Every year, Persian Garden Café chef/owner Mahmoud Jaafari makes a trip back to his native Iran to pick up a supply of advieh (a combination of 19 Persian spices) and saffron, which sells there for about a third of its $3,500-per-pound American price tag. Both are active ingredients in his popular purple shoots dish ($12/lunch; $20/dinner), a colorful combination of braised asparagus and grilled eggplant.
To enhance the “purple glow” of the asparagus, Jaafari steams the stalks and then braises them with lemon juice and soy sauce. He slices and salts the eggplant to draw out the natural bitterness and then throws them on the grill with a little olive oil. Next, he sautés onions, garlic, tomatoes and feta cheese and adds fresh herbs and Persian spices. Finally, he tops the dish with “cugurt” sauce – house-made yogurt and cucumbers with dried mint and shallots. The vegetables are served with chelo (white basmati rice) and pollo, a fragrant brown rice pilaf with lentils, raisins, almonds and dill weed.
Jaafari strives to provide his customers, many who are vegetarian, with healthy and nourishing options. “We hope that our food will be considered delicious, nutritious and worth the value that they pay for it,” he says. “It is always my hope that our food not only fills the stomach, but also fills the needs of the body. You are what you eat.”
Persian Garden Café
1335 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix
A pulled jackfruit po’ boy that fools. ...
Betty’s Nosh Mushroom Bar
“Something that people hadn’t heard of before.” ...
Korean Fried Cauliflower
At the Herb Box, vegetables play an important role on the menu, according to chef/owner Becky Windels. ...
The Original Chop Shop Co.
“We believe healthy people are happy people.” ...
Golden Vegetable Curry
FEZ restaurant’s curry is worth its weight in gold. ...