I create recipes for five Mediterranean restaurants that are Persian inspired so it only makes sense that our cuisine reflects that influence. The flavors of Iran are exciting and the colors vibrant. I crave the contrast of cooling flavors with rich & complex ones, and drool over a color palette of magenta, saffron, eggplant purple, emerald greens, rich earthy browns, and persimmon orange.
This dish is not a traditional Persian recipe, but the use of saffron, sumac, and pomegranate gives it Iranian flare. Sumac is a deep red berry from the Sumac bush, that is dried and ground up to use as a spice. It has a powerful lemony-sour flavor. Like saffron, a little goes a long way. I add it to fish and chicken mostly, but sometimes I use it as a finishing seasoning for steak and lamb for extra acidity.
Saffron, is derived from the stigma of the crocus flower and tastes like sweet hay with bitter earthy notes. The best way to get the most flavor out of saffron is to grind a big pinch up, dilute it with a little water, and then add it to your dish. Adding the individual strands will not perfume the recipe evenly and it will be difficult to gage how much to use because the flavor gets stronger as it cooks. It’s easy to add too much and ruin a recipe with excess bitterness.
Labneh or Lebni is my new favorite ingredient. Although it’s considered a cheese in many middle eastern cuisines, It’s most similar to Greek yogurt with a rich creamy sour-sweet flavor. Some say it is simply strained Greek yogurt, but most of my Persian and Turkish family and friends say it’s not Greek Yogurt at all and uses a different culture (keffir?) to thicken the milk. I’d love some clarification on this if anybody knows because the Wikipedia description is not quite accurate (what a surprise!).
Regardless, I love it paired with fruits & honey for dessert (or even apple pie) or mixed with savory ingredients as in ‘Mast o Khiar’, a Persian dip of cucumber & dry mint. Sometimes in the restaurants, I grab a bowl of it for breakfast with some house-made sour cherry jam. For this recipe I’ve mixed the labneh with fresh dill and added a little salt – it’s a very tasty easy yogurt-like sauce.
Romanesco is that crazy spiral green looking fractal flower/vegetable that’s milder (and nuttier) than a cauliflower but in the same family along with broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage. It can be sliced raw and added to salads or soups, steamed, sautéed or roasted. I steamed it here and lightly sautéed it in order to keeps it’s bright green color.
- 2 swordfish steaks
- For marinade:
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp of sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 garlic clove, mashed to a super fine pulp
- 1 Meyer lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoon canola oil
- 4 threads of saffron, ground and diluted with a little water
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice (freshly squeezed if possible0
- Pomegranate seeds to garnish
Mix together the smoked paprika, cumin, mashed garlic, sumac, lemon juice, saffron & vegetable oil. This should make a fairly thick marinade. Rub all over fish and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Place a grill cast iron pan over high heat or get the BBQ going on high. Season and clean the pan or the BBQ grates with an oiled rag (quickly, you don't want it to catch fire). When the grates are hot add the swordfish. Cook it for 3 minutes on each side – swordfish is most flavorful when cooked medium-rare.
If you are using a grill pan: decant the fish once cooked to a plate and keep warm. Deglaze the pan with the remaining pomegranate juice until it forms a thick pan reduction, then pour back over fish. If cooking fish over a BBQ, reduce the pomegranate juice by 1/2 over the stove top and pour it over the fish towards the end of cooking to form a quick glaze.
Garnish fish with pomegrante seeds and serve with couscous, sautéed romanesco, and Labneh-dill sauce.