Persian cookbook author shares her home cooking

DEER ISLE — Red lentil curry soup, garlicky eggplant and tomato spread, turmeric chicken with sumac and lime and rice with black eye peas and dill were among the Persian dishes flowing onto the dinner table early last month at a cooking class taught by Iranian chef Louisa Shafia at the newly renovated Eggemoggin Schoohouse in Little Deer Isle.

Author of “The New Persian Kitchen,” Shafia ran a long-running Iranian street food pop-up, Lakh Lakh, in New York City. Her street stand was described as “a Persian-tapas gateway into the ancient cuisine” by New York Magazine. Shafia, who now lives in Tennessee, was invited to introduce her country’s cuisine by Deer Isle’s Edible Island Culinary and Ecological Center. From her sold-out class, Shafia shared recipes from her recently published cookbook.


Naturally Sweet Dried Lime Tea (limoo omani)

Makes 8 cups


4 dried limes

1 cup hot water

7 cups cold water

Ice cubes (optional)


Soak the limes in the hot water for 15 minutes. Drain off the water into a pot. Add the cold water and bring to a boil.

Pierce the limes several times with a fork, or make incisions in them with a paring knife. Add the limes to the boiling water and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. The water will turn a very subtle green. Press the limes against the side of the pot to extract as much liquid and flavor as possible, then remove. Drink the tea warm or serve over ice.


Garlicky Eggplant and Tomato Spread (mirza ghasemi)

Serves 4 to 6


1 large eggplant (1 lb.), sliced in half lengthwise

5 Tbsps. olive oil

1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes

6 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp. ground turmeric

2 eggs

3 Tbsps. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1-2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil


Turn the flame up to high on a gas burner. Place the eggplant directly on the flame, turning it every 4-5 minutes with tongs, until it is completely blackened and very tender, about 15 minutes total.

When done, the tines of a fork should easily penetrate the thickest part of the eggplant. If you don’t have a gas stovetop, lay the eggplant face down on a greased baking sheet, score the skin with a fork and bake for about 1 hour, until very tender. When cool, scoop out the flesh and coarsely chop.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add the tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, and turmeric. Cook for 10 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and the flavors of the garlic and turmeric have mellowed.

Take about a fourth of a cup of the vegetables and whisk them with the eggs in a bowl. Add the mixture to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until the eggs are fully cooked.

Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm topped with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.


Red Lentil Curry Soup (Dal Adas)

Serves 4


2 Tbsps. olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red lentils

1 large russet potato, peeled and diced

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. ground hot chiles or chile flakes

2 tsps. curry powder

¼ cup tomato paste

¼ cup tamarind puree

1 quart water



Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the lentils and potatoes are tender. Season to taste with salt.


Fresh Herb Platter

Serves 4 to 6


8 oz. feta cheese

1 Tbsp. coriander seeds

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds

1 Tbsp. caraway seeds

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt, such as Maldon salt, fleur de sel or kosher salt

2 bunches whole fresh herbs, in any combination: spearmint, basil, cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, dill, chives, marjoram

1 bunch scallions, quartered crosswise, roots removed

2 cups walnuts (see Note below)

6 radishes, trimmed and quartered

Lavash or other flatbread


Drain the feta and place it in a medium bowl. Grind the spices coarsely, if desired.

Heat a small skillet over high heat. Add the coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds, and shake the pan continuously until the spices start to release their aroma, about 2 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl and pour in the olive oil. Add a pinch of coarse salt. Swirl the spices in the oil and steep for a few minutes.

Pour the mixture over the feta. You can even work it in with your hands, gently crumbling the feta, if desired.

Wash and dry the herbs. Trim the stems, but leave them intact. Place the herbs on a large platter in a few fluffy piles. Add the walnuts with the radishes and lavash. Transfer the feta to the platter and garnish with coarse salt.

For a single serving, pick up a few stalks of herbs. Tear the flatbread into a manageable piece and stuff it with the herbs, walnuts, a small piece of cheese, and a radish or two. Fold and eat like a sandwich.

Note: To remove bitterness from the walnuts, place them in a bowl, add boiling water to cover and a pinch of salt, and soak from 1 hour up to overnight. Before serving, drain and rinse until the water runs clear.


Turmeric Chicken with Sumac and Lime

    Serves 4


1 tsp. ground turmeric

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on

2 Tbsps. olive oil

¾ cup water

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 juicy limes, halved

Sumac, for garnish


In a small bowl, mix the turmeric with 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with the spice mixture, turning to coat both sides.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Brown the chicken well on both sides, about 7 minutes per side. Pour in the water, then add the garlic, stirring it into the water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and cover.

Braise the chicken for 25 minutes, until the inside is opaque. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, turn up the heat to high, and reduce the cooking liquid for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until it’s slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour the sauce over the chicken.

Dust the chicken with sumac and pepper, garnish with lime halves, and serve.


Rice with Black Eye Peas and Dill (loobya polo)

Serves 4 to 6


3 cups water

Sea salt

2 cups white basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 1 hour

2 Tbsps. butter or ghee, at room temperature

3 Tbsps. olive oil

1 onion, diced

1 lb. black eye peas, cooked

2 cups tightly packed minced fresh dill

½ tsp. saffron, ground and steeped in 1 Tbsp. hot water


Drain the rice and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. In a stockpot, bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Add the rice, return to a boil, then turn down the heat to its lowest setting. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 5 minutes, then dot with the butter and fluff with a fork. The rice should be dry and fluffy.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions until they’re lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add the beans and cook for 3 minutes, until heated through. Add the dill and cook for about 1 minute, until just wilted.

Combine the beans and rice in a large bowl and drizzle in the saffron. Mix gently, season with salt, and serve.


Yogurt with beets (borani chogondar)

Serves 6


½ clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. dried mint

3 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red beet, roasted, peeled and grated (about 2 cups)

Sea salt

2 cups thick Greek-style yogurt

Freshly ground black pepper


In a bowl, combine the garlic, 1 tablespoon of the mint, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the beets, and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside to marinate for 5 minutes.

Fold in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let rest for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours, in the refrigerator. Transfer to a serving bowl. Spoon the remaining 
1 tablespoon oil over the yogurt and scatter the remaining 1 teaspoon mint over the top, and serve.


Saffron Frozen Yogurt (bastani)

Makes 4 cups frozen yogurt


This tart, citrusy frozen yogurt is luscious on its own, or in a Persian-style ice cream sandwich between a couple of cardamom pizzelles.


1½ cups organic cane sugar

¼ tsp. saffron

Grated zest of 2 large oranges

4 cups thick Greek-style yogurt

¼ tsp. sea salt

1 cup shelled pistachios, roasted and salted


To make the frozen yogurt, grind the sugar and saffron to a fine powder in an electric spice grinder, and transfer to a large bowl. Add the orange zest, yogurt, and salt, and stir well. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve topped with pistachios.

Letitia Baldwin

Letitia Baldwin

Arts Editor at The Ellsworth American
In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]
Letitia Baldwin

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