Sunday, March 04, 2007

Road Food

Ever since I made that Indian feast about a month ago (featuring homemade paneer), my trio of new taste-testers has been persistent in asking, "So when are you having another dinner party at your place? I'd be happy to help cook!"

Since I am, like most people, highly susceptible to flattery where one of my main vanities is concerned, I decided to plan another meal. And since they seemed to appreciate slightly exotic foods, I decided to make the theme for the meal a Silk Road feast.

The Silk Road, or, rather, Roads, connected various trade routes across southern and central Asia and linked Europe to the luxury goods of spices and silks in the East. Travelers crossed by sea and by land from ports like Rome through countries now known as Turkey, the Republic of Georgia, Iran, Afghanistan, India, and China (just to name a few).

Of course, in our multiethnic and food-obsessed country today, most people have more than a passing familiarity with Chinese food, and more and more people are enjoying Indian food, but these other cuisines seem to be little known outside their immigrant populations. And that's a shame, because the cuisines of these ancient lands are full of wonderful fruits and vegetables and bread and herbs and spices and nuts and combinations of them all.

You may have followed some of my previous forays into Georgian cooking, read about my adventures at a somewhat local Turkish restaurant, wondered about my interest in Persian cooking, or even sampled my own mix of some of these cuisines. But I don't think I've ever managed to pull them all together in quite so sumptuous an array as I did for tonight's dinner party:

lavash crackers and Persian spinach borani

Afghan squash casserole

Georgian bean salad

Persian polow (rice) with pistachios, dill, and rose petals

Turkish walnut cookies in syrup

My trio of willing tasters -- the new incarnation of the Dinner Club, it would seem -- thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes along with an Afghan chai (spice tea made with green tea and no milk) and a sweet red wine (from Amish country, of all places). One guest brought along her new copy of Kipling's Just-So Stories and read us a selection to add that final touch of faraway places.

I still have plenty of leftovers in the refrigerator because, as always, I tend to cook for a large crowd even when only a few are planning to show, but I don't mind. At least this week I'll get to travel far every day while eating at home.

And maybe I'll see you on the Road sometime soon.


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