Harriet Van Horne once wrote: "cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all." It's very easy to see the wisdom of this point when you understand the creative fire, enthusiasm, and passion of Yasamin Beitollahi, one of the hottest chefs to emerge in years.
This extraordinary woman is a world thinker, a world traveler, and a world connector. And it's clear that her experiences are very much apart of who she is, and what she creates. Her popular website, Pinch My Saffron, specializes in the very best of Persian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Yasamin's craft is nothing short of impressive. This woman knows her flavors, and, as they say, always brings the sizzle. You'll love her perspective and be more than taken with the culinary delights of this extraordinary food enthusiast.
It's been said, quite correctly, that dance is one of the true "universal languages". I think cooking would also qualify. Do you agree?
It is amazing to see that dance really is a universal language that unites the world, no matter what our differences are. Sharing a passion for cooking, much like sharing the art of dance doesn't require a common language. That's the beauty of how it's become a cultural ambassador. Cooking by its very nature needs no translation. It communicates directly with the senses; a universal language of bringing people together. Instead of using words, we pair our local vocabulary of ingredients with our familiarity with another culture to speak that other culture's language, which is then represented on the plate.
I enjoy listening to music when I'm cooking. And, dancing naturally follows. My kitchen is a great escape and music helps achieve that special nirvana. The music is the vehicle to get in touch with my ingredients, techniques and utensils. Rock on!
You have a great, culturally rich background. How has it informed your approach to cooking?
I grew up in a household where bookshelves, hobbies, conversations, and obsessions invariably centered on food. Coming from a Persian background food was the center of our existence, and a big part of my life even at a very young age. So, I was exposed to different flavors and dishes that I wanted to create myself. I call upon my rich cultural history and love of bold flavors to create authentic dishes that pay homage to my Persian roots, while keeping it as simple as possible. My passion for good food has allowed me to develop innovative combinations without diminishing centuries' old Persian authenticity. I have always had a love for all things Persian and Mediterranean cuisine, and they say you crave the food of your ancestors, I find myself wanting to put saffron or feta cheese on just about everything.
Your first cookbook, Nobody Puts Saffron in the Corner, is coming out in February 2010. What delicious tidbits can readers expect?
My cookbook offers recipes and tips to everyday cooks, many of whom are rushing home to prepare no-frill meals for their families. Part of the book is definitely seasonal, but people expect to see certain classics as well, such as Ghormeh Sabzi, a stew made with leek, parsley, and fenugreek, served over a bed of Saffron Rice. A myriad of kabob recipes and so on. We blend the cookbook in a way that you have an opportunity to have a Persian classic with something that is more modern in its approach or Mediterranean inspired.
As with many food enthusiasts, collecting cookbooks is a passion of mine. I have been collecting cookbooks for many years now, most I have purchased but some have been given to me by dear friends and some have been handed down to me by family members. One downside to collecting and owning so many cookbooks is where to put my ever-growing collection. My love of a tidy kitchen, is the driving force behind the decision to launch Nobody Puts Saffron in the Corner as an e-book. Instead of having books scattered around the counter while you're cooking or baking, with e-books you can print out just the recipe you will be working with. What a concept!
Perhaps the most exciting thing about my first book is that Pinch My Saffron will donate 20% of proceeds from sales of our cookbook, Nobody Puts Saffron in the Corner, to Livestrong, Susan G. Komen For The Cure, Alex's Lemonade, and Charity Water. I have supported these charities for a while now, but the book will enable me to support them at a scale that I otherwise would not be able to.
Thank you to our friends on Twitter, Facebook, and to fellow foodies that follow my blog. It's much appreciated. Look out for the tweet, "I've submitted the manuscript!"
Much success on your book. That's quite an accomplishment. What's next for you, and what are your long-term plans for your site Pinch My Saffron?
Thank you for your wishes. It's an exciting time for Pinch My Saffron. Ultimately, creating an insightful blog that captures the flavorful and vibrant spirit of Persian and Mediterranean cuisine is what we sought out to do. We want to guide Persian food lovers on a non-intimidating and flavorful foray into home-style Persian cooking.
An online cooking show with guest co-hosts is our next exciting adventure. Each week, viewers will be invited into our kitchen to celebrate delicious, everyday Persian & Mediterranean meals that can be made with minimal fuss; a place where viewers can join us for a love affair with all things Persian & Mediterranean cuisine. The show will be made as a labor of love with this motto: Don't hesitate to pursue a fling with Persian cuisine --it may turn into true love!
To read more about Yasamin Beitollahi's awesome culinary dishes, log on to her site PinchMySaffron. You can also connect with her through her Twitter feed and Facebook page. Her eagerly anticipated e-book, Nobody Puts Saffron in the Corner, is slated for a February 2010 release.