Cooking With Local Chefs

Cooking with Chef Jim Copening | Cooking with the flavors of Persia

Chef Jim Copening's Persian Ice Cream. 
 PROVIDED PHOTO
Chef Jim Copening's Persian Ice Cream. PROVIDED PHOTO

As you can tell from my menu at Arts & Eats, I'm passionate about foods from all over the globe. Middle Eastern cuisine is rich in heritage and so full of healthy, nutritious and flavorful ingredients, that it's had a huge influence on my culinary style.

One day, while watching a cooking show, I saw an ice cream made with Persian flavors. It was so fascinating to see someone use ingredients such as saffron, rosewater and pistachios to make ice cream, that I created my own version of the dessert (see the recipe on Page 2D).

So, what exactly is Persian food? Modern Iran was called Persia until the 1930s and the heritage of the country's cooking over 2,500 years has influenced cuisines worldwide, especially in India and Morocco. Persian foods are infused with the perfume of rosewater, cinnamon, pomegranate, saffron, mint, elaborate stuffed and dried fruits and vegetables, nuts, and tender roasted meats. Some consider it to be the mother of all cuisines.

Iranian cooking has a rich history. The Persian Empire in the sixth century, under Cyrus the Great conquered India, Egypt and parts of Greece. This is when common Persian ingredients like rosewater and saffron were spread throughout the empire. The Persians also traded

with Far East kingdoms along the Silk Road from China to modern Syria. The caravans along the route brought citrus, eggplant and rice from Asia to the Persian cooking landscape. Later, when the Persians were converted to Islam, other rulers remained fond of the cuisine and brought it to Europe during the Crusades, as well as to North Africa.

There's nothing like a refreshing ice cream treat in the heat of summer. Since it's getting hotter here in Florida, you might want to try your hand at making my version of Persian Ice Cream with Cardamom cookies. You'll be eating flavors enjoyed in Persia for thousands of years.

Persian Ice Cream

2 cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean

1/2 teaspoon saffron, ground

1 pinch salt

Step 1. Simmer all ingredients in a saucepan above over low heat for about 5 minutes.

5 egg yolks

1 cup pistachios

1 tablespoon rose water

Step 2: Place egg yolks in a bowl and pour in the hot liquid from step 1 very slowly to combine. This prevents cooking the egg yolks. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and simmer until it thickens.

Step 3: Cool mixture over an ice bath and add the rose water and pistachios.

Step 4: Place mixture into an ice cream maker for about 1 hour, until the consistency of ice cream.

Cardamom Sugar Cookies

1- 1/2 cups flour

5 tablespoons sugar

3 ounces butter, softened

2 egg yolks

1 pinch salt

1 tablespoon ground cardamom (grind the cardamom seeds using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle)

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and cardamom and mix by hand. Add the softened butter and egg yolks until it comes together as a cookie dough. Roll into a ball and let it rest in a cool place for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter 2 baking sheets. Roll out the dough over a surface sprinkled with flour to a thickness of1/4-inch. Cut out the cookies using a cookie cutter and bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Serve with the Persian Ice Cream.

Chef Jim Copening, of Arts & Eats, can be reached at artsandeats@gmail.com. The restaurant is at 1114 12th St. W., Bradenton, in the Village of the Arts. Information: 941-201-6647 or artsandeatsfl@gmail.com.

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