A Persian Valentines Day

This past weekend I was in Lincoln, Nebraska. Oh, the lovely places you get to travel for math conferences! Besides Lincoln, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Bloomington, IN, Ithaca, NY, and North Conway, NH. I’m still waiting for the conference in Hawai’i. The conference in Lincoln was the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics, and I was an invited graduate student, which meant that my major purpose there was as a mentor, role model, and answerer of questions about graduate school. It was lovely to see so many undergraduate women interested in math, but the conference didn’t have much to offer in the way of food.

Geisi PolowI returned to San Diego on Sunday night. On Monday, neither Henning nor I felt like cooking, and we both had some work to do, so we went down to University Heights to Cream and then for dinner at Sultan Banoo, a cute little Persian restaurant on Park Blvd. The food was delicious, as usual, and I was inspired to try my hand at a Persian polow. When I got home, I browsed through Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food (borrowed from my mother), and found a recipe for Geisi Polow, a lamb and apricot dish layered with rice. I decided to make this for tonight’s dinner, not really thinking of the fact that today is Valentines day. Henning and I are of the opinion that we should appreciate each other every day, and don’t really “buy in” (pun intended) to the whole Valentines day thing.

For the polow, the lamb is stewed with onions, tart apricots, sweet golden raisins, cinnamon and allspice before it is layered with buttered rice scented with saffron. The resulting dish is sweet-tart, and lightly aromatic. Honestly, it was not all that I had imagined it to be when I read the recipe, so I won’t bother typing it up for you. There are many other more worthy dishes in Claudia Roden’s book. It was somehow lacking in complexity. It needed more spice and perhaps something to balance all the fruit.

Shirazi Salad

To go along with the lamb, I attempted to recreate Sultan Banoo’s Shirazi Salad, which was much more of a success. I absolutely adore most Arab salads, and this one is as simple as it is wonderful. My usual Arab salad involves many more ingredients and much more chopping, but the Shirazi offers a simple alternative. A traditional Shirazi salad would call for mint, but Sultan Banoo uses cilantro in theirs and I think it is an interesting change. Easy to whip up and the perfect refreshing contrast to many fatty Persian dishes, I’m sure this Shirazi salad will make regular appearances on my table.

Shirazi Salad

1 largeish hothouse cucumber, seeded and diced
1 lb tomatoes, diced
1 medium brown onion, diced
zest and juice of one lemon
a large fistful of cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper
a splash of olive oil

Mix everything together and taste for seasonings, but start with only half of the juice of the lemon, mix, and then taste.

Serves 4.



  1. Posted February 15, 2007 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    That sounds really good – gorgeous photo too!

  2. Posted February 15, 2007 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    oooh, I love salads. I’m always looking for new ideas, looks like you just gave me a couple :)

  3. Posted February 17, 2007 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Alice- Thanks!

    Jef- Great :) You should try it with mint, it’s lovely that way too!

  4. laurel
    Posted February 19, 2007 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    mmmm. i’m endlessly jealous that you STILL get good tomatoes. can you send some fabulous produce out here?

  5. paul
    Posted November 26, 2007 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    shirazi salad is really really good, specially the black pepper and the onions, because they’re the ones that kick up the spice. anyways, i’m iranian and i just wanted to tell people the origin of shirazi salad. it is named after one of iran’s major cities: shiraz. I was born in shiraz and moved here when i was 7 years old.

  6. Posted June 14, 2009 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    I love salads and this looks lovely…def one to try when its eventually hot here in the UK…thx for posting this yum recipe :)

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