Najmieh Batmanglij learned her mother’s dishes well and took notes. At the end of 1979, as the Iranian Revolution took a more fundamentalist turn, Najmieh and her husband fled to Vence, France. She took cooking classes there and began translating her mother’s recipes into French. At her neighbors’ urging and with their help, she put together a compilation of 50 recipes, her first, called “Ma Cuisine d’Iran” (1984). Since then, Najmieh has been cooking, devising, and testing recipes every day; and she has written 7 cookbooks.
In Joon, master chef Najmieh Batmanglij distills one of the world’s oldest and most influential cuisines to capture its unique flavors in recipes adapted to suit our busy lives. Najmieh’s fans have been making meals from her Food of Life for more than 30 years. For Joon she has simplified 75 of her favorite dishes and shows how, with the right ingredients and a few basic tools and techniques, authentic Persian food can easily be prepared at home.
Joon means “life” in Persian. It can be used in multiple ways, from a term of endearment akin to “darling” after someone’s name to showing great enthusiasm: “I love it!” The expression nush-e joon, literally “food of life,” is similar to the French “bon appétit,” a wish that a meal will be enjoyed.
Much of Iran’s cuisine is essentially vegetarian. Although kababs are popular restaurant fare, they represent only a small sampling of the dishes Iranians eat at home. Persian cooking, with its emphasis on fresh, natural ingredients corresponds with the trend in eating that’s spreading across America. “Join the delicious revolution!” as Alice Waters says; “Eat simply, eat together, eat seasonally, shop at farmers markets.”
Excerpts from Joon
Completely redesigned for today’s generation of cooks and food enthusiasts, the 25th Anniversary Edition of Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij (Mage; $54.95 640 pages); provides a treasure trove of recipes, along with an immersive cultural experience for those seeking to understand this ancient and timeless cuisine. This edition is a more user-friendly edition of the award-winning and critically acclaimed cookbook series which began in 1986. Food of Life provides 330 classical and regional Iranian recipes as well as an introduction to Persian art, history and culture. The book’s hundreds of full color photographs are intertwined with descriptions of ancient and modern Persian ceremonies, poetry, folktales, travelogue excerpts and anecdotes. The 2011 Edition of Food of Life is a labor of love. The book began in exile after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as a love letter to Batmanglij’s children. Today, as accomplished adults in their own fields, her two sons, Zal and Rostam, encouraged her to redesign the book for their generation.
Food of Life propels Persian cooking into the 21st Century, even as it honors venerable traditions and centuries of artistic expression. It is the result of 30 years of collecting, testing and adapting authentic and traditional Persian recipes for the American kitchen. Most of its ingredients are readily available throughout the U.S. enabling anyone from a master chef to a novice to reproduce the refined tastes, textures, and beauty of Persian cuisine. Food-related pieces from such classics as the 10th century Book of Kings, and 1,001 Nights to the miniatures of Mir Mosavvar and Aq Mirak, from the poetry of Omar Khayyam and Sohrab Sepehri to the humor of Mulla Nasruddin are all included. Each recipe is presented with steps that are logical and easy to follow. Readers learn how to simply yet deliciously cook rice, the jewel of Persian cooking, which, when combined with a little meat, fowl, or fish, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, provides the perfect balanced diet.
The full-color Food of Life 25th Anniversary Edition contains 50% more pages than its 2009 predecessor and special added features:
*New Recipes adapted from Sixteenth-Century Persian cookbooks
*Added vegetarian section for most recipes
*Comprehensive dictionary of all ingredients
*A glance at a few thousand years of the history of Persian Cooking
*Master recipes with photos illustrating the steps.
*Color photos of most recipes with tips on presentation
*Updated section on Persian stores and Internet suppliers
*Fahrenheit and Centigrade temperatures for all recipes
*Choices for cooking recipes such as “kuku” in oven or on stovetop.
*Encourages use of seasonal and local ingredients from farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) sources or one’s own backyard
New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies is also available in a Persian Language Edition.
This book is at once an exploration, a celebration, and a little-known tale of unity. It presents 150 delicious vegetarian dishes that together trace a fascinating story of culinary linkage. As renowned cookbook writer and teacher Najmieh Batmanglij explains, all have their origins along the ancient network of trade routes known as the Silk Road, stretching from China in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. The result was the connecting and enrichment of dozens of cuisines. In Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey (Mage; $35; 336 pages) she recounts that process and brings it into the modern kitchen in the form of recipes that are venturesome and yet within reach of any cook.
The scope of her culinary journey of discovery is vast — from Xian in China, to Samarkand in present-day Uzbekistan, to Isfahan in Iran, to Istanbul in Turkey, and to the westernmost terminus of the ancient trade routes in Italy. Her recipes include such exotic yet simple fare as Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Salad; Chinese Hot and Sour Tofu Noodle Soup; Turkish Almond and Rice Flour Pudding; Uzbek Candied Quince with Walnuts; and Sicilian Sour Cherry Crostata.
Wine is seen as the natural partner of many great cuisines, but few people associate it with Persian food, one of the world’s most sophisticated culinary traditions. The ties, in fact, are age-old. From Persia to Napa: Wine at the Persian Table (Mage; $50; 264 pages, with 160 color photos) weaves together history, poetry, a look at modern viniculture, and a wealth of recipes and wine pairings to celebrate the rightful relationship of wine and food on the Persian table.
In this lavishly illustrated book, Najmieh Batmanglij explores that long and eventful history, then shifts her story to California’s famed Napa Valley, half a world away. There, in a kind of up-to-the-minute homage to the past, an Iranian-American named Darioush Khaledi uses the latest vinicultural techniques to make superb wines at a winery reminiscent of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the ancient Persian empire.
A Taste of Persia (Mage; $19.95; 176 pages) is a collection of authentic recipes from one of the world’s oldest cuisines, chosen and adapted for today’s lifestyle and kitchen. Here are light appetizers and kababs, hearty stews and rich, golden-crusted rices, among many other dishes, all fragrant with the distinctive herbs, spices, or fruits of Iran. Each recipe offers clear, easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. Most take less than an hour to prepare; many require only a few moments; many others can be made in advance. Besides its 100 recipes and 60 photographs, the book includes a useful dictionary of Persian cooking techniques and ingredients, a list of specialty stores around the nation that sell hard-to-find items, and a brief history of Persian cookery. Together these make a complete introduction to this wonderful cuisine.
Persian cuisine is exotic yet simple like a poem by Omar Khayyam, healthy yet colorful like a Persian miniature painting. It combines rice, the jewel and foundation of Persian cooking, with a little meat, fowl or fish; plenty of onion, garlic, vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs; and a delicate, uniquely Persian mix of spices such as rose petals, angelica seeds, dried limes, candied orange peels, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and saffron to achieve a delicious and balanced diet. Drawing on her 15 years of experience collecting and adapting authentic Persian recipes, and inspired by her years in Southern France and the United States, Najmieh Batmanglij has brought about a marriage of ancient Persian cooking, French Provencal food presentation, and contemporary American eating styles. The result is Persian Cooking for a Healthy Kitchen (Mage; $22.50;200 pages), 95 exquisite kitchen-tested recipes that are low in fat yet high in flavor–a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds–that meet the current health goals of limiting the calories from saturated fats.
Nowruz – the Persian New Year – is one of the world’s great festivals, a full month of activities celebrating the earth, the arrival of spring, and the rebirth of nature. Most of all, it is a festival for families. Children and adults alike can share in preparing special meals, decorating the house, and performing the many ceremonies that welcome the New Year. This book is a guide to customs thousands of years old yet as vital as ever – enjoyable for families no matter where they live or what their beliefs. Happy Nowruz offers twenty-five fun, easy, and innovative Nowruz recipes, with lots of photos to show you what to do. This is an ideal guide for parents, teachers, and kids – age six and older – to know more about the origins of Nowruz and to get everyone involved in preparing for the arrival of spring by:
• baking Haji Firuz cookies
• germinating seeds in eggshells
• coloring eggs
• making a Nowruz garland
• jumping over fires
• setting the Haft-sinn (seven-s) holiday table
• planting narcissus and hyacinth bulbs
• selecting and buying goldfish
• banging spoons for trick-or-treating
• cooking the Nowruz dinner
• enjoying the Outdoor Thirteen picnic