Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pomegranate Soup: The Roundup

It's time for the roundup of Cook the Books' Club February-March 2020 edition for which we read the novel Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran (2005).

The three Aminpour sisters, protagonists of the story, move to Ballinacroagh, County Mayo, Ireland and open the Babylon Café in the location that used to house an Italian bakery. In honor of the sisters' Persian food eatery, I will present our club's contributions as a menu, with the dishes in each section ordered alphabetically. For each, I will give you the official information (author, blog name and post title) and a quote from it — a taste: follow the link and read the author's take of the book and how the reading inspired the cooking.

Cook the Books Club's Pomegranate Soup-Inspired Menu

First Course:
Red Lentil Soup à la Tina
Red Lentil Soup à la Cathy

Second Course:
Fesenjoon (Chicken Stew with Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce)
Kabob Koobideh (Ground Meat Kebabs)
Kuku Sabzi à la Claudia (vegetarian)
Kuku Sabzi à la Simona (vegetarian)
One Skillet Cabbage
Torshi Tareh (Persian Sour Herb Stew With Marbled Eggs)

Lavash Bread

Elephant Ears
Persian Drizzle Cake

Make yourself comfortable, then enjoy the meal.

"You could substitute any middle eastern family trying to run a cafe in any small town, in Ireland or the U.S. for this plot... The plot plays out predictably with the women and their Irish neighbors, the cultural differences accepted. Well, by most people. Definitely a foodie book with over a dozen recipes included throughout. There were so many interesting dishes served up in this book but the recipe for lentil soup grabbed me right away. I had been wanting to make red lentil soup for a long time."

Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats prepared Red Lentil Soup

"Did you know that lentils are super healthy? I didn't but learned this in researching them for this post. In fact, this humble legume has shot up to the number 1 slot for healthy foods... Author Mehran writes about lentil soup: 'Red lentil soup, although quite seductive in scent, is as simple to make as its name suggests. In the recipe book filed away in her head, Marjan aways made sure to place particular emphasis on this soup's spices. Cumin added the aroma of afternoon lovemaking to the mixture for instance'. Now that's quite a statement... I cut this recipe in half from what was published in the book... This was totally enough to feed more than a few people."

Elizabeth of CulinUrsa cooked Fesenjoon (Social distance-adapted)

"As I was reading this novel, there was a scene in a crowded pub, and the thought went through my head, 'Why are all these people out in a group together?' Already the fears of viral spread had become ingrained in my thinking, and I have wondered when and how will I feel comfortable being with people again, touching the door handle of a store again?... There was not a single [recipe] for which I had all the ingredients at home, and, trying to minimize shopping trips, I didn’t want to venture out for anything. But I felt I could improvise enough for the fesenjoon. I have read many times about this iconic chicken stew with walnuts and pomegranates, and always wanted to make it. Despite all the changes and substitutions I made, it was fantastic!... It is often spelled fesenjan."

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla
prepared Kabob Koobideh (Ground Meat Kebabs)

"Though Mehran doesn't shy away from the traumas that can occur during political upheaval, she achieves a delicate balance of reality and sensitivity. It's quite a remarkable book that has me longing to read more about the Iranian revolution... I'm sharing my version of Iranian Kubideh or Koobideh, ground meat kebabs... Though this wasn't specifically mentioned in the book, it is something that I envision Layla packing on a picnic to go meet Malachy. And because I remember eating fresh herb salads at my Iranian friend's table, I decided to serve my kebabs with a thick herb paste, similar to Argentinian chimichurri."

Claudia of Honey from Rock prepared Kuku Sabzi (Persian herb frittata)

"In contrast to local descriptions, the background on the Iranian women, who are all of course beautiful, was interesting, their preparations to open The Babylon Cafe absorbing, together with accounts of their food and cooking, lovingly rendered, tantalizing, and well-written... Kuku Sabzi made a lovely, light evening meal with some steamed sweet potato (fresh bread or toast would also be good) and a glass of white wine. I discovered that at room temperature, the next day for lunch, the herbal flavors all came through beautifully."

Simona of briciole (your host) prepared Kuku Sabzi (Persian herb frittata)

"I was particularly intrigued by the description of 'a good apple khoresh, a stew made from tart apples, chicken and split peas' (page 60 of the hardback edition), but while I was searching for a recipe for that, I read about Kuku Sabzi, a kind of herb frittata traditionally prepared for Nowruz, the Iranian New Year that is celebrated on the spring equinox... The idea is that you can use greens and herbs you like and have available. A different combination means a different flavor, so this is a recipe that can be repeated without becoming boring."

"You get to know each of the residents as well as the back story of the Aminpour Sisters.  You will love some and you will hate some but you will, definitely become involved with all of them and their lives. I enjoyed this novel very much and the food descriptions of the meals prepared in this restaurant were heavenly... I absolutely adore Persian food but as I read a common thread that ran through this small town was that all the residents were sick and tired of eating cabbage for dinner.  As luck would have it, I had planned on having this Skillet Cabbage Dinner during the week I was reading this novel and it fit in so perfectly that I had to share it."

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen
prepared Torshi Tareh (Persian Sour Herb Stew with Marbled Eggs)

"There are delicious recipes woven into the chapters of book (why I am so disappointed that I couldn't find my copy) so the overall feeling is like a mix of Like Water For Chocolate and Chocolat, only with the clash of Irish and Iranian culture. I recommend it to foodies who don't mind a touch of magic in their books... I love everything about this stew--the exotic herby flavor, the acidity, and the touch of lime 'sourness' and the jammy eggs and creamy spinach. At first, I thought the smoked fish accompaniment was a little odd but it rounded out the flavors nicely."

"I prefer that authors stay realistic... or go full on Harry Potter magic... Despite my criticism, the book was good enough and I loved that the author included recipes at the end of each chapter. I decided to make a Lavash, using the recipe directly from the book.  The Lavash was delicious... The kids went crazy over the Lavash, begging me to make more. I used my favorite spice mix in this recipe (Everything Bagel), because I knew my family would love it. This bread is best enjoyed hot and fresh from the oven."

"The amount of food in this book is staggering... There’s so many herbs and spices, Persian food, Italian food and Irish food, I just couldn’t keep up... I decided on a sweeter recipe: Elephant Ears... They were interesting. I did not roll mine thin enough so they were more doughy (read donut) than a thinly fried treat... I would recommend this book to friends (and will).  It would make a great beach read (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  Mehran’s writing style is descriptive and sometimes romantic. (I mean that in a good way.)"

"I loved all the food content, the descriptions of the way that Marjan in particular nurtured those around her through her food. I liked that there were a number of recipes included in the book, and enjoyed the almost magical realism feel to it, focusing on the power of food to change the way that you are feeling. I guess I would call it magical realism lite for want of a better term... Overall, it's a readable book, without being amazing... I chose to top my cake with Turkish Delight Easter eggs rather than rose petals."

A great Thank you! to everyone who joined in this edition of Cook the Books.

I believe all the submissions I have received are presented in the roundup. However, mishaps are part of life, so if you find anything missing or in need of amendment anywhere in the roundup, please do let me know.

And now, I’ll turn things over to Deb of Kahakai Kitchen who is hosting the April-May edition in which we are reading Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman.

Arrivederci a presto!

Simona, of briciole


Camilla M. Mann said...

That's quite a line-up. Thanks for hosting. I can't wait to visit all of the posts.

Debra Eliotseats said...

Again, thanks for hosting this round. I like the way you organized the round-up.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

Thanks again Simona!!

Claudia said...

A lovely digital potluck meal, Iranian style. Thanks Simona.

Simona Carini said...

Thank you Camilla, Debra, Wendy and Claudia for your comments: I am glad you like the roundup :)

Marg said...

Fun round up post!! This was fun to be part of this month.

Liz said...

I loved this book and intended to write a post, so I made Pomegranate Soup. It was not a success in our household. Some of the other recipes that are posted in other blogs look much more appetizing. The descriptions of the difficulties in assimilating to a new home were heartbreaking and then heartwarming. Thank you so much for recommending the book, sorry the virus got in the way of more cooking. As another writer said, ingredients have been hard to come by.

I hope to join next week, although if you mean hippie cooking...tofu has been sold out of the grocery stores for weeks. Vegetarians hoard as well.

Simona Carini said...

Thank you, Marg :)

I am sorry to read the soup was not a success, Liz. Certainly the situation we're all in makes cooking challenging at time. Glad you enjoyed reading the novel. As for Hippie Food, I have not started it, but I am sure there will be more than tofu in it. I had no idea it was sold out. Personally, I am more concerned about lack of fresh produce than staples. I bought a whole lot of vegetables at the farmers' market this morning, so I am good for a few days :)

Delaware Girl Eats said...

As always, thanks for organizing Simona. The postings as usual were so individualistic and the recipes so appealing. Till next time!

Sherry's Pickings said...

i just noticed today that blogger has changed! EEeek!! it always takes me ages to get used to a new version of such things. i just hope i know how to work it out. i bet they still haven't fixed the fundamental problems of blogger! good luck!