Book Review: Najmieh Batmanglij’s Persian Cookbook

It’s the start of Spring and with it Persian New Year, the time of year that is among the happiest everywhere in the world. A time brilliant with hope, promise, and gratitude for overcoming the year behind us. Yeah! We have survived! All people can peacefully celebrate!

“New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies,” by Najmieh Batmanglij


“New Food of Life,” by Najimieh Batmanglij
celebrates the past that brought about her marvelous food. Her book promises to keep Iran’s most sensual art alive. She packs in love in all of its forms. Within these pages lie poetry, tapestry, childhood memories, and practical advice on how to make these recipes your own.

Persian 'tadig,' crunchy rice.
Persian ‘tadig,’ crunchy rice.
Persian 'miniature' style painting of picnickers.
Persian ‘miniature’ style painting of picnickers.

Colorful ‘miniature’ style paintings and lyrical poetry are interspersed among photos vivid enough to make me feel the aromatic steam on my nostrils as I experience crunchy rice (tadig), mountains of grains, pots of stews, platters of desserts, with all manner of drinks, staples including pickle and yogurt making instructions, and mixes for seasonings.

Platter of fresh herbs, feta, and nuts.
Platter of fresh herbs, feta, and nuts.

Without my husband, I might never have tasted simple elegance at its most sublime. Here Batmanglij features a splendid heap of fresh herbs that can include mint, fennel, parsley, watercress, and sweet basil. Alongside it, real feta cheese (not the miserly crumbled sort), and nuts soaked in brine.

Persian 'Lubia Polo' green bean stew with rice.
Persian ‘Lubia Polo’ green bean stew with rice.

Tea gets its own chapter — marvelous Persian tea that’s best appreciated by eyes and nose from clear glasses that highlight color and scent.

Persian sweet fritters.
Persian sweet fritters.

Batmanglij accomplishes much in this singular book! There’s illustrated explanations of holidays and traditions.

Persian poetry and painting.
Persian poetry and painting.

Even a list of her mother’s interpretation of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ foods — hot and cold, not to be confused with the dictionary definition of these words. In this case, they’re more akin to Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine interpretations of how they affect the body, not merely the taste buds.

This book is for anyone who loves globetrotting via food and anyone who loves a Persian.

Batmanglij has other cookbooks for all ages.

Happy bread-day! Notes on a fave baking book

Happy bread day! Today I baked a fabulous loaf for my family that was as simple to make as it was delicious!

Bread in 5 Minutes book cover

Tango gatherings are social in the best way, including food-wise. When a dance mate brought a yeast-raised loaf still warm from her home oven and described how easily she’d baked it, I ran to get the book she’d gotten the recipe from.

“The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking,” by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François, lives up to its subtitle.

The authors provide gourmet recipes and lots of glossy food porn. Their panettone is now a family favorite!

In my Iran-born husband’s family, one is either “noon-ee” or “polo-ee,” meaning either bread loving or rice loving. Bread lover that I am, before this book, I tried yeast breads and always failed to produce anything better than bricks.

Not so with these recipes!

Jeff and Zoë's panettone
Jeff and Zoë’s panettone

For the panettone, instead of the fancy wrapper on this photo here, I line the ceramic pot from my electric crock pot with parchment paper, add the dough, and bake (without the electronic mechanism) in a conventional oven. For the first half of the baking, I leave it covered, and for the remainder, I remove the lid.

Crock Pots I use for bread and panettone
Crock Pots I use for bread and for panettone

The yeasty fragrance of baking perfumes the entire house. What a marvel to hear a loaf hum, whistle, and crackle a steamy tune as it cools, and then to bite into crunchy, chewy goodness!

Jacques Pepín put it best when, on one of his cooking shows, he said nothing can compete with fine artisan bread slathered with pure butter.

Here Jacques bakes his own no-knead bread…

Caveat: “…Bread in Five Minutes…” might mislead — actually, the dough takes five to ten minutes to mix. Then it must rise for a couple of hours. Baking times varies according to recipes.

Note: This is from a book review I wrote for Jeyran Main’s book reviewing blog.

What’s your fave cookbook?