What a treat to reconnect with Sanam Lamborn, and especially over traditional persian tea and a coffee table full of sweet nibbley things: small homemade pastries, fresh berries, tiny perfumed cookies, persian baklava and dates.
Sanam is the woman behind My Persian Kitchen, a blog devoted to exploring, enjoying and cooking Persian foods. She is followed by thousands of readers around the globe, a number which is increasing, especially as interest in Iranian food grows.
Born in Iran, she moved to Rome with her mother where she lived for 10 years before settling in LA in 1990. And yes, English is her 4th language after Farsi, Italian, and French!
After graduate school, and in the midst of unanticipated unemployment, she started writing a blog (in fact, Nosh Cafe made a little appearance). Her stories about food generated the most comments, questions and interest, so My Persian Kitchen was created to concentrate on the recipes of her heritage.
Sanam regards Persian cuisine as one of the major “mother” cuisines of the world along side Chinese and French, and with its brilliant history, depth of ingredients, and techniques it’s hard not to be dazzled.
Think the center of the Silk Road, the location and geography of Iran which allows for 4 growing seasons, and a bounty of beautiful core ingredients such as fresh green herbs (cilantro, mint, parsley, dill, tarragon), a myriad of fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots, dates and raisins, and then spices and flavorings like saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, rose petals, cardamon to name a few. Pistachios, walnuts, almonds, and saffron are native to Iran, along with oranges and grapes.
Add caviar, lamb, fish, fresh vegetables, noodles, flatbreads and basmati rice and there’s a lot to work with!
Once the center of a huge Empire, Iran neighbors the former Soviet Union countries and Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Arab states and Turkey. Conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century, it was also invaded by Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Uzbeks.
Sanam’s stories and recipes help build an awareness and knowledge of persian cuisine, which until recently tended to be overlooked in the food press and confused with other middle eastern cuisines.
Along with detailed step by step recipes, one of the things I love about My Persian Kitchen is her “persianizing”. A good cook and an adventurous eater loves nothing better than understanding what makes a cuisine sing, getting comfortable and familiar with the elements and flavors. The next step is applying them to their own local ingredients…persianizing.
Speaking for myself, I’m a little intimidated by the famous persian rice, so I love that Sanam shares her own steep learning curve with that iconic staple!
Beautifully tender, but separate fluffy basmati rice, sometimes plain but often studded with treats, it’s the dish that all cooks are judged on and everyone wants to master. So delicious that its crusty bottom is served separately as a dish in its own right.
In the 6 years since My Persian Kitchen started, Sanam has been invited to write for several magazines, including Saveur and Los Angeles magazine and she is in the process of producing a series of e-books. There’s also cooking classes, demonstrations and tastings and small special catering events.
Time spent with Sanam also reinforces the essential graciousness and hospitality of Persian culture and her recipes reflect this integral component.
I suggest checking in to My Persian Kitchen and exploring with Sanam!