Parivash Rohani urges novice cooks to “be adventurous.”
AUBURN – Parivash Rohani started cooking when she left Iran and moved to India. She was 19 years old when the Islamic Revolution forced her to flee her homeland. She is a Baha’i, a faith that was regarded as heresy by Iranian Muslims.
In India, she found herself surrounded by foods and recipes very different from her Persian roots. “When I got to India, I didn’t know much about cooking … but we had to survive,” said Rohani. During the nine years she lived in India, her cooking was inspired and influenced by Indian culture. She also met her husband, Nasser, in India. “The first time I cooked after we got married, I made a dish with eggplant. I put a lot of time and energy into cooking it and he ate it. I found out later that he didn’t like eggplant,” Rohani said.
In 1985, Rohani emigrated to the United States with her husband and daughter. They continue to raise their family (now four children) in accordance with the Baha’i faith and belief in “oneness of God, oneness of religion and oneness of mankind.” Each Thursday night, they host an intercommunity devotional gathering in their home.
They just finished celebrating Naw-ruz, the Baha’i New Year, March 21. The holiday marks the end of a fast that began March 2. They observed the fast each day from sunrise to sunset. On March 21, they broke the fast with a celebration of food and the offering of prayers.
“We don’t have a special food for this celebration,” said Rohani. “Baha’is are from so many diverse backgrounds and each bring their tradition to the faith. We cherish and enjoy them all.”
Rohani gets most of her recipe ideas from her mother, the Internet and experimentation. For newer cooks, she offers this advice: “Don’t be overwhelmed and nervous with recipes … have flexibility and be adventurous.”
Rohani is a nurse at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and enjoys reading Persian poetry in her free time. She and her family are active in many community-service projects sponsored by the Baha’i community.
Linzer Cake (a German recipe)
1 cup flour
2 cups butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup ground walnuts
3-4 tablespoons (more if you want) peach lekvar (or jam); apricot jam also works
Mix flour and butter like pie dough, cutting the butter into the flour. Then add eggs, sugar and walnuts. Mix together lightly. Divide dough in half. Spread 1/2 into pan with fingers; spread with lekvar. Roll the other half. Cut into 12 strips and make a lattice top by crisscrossing strips. Brush egg yolk on top. Bake at 350 degrees.
Spinach Yogurt Salad (Palak Ka Raita, an Indian recipe)
from “The Spice Box,” by Manju Shivraj Singh
2 cups plain yogurt
1 cup boiled, chopped spinach
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Beat the yogurt with a fork in a bowl until smooth. Add the spinach, and stir.
In a little pan, heat oil, add the mustard seeds and fry until they pop. Pour over the salad. Stir and place in the refrigerator until cold. Serves: 6
Lentil Rice (Adas Polo, a Persian recipe)
1 ½ cup lentils
8-10 cups water (to cook lentils)
¼ teaspoon saffron
3 cups basmati rice
8-10 cups water (to cook rice)
7 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons salt (sea salt if on a corn-free diet)
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup raisins
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Wash lentils thoroughly. Add water to a medium-sized pot and boil lentils uncovered on medium-high for 10-15 minutes or until done (don’t overcook). Drain lentils in a colander, saving the liquid. Dissolve the saffron in 1/4 cup of hot water and add to the lentils. Set aside.
Wash the rice thoroughly. To a separate pot add water, 2 tablespoons of oil and salt and bring to a boil. On high heat, boil the rice for about 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly soft. Drain rice in a large colander and rinse with warm water.
Select a large heavy-bottomed pot. Coat the bottom of the pot with 2 tablespoons of oil and add 1/3 of the rice. Add 1/3 of the lentils and mix well. Repeat until all the rice and lentils are mixed in the pot. Shape the rice/lentil mixture into a pyramid and cover with a lid and steam over a medium to medium-low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Slice the onions thinly and lightly brown (caramelize) over low heat with 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve the lentil rice on a serving platter and top off with caramelized onion mixture.
Allergy note: People following a corn-free diet should avoid iodized salt since it contains dextrose, which should be avoided by those allergic to corn.