Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jews of Persia from annihilation at the hands of the royal vizier Haman. What better way to celebrate, then, than with an evening of Persian cuisine?
One of our congregation’s families had a home sufficiently large enough to accommodate a crowd of some eighty people, and so it is there that the festivities took place.
Persian-style appetizers: tabbouleh, babaghanoush, and hummus.
The appetizers alone were enough to make a respectable meal. Hummus, a pile of herb-laden tabbouleh, nice crusty naan, babaghanoush, and an assortment of olives and pickles... to borrow a word from our Passover liturgy, dayyenu: It would have been enough for us. But there was more. Much more.
Sabzi polo: rice with a metric buttload of savory herbs.
There was sabzi polo - a Persian-style rice pilaf jammed with green stuff: parsley, dill, cilantro, scallions, et alia.
There was roasted chicken with yet more herbs. If chicken didn’t suit you (and even if it did), there was a heap of mahi - salmon, not to be confused with mahi-mahi.
For rice lovers whose jones was not quite sated by the sabzi polo, there was tahcheen with zereshk. This was rice jazzed up with saffron and packed into a heavy pan to bake, resulting in fluffy grains with a crust (tahdig) that is positively addictive... all of this garnished with sweet barberries. Oh. My. Gawd.
Tahcheen with zereshk: saffron rice decorated with barberries. The best part is the tahdig, the crusty stuff that forms where the rice contacts the pan.
There were gondi, humongous meatballs made of ground turkey and chickpeas - a Persian-Jewish favorite. Also, plenty of roasted veggies: peppers, asparagus, and the like.
Roasted vegetabobbles, including lotsa peppers and asparagus.
It was extreme.
I spent a good part of the evening pouring wine - we offered a tasting of two whites and two reds to help wash down all of the foody deliciousness - but I did take enough time to grab a plateful... or two. And did I mention dessert? Fresh fruit, hamantaschen, and cardamom-laced baklava, enough to make strong men weep.
“They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat.” It’s the Jewish holiday mantra, but rarely have I seen it executed so beautifully. (Burp!)