Last week was the latest in my series of New Persian Kitchen dinners. It was at Porsena, Chef Sara Jenkins’ classy Italian joint in the East Village. To my surprise, of the more than ten recipes from the book that her incredible kitchen crew cooked up, everyone listed the Cold Pistachio Soup with Mint and Leeks as one of their favorites.
I want to say here that Chef Sara and her Executive Chef, Sal Celona, amazed me with the way they turned out my recipes. Neither of them had worked with Persian ingredients like dried limes, angelica powder, and barberries before, but you never would have known it from tasting the food!
One Iranian friend who was at the dinner said that the Rice with Rose Petals and Barberries was “second only to my mom’s—and I have to say that because she’s my mom!”
There is no finer praise than that.
Since the shot glasses of cold pistachio soup were one of the highlights of the evening, I want to share the recipe with you. It’s a traditional Persian soup, and I’ve put my own spin on it to give it a bright green hue. The recipe calls for using leeks — both white AND green parts — and that’s key to giving it a vibrant color. Enjoy!
Cold Pistachio Soup with Mint and Leeks Soup-e Pesteh
Serves 4 to 63 tablespoons grapeseed oil1 pound leeks, green and white parts, coarsely chopped1 cup pistachios1 clove garlic, minced1/2 teaspoon ground cuminSea salt7 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or waterAbout 2 cups loosely packed fresh spearmintJuice of 2 lemonsFreshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stir- ring occasionally, about 10 minutes, until soft. Cook the leeks in batches, if they don’t all fit at once.
Stir in the pistachios, garlic, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the spearmint. Transfer to a blender, blend until smooth, and add salt to taste. Serve warm, or pour into a shallow baking dish and refrigerate for 2 hours, until thoroughly chilled. Season with lemon juice and pepper, and serve.
Photos: James Rotondi