“The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen.” By Yasmin Khan. Photography by Shahrzad Darafsheh and Matt Russell. Bloomsbury. $27.

“The Saffron Tales: Recipes from a Persian Kitchen” had me at the dedication: “For Pedar Bozorg, my grandfather, who taught me how to eat.” Not cook, interestingly, but “eat,” and when you think about it, mustn’t every good cook begin as a good eater?

The cookbook, by British food writer Yasmin Khan, captivated me right through to the end, where a recipe for Choux Buns with Rose Water and Pistachio Cream is still haunting my culinary dreams; alas, I haven’t yet had time to bake it.

In between, the pages are delectably strewn with pomegranate seeds, mint leaves, sour cherries, sumac, saffron, tahini, barberries and dried sour limes. (Prepare to shop.) So far, I have made eight recipes from “The Saffron Tales,” and I’ve been pleased with, and excited by, each and every one.

Both the dried limes and the pomegranate seeds appear in a butternut squash soup, taking it in an exotic and electrifying direction. The addition of pistachios, fresh mint and pomegranate molasses make an otherwise typical carrot salad extraordinary. And how will I ever again be satisfied with a plain Jane western omelette after testing two of Khan’s breakfast recipes, one for a Date and Cinnamon Omelette, the other for Saffron and Cardamom Vermicelli with Fried Egg? “Many Iranians will tell you that breakfast is their favorite meal of the day,” Kahn writes in her chapter on the subject. I can see why.

Add to the enticing, accessible and terrific recipes, many other good qualities: sensible writing that is informative and never overwrought; beautiful photos of the food and of Iran itself; and a personal and personable travel diary through the lens of food – Kahn says she “traversed almost 2,000 miles of the country’s rugged landscapes searching for recipes and stories that captured modern Iranian life.”

Thanks no doubt to Americans’ (and Brits’?) modern-day obsession with food, a gratifying number of truly excellent cookbooks were published this year – a lot of bad ones, too, but that’s another story. Despite stiff competition, “The Saffron Tales” effortlessly sailed onto my Top Ten cookbook list for 2016. — PEGGY GRODINSKY

1126546_22750 Datecinnamon.jpgShahrzad Darafsheh and Matt Russell/Courtesy of Bloomsbury


Serves 1

1/4 cup pitted Iranian or Medjool dates, halved

A couple of pinches of cinnamon

A small pinch of ground ginger

3 tablespoons cold water

2 eggs

A pinch of sea salt

2 teaspoons milk

Scant 1 tablespoon butter

Place the dates, a pinch of cinnamon, the ground ginger and water in a small pan. Stir well, put a lid on the pan, and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, until the dates have softened.

Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl with a pinch of salt and the milk. Beat with a fork until fluffy.

Put a frying pan over a low heat and let it get hot. Add the knob of butter. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, add the dates and fry for 2 minutes. Space the dates out evenly in the pan and then pour the eggs in, giving the pan a gentle shake to spread them out evenly.

Cook until the omelette is almost set and then fold in half and lightly press down. Slide on a plate and dust with cinnamon just before serving.

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