
- Serve with saffron-steamed plain rice. Nush-e Jan!
Variation: You may substitute pomegranate juice or paste with 1 cup liquid tamarind.
© 2007 From New Food of Life by Najmieh Batmanglij by permission of Mage Publishers
Beverage pairing: J Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. This red wine has enough finesse to go with fish, but the addition of the pomegranate juice and stuffing to this dish makes it squarely a red-wine dish. Pinot’s soft, juicy, bright fruit is perfect to complement the food without overwhelming it.