Dipping into Persian food
Maast-o-khair (cucumber dip similar to tzatziki) and kashk e bademjan (Persian baba ganouj) welcomed guests, who were encouraged to use sangak (flatbread) as a fork throughout the whole dinner.
Spiced lima beans with cilantro
This dish is traditionally made with fava beans, but lima beans work just as well, Betzhold says. “They’re stewed down and slow-cooked,” he says. “Getting into this cuisine, I found that Iranians cook a great deal of cilantro. You only see it raw in Mexican or South American cooking…but here it’s cooked down, and once you taste it, you’re like, ‘OK, this works.’”
Lamb and chickpea stew
Fall-off-the-bone lamb is the star of this stew, which traditionally would be totally mashed up so it would be easier to eat with flatbread, but for this dinner it was kept more traditional to Americans’ typical way of eating.
A beloved Persian dish that when made correctly is layered and crisp—never sticky or dry—this barberry rice traditionally calls for barberries, which are not easily sourced in Richmond. So, dried currants can make a great substitute.
Many cultures love kebobs, and with good reason. This Persian-style chicken kebob is flavored up with lime, coriander and saffron.
Chive blossoms and super crispy skin make this fish dish pop.
Saffron and rose petal rice pudding
Rose petal as a flavor, not something you see in Everytown, USA, “is so distinct and really changes things,” Betzhold says.
Halva is the blanket term for dense, sweet Middle Eastern confections often made with tahini, an emerging “it” ingredient with a flavor reminiscent of a far more interesting peanut butter.
“I think that the more we dive into different cultures and different foods, we find that a lot of these items haven’t been commercialized yet, so they’re inherently healthier—they’re just not processed,” Betzhold says, making this way of eating a great fit for students who don’t want to feel weighed down by their lunch and ready for a nap when they could be studying.
More to come
After the success of this dinner, Betzhold and the dining team will take the opportunity this summer to do more testing and tinkering with summer school students, possibly creating a new Persian concept for fall with some of the recipes from the dinner.