An elegant introduction to Persian cuisine
by Barbara Kelly
Published - 04/30/08 - 09:09 PM | 2482 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When I entered the multipurpose room at the North University Community Library April 19 for an author talk on Persian cuisine, I was struck by the woman wearing a soft gray dress, so soft I wanted to touch it. She was setting up a silver teapot with red and gold glass teacups and saucers. During her talk, we would be served cardamom tea in those glass treasures that been given to her by her mother. Candles burned near the tea service and at the front table where the author would sign copies of her cookbook, "Persian Cuisine: Recipes That My Mother Taught Me." This was no ordinary author book-signing event.

The room slowly filled with guests eager to hear Maryam Khatamee Cornejo describe the journey that produced her gorgeous cookbook of Persian recipes. Cornejo began cooking with her mother at the age of 5, copying the ingredients into a small notebook. The directions would read, "Add one ladle of rice," and young Maryam would adjust seasonings as needed. This technique would later require three years of refinement to produce recipes with exact measurements.

An audience member asked what spices and flavorings are used in Persian cooking. The response was rose water, cardamom, cumin and cilantro. Another asked about ingredients called for in the cookbook that might be hard to find in San Diego, such as unripe grapes (ghureh) or saffron threads. Cornejo suggested checking at a Persian, Middle Eastern or specialty food store such, as Balboa International Market on Balboa Avenue in San Diego.

Next, a beautiful package of cookies was handed to each guest (that's what we felt like). There were three cardamom wafers and a walnut and almond turnover. Then a line formed for those wishing to purchase a cookbook. Cornejo signed and wrote a personal message in each book.

I couldn't wait to delve into the book to pick out which recipes I wanted to try first. There was no hesitation. The moment I spotted Chicken and Rhubarb in Saffron-Based Sauce Stew (Khoresh E Rivas Ba Sos E Saffron) and Braised Lamb and Rhubarb in Aromatic Fresh Herb Stew (Khoresh E Rivas Ba Sabzi), I knew those would be my first forays into the world of Persian cooking.

If you would like to order a copy of Cornejo's book, published by Copihue Publications, send an e-mail to

"” Barbara Kelly is the newsletter editor and publicity chair for the Friends of the North University Community Library group, which meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at the library. The next meeting is May 28, 6:30 to 8 p.m. 
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