A new book from Naomi Duguid is a reason to celebrate, as each promises a fascinating culinary excursion. Her previous books focused on Southeast Asia, and like them, this newest, “Taste of Persia,” opens with a map, which illustrates Ms. Duguid’s wise observation that regional cooking doesn’t respect borders. So the search for Persian cuisine includes stops in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan.
We are seduced from the start with the flavors of the region: saffron (most of the world’s supply comes from this part of the world), mint, dill, parsley, cilantro, dried rose petals, sumac, lime, pomegranate and honey. Cinnamon, cardamom and other sweet spices weave their way through savory and sweet dishes
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Ms. Duguid’s discoveries on these intrepid travels are shared in stories and pictures, along with an abundance of recipes. Many are ultrasimple, like a tomato and cucumber salad dressed with pomegranate molasses; some are more complex, like the cabbage dolmas and stuffed vegetables. Along the way, she teaches us the Persian way with rice and how to make spectacular flatbreads.
I made the herbed yogurt soup, which looked as if it might be bland. But the final addition of chopped herbs, a lot of them, transformed the soup into something divine. A generous spoonful of cinnamon was a surprising and delicious garnish.
The easy Baku fish kebabs, marinated with lemon juice, salt and dill, are grilled skin side down to ensure succulence. The accompanying pomegranate-coriander sauce, a kind of relish made with the crushed fruit, lemon juice, a little salt and chopped cilantro, is exquisite.