April 29, 2006

persian market, middle east bakery

I was up visiting my friend H for a bit of rainy-day thrifting, during which neither of us was particularly thrifty (but we got some fabulous stuff -- big white '70s 'badass superphones' for H's husband, some 1960s french sunglasses for H, and for me the prettiest rhinestone necklace I have ever seen), and by the end of all that I was ravenous. There's a little pocket of Persian/Turkish cuisine up that way, and H highly recommended the Middle East Bakery on Foster between Clark & Ashland. I followed her suggestion and got a tasty spinach & cheese pie, and I followed my own gluttony and got a meat kibbe wrapped in a creamy starch (bulgur?) and deep fried to a greasy crunchy delight. They were both good, but that crunchy kibbe was really spectacular.

They have lots of greatlooking breads (it is a bakery after all) -- i got two long flat loaves of soft white bread with sesame seeds, and some 7-grain pitas -- and a cold case chockablock with homemade prepared foods. Their hummus is good, thin & nutty but a little too strong of tahini and not enough garlic & lemon for my taste. (Easily fixed at home, so no worries there.) The baba ganoush is super-smoky and really great, and the fool moudammas tastes strongly of green pepper, which is a little off-putting for me but the overall tangy & hot-peppery flavor won me over. There are two flavors of fresh labneh balls rolled with herbs and served in olive oil; i tried the mint-and-red-pepper version, which is addictively sheepy, creamy and spicy. There is something about middle-eastern dairy products that I just adore -- labneh is one of my most favorite things to spread on bread, and the salted yogurt drink ayran is astoundingly refreshing on a hot summer day, though everyone else seems to think it's weird. But then, I like drinking buttermilk too, so I guess it's a thing.

Anyway... they also have a wide selection of nice-looking and well-priced bulk-packaged nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, spices and other staples like sugar and tea and coffee. I got some date sugar for TNR, 2 pounds of raw organic sugar, and a packet of pine nuts, along with a nice small jar of tahini. I hate having to buy a huge tub of tahini, because I can never use it up fast enough.

I also got a jar of the electric-pink turnip pickles that I have enjoyed with my kebabs & pilafs at several middle-eastern restaurants. Unfortunately, the jarred version isn't that great -- the texture of many of the pickles is soft and rubbery, and they have that weird undertaste that turnips have when they're a bit too old, and the pickling brine is a little harsh. I think I might try making my own, since there's a recipe in the new issue of Saveur.

I might try the black bean hummus recipe in there too, while I'm at it, and I have an eggplant waiting in the fridge... mmmmmm.....

oh right, this post was supposed to be about the persian market too -- Pars Persian Market on Clark -- it's okay, but the bakery is better by a long shot, and friendlier as well. The Persian Market has more dishes and cookware, though, and you can get little wasp-waisted tea glasses and saucers, and several types of the long flat metal skewers for kebab kubideh, and tiny coffee cup sets, and hookahs, and it looks like the upstairs has belly dancing outfits. I did see some canned foods I'd never seen before, like a pomegranate soup made with split peas, and a huge selection of waters, like orange blossom water, but also cress water, borage water, peppermint water, dill water, and several with no english words on them at all.

Persian cookery, and Turkish and the other surrounding nations', is just so extraordinarily delicious and combines flavors in such interesting ways, and even beyond that it's very healthful in that mediterranean legumes-and-olive oil mode. It seems to me it should be taking off much more than it is, the way that Italian cooking did a while ago and Spanish cooking is now. Perhaps it's coming soon... in the meantime I am going to sit happily and stuff my face with smoky eggplant and sheep cheese, and start planning my kebab kubideh cookout party. Seriously. I just need to get a grill....

Posted by foodnerd at April 29, 2006 11:40 AM

I wonder why Iranian cooking hasn't become popular in the Western countries too. When you think about it the style of the cooking is similar too Indian (they are coming from the same tradition) but Persian cooking uses less spices. So one thinks it would be more convenient for the European/American taste to handle Persian food.
By the way, check this website:
It is an online Iranian/Middle Eastern grocery store.

Posted by: zabaf at September 20, 2006 02:18 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?