are you thirsty? drink this: {sharbat-e-sekanjebin}

over the week end i found myself (a spectator) at a water polo tournament in 100 degree (f) heat, and all i could think about was how much i was craving sharbat-e-sekanjebin, or vinegar{!!} syrup sherbet with grated cucumbers & mint. growing up in tehran, this refreshing drink was often served along with sour cherry sherbet on hot summer afternoons. i remember how much i liked watching it being prepared because of the lovely aroma the grated cucumbers and fresh mint created in the kitchen. when we had guests, tall glasses of these beautiful green and red (sour cherry) sherbets with crushed ice would be lined up on trays and served along with watermelon, dried fruits and nuts, and pastries. i liked watching people gently mix the syrups at the bottom of their glasses with long spoons as their drinks slowly changed colors. having lunch at a thai restaurant yesterday, i was served a delicate “salsa” made with cucumbers and red onions in a sweet & sour sauce reminiscent of sekanjebin. when i asked about the ingredients i was told it was made with white vinegar and sugar! these are the two main components of sekanjebin syrup- – – i decided it was time to make some…go ahead, try it for yourself-you won’t be disappointed!

for 1 cup of syrup {which is also often served as a dip for romaine lettuce}:
  • 3 cups sugar (i use unrefined cane sugar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3-4 sprigs of mint
1. in a saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil together and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the sugar has fully dissolved.
2. add vinegar and boil  for about 20-25 minutes longer until you have a thick syrup.
3. add the mint sprigs to the syrup and allow them to seep while the syrup cools. remove the mint from the syrup when it is cooled and pour in to a glass jar with a tight lid or cork.
for sharbat-e-sekanjebin:
grated cucumbers and a chiffonade of mint
add to the syrup the following:
  • peeled & grated persian cucumbers (1/4 to 1/2 per glass)
  • a few thin slices of cucumber for garnish
  • 1/2 -1 tsp per glass freshly squeezed lime juice, plus a few thin slices for garnish
  • fresh mint leaves
  • crushed ice
combine 1 part syrup to 3-4 parts water or fizzy water {you can either mix ahead in a pitcher or use individual glasses and leave the syrup at the bottom of the glass to be mixed before drinking). i like my sherbet with plenty of grated cucumbers, so i add about 1/2 of a grated persian cucumber per glass. a small squeeze of lime juice adds that extra citrus freshness. this drink is always a refreshing reminder of how much i love summer-enjoy.
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yogurt and cucumber {much more than a} dip : mast-o-khiar

i was making mast-o-khiar (which literally translates to yogurt and cucumbers) last night when my daughter asked me what we were having for dinner. she reminded me that our french visiting student (who we are hosting for two weeks in our home) is arriving soon, and has clearly communicated her enthusiasm for eating real american food during her stay. i can tell this concerns my daughter as she watches me carefully peel and cube my persian cucumbers. i ask her what real american food means. she hesitates, looks at me for a few seconds and says: “you know, like burgers and fries, or maybe meatloaf”? meatloaf???? come to think of it, real american food is a combination of foods that have traveled here with people and cultures from all over the world. although the recipes have often been adapted and revised to accommodate their new environments, they have survived to make a new home for themselves and become a part of the american culinary experience. for most of us, true american food is what we eat every day-from the thai curries to the sushi, burgers and fries, and the very mast-o-khiar i am preparing-which is not just a dip, but a popular staple that is often served as a “condiment” alongside many dishes in iran. mast-o-khiar is very adaptable and easy to make as long as you have yogurt and cucumbers. the other ingredients are interchangeable based on your mood, the season, and what ingredients you have on hand. my husband  enjoys his with dry green raisins, but i prefer the small green grapes that are in season now. it is often topped with (soaked) walnuts, but luckily i had fresh pistachios (one of the best things you have ever tasted if you can find some-they are available in the fall in california), which  added an exceptionally fresh and delicious twist. one last note-in the summertime in iran, mast-o-khiar is often watered down (with ice cubes) to make a delicious cold soup that is called abdoogh-khiar (yogurt-drink cucumber), and served just before lunch to cool you off before you eat.

for 4 servings:

  • 2 cups greek yogurt (2%)
  • 1 cup (or about 5) persian cucumbers, cubed (peeled or not)
  • 1 small bunch fresh dill, finely minced
  • 1 small bunch tarragon leaves, finely minced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced, or 5-6 scallions, finely sliced (my choice this time)
  • 1-2 tbs good quality dried mint (fresh is good too)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, finely cubed-not traditional-totally optional (my mom often adds tomatoes-but we are BIG tomato fans)

toppings:

  • dried rose petals (gol-e-mohammadi)
  • green raisins or small green grapes
  • fresh dill and/or tarragon
  • soaked walnuts 
  • pistachios
  • dried mint

preparation: this could not be any easier-add all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. taste for salt & pepper and adjust. top with your choice of toppings just before serving.

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