Persian, Part 2

Welcome back to Ethnic Eating 101! As promised, today is about soup, stew and bread.

First, though, let's dispense with the question of what you're supposed to do with the plastic sack of freshly-cut bread, butter, onion halves, lemon halves and ground sumac packets you get at Wholesome Choice, and what to do with the basket of bread and herbs you're given at a more upscale Persian dining room.

toastforbrekkie @ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Khoresht-e bademjan: eggplant and lamb stew.

When it comes to the Wholesome Choice condiment bag, the various things are actually for separate purposes. The butter is for your rice, the onion and lemon are for your stew or your kabob, the sumac is used like pepper and imparts a citrus-y, very slightly smoky taste to food. That's not to say you can't make a surprisingly good-tasting wrap out of the ingredients, and I do it often.

Sit-down places may serve you a plate of flatbread with a piece of cheese, some onions, herbs such as mint and tarragon, and a lemon. There may be other crunchy vegetables such as radishes or cucumbers, and the cheese is likely to be feta or something very like it. In some cases, the cheese may have been spun in a blender with garlic and olive oil to create a creamy, salty spread served in a bowl.

This is actually a little bit different than the condiments at Wholesome Choice; this is panir-e sabzi, or cheese with herbs, and it's an amuse-bouche or an appetizer, like chips and salsa at a Mexican-American restaurant. Spread or crumble the cheese onto a piece of bread, then dress it with onions and herbs. Roll it up and eat it, enjoying the crunch of the vegetables, the creaminess of the cheese, the chewiness of the bread and the bright notes of the herbs.

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