Fresh Herb Platter (Sabzi Khordan)
Source: Louisa Shafia, The New Persian Kitchen
A plate of fresh herbs is served at most Persian meals, often taking the place of a salad. Serve this dish as an appetizer, or do as the Persians do and leave it on the table throughout the meal. Toasted spices and olive oil poured over the cheese add a warming boost of flavor.
Serves 4 to 6
8 ounces feta cheese
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse 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. Place the walnuts on the platter, along with the radishes and lavash. Transfer the feta to the platter and garnish it 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.
Reprinted with permission from The New Persian Kitchen by the Louisa Shafia, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Sara Remington © 2013.