Persian, Part 3
|fatemeh @ flickr.com CC BY-NC 2.0|
Like any other Middle Eastern culture, Persians have a long tradition of dips and appetizers called mazza (the forerunner of the Arabic word meze). While you may see hummus and babaghannouj on the menu at Persian restaurants, these are borrowed from their Arabic-speaking neighbors to the west and southwest.
As soon as you see the items below, though, you know you are in a Persian restaurant. For some reason, most of the Persian dips have not been borrowed by the Levantine Arabs.
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While must-o-khiar is the most commonly-ordered yoghurt dip, must-o-musir may be the best. Deceptively simple, it's thick yoghurt mixed with shallots. Next time you want onion dip for your potato chips, stop at a Persian market and buy some must-o-musir.
Not to be outdone, borani esfanaj is Persian spinach dip, spinach that has been sautéed with garlic, olive oil and salt, then mixed with thick yoghurt. Borani esfanaj is nearly always served on top of (or next to) flatbread.
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Shirazi salad is a simple mixture of cubed tomatoes, onions and cucumbers in roughly equal proportion, dressed with good olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped herbs (usually parsley, sometimes mint).
Olovieh (sometimes olivieh) has nothing to do with olives; it is a moist salad of chicken, eggs, vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and lemon juice.
Torshi are pickles, but not just cucumbers; torshi may include turnips, eggplants, green tomatoes, green beans, anything that is pickled. ("Torshi" is Farsi for "sour things"). These are nearly always on the table at full Persian meals; you may see them served with a few olives.