Well over 50 years ago, Azar O., our Iranian neighbour, taught me how to make this. Back then, on a hot summer’s day, a friend and I would spend our children’s nap time in Azar’s kitchen, trimming and cutting up vegetables and herbs, then sautéing each vegetable separately. This is time consuming but recommended; it lets each vegetable keep its own, distinct character. Then we would chop more herbs, typically 3 parts parsley, 1 part dill and 1/4 part mint, add them to a tub of full-fat plain yogurt, along with a de-seeded, finely diced cucumber and a handful of tangy sweet currants. When all was ready, we’d pack up the food and fresh pita in a basket, gather up our kids, and head for a picnic under the nearest shady tree. This is still one of my favourite summer foods. I always make lots; it keeps beautifully in the fridge for 1 week.
I usually pick a meaty eggplant, call it 1 part and use it as measuring unit for the remaining vegetables.
- Azar’s summer vegetables
- Olive oil as needed
- 2 parts green beans, trimmed, cut slantwise into 3 cm pieces
- 1 part yellow summer squash, cut into 3x1x1 cm pieces
- 1 part eggplants, cut into 2x2x1 cm pieces
- 1 part quartered tomatoes
- 1 part mushroom caps, cut in half, or quartered if large
- 1 part yellow onions, chopped coarsely
- Lots of fresh parsley, chopped, to taste
- Half as much fresh dill, chopped, to taste
- 1/5 fresh mint leaves, slivered, to taste
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Lemon juice to taste (optional)
In the order given in the ingredients list, over medium heat, sauté the vegetables, one after the other, in enough olive oil to generously cover the bottom of a wide, heavy saucepan until they are just done. As each vegetable is done, move it to a bowl large enough to hold all vegetables. Add more olive oil to the pan as necessary. When all the vegetables are done, rinse the pan with a little tomato juice or water to loosen baked-on vegetable juices, and pour it over the vegetables. Add a generous amount of chopped herbs, season with salt and pepper, drizzle very lightly with lemon juice if using, and stir to mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl, let the vegetables rest two or three hours at room temperature before serving.