Ash Reshteh: Fall Comfort Food
Our food history columnist, Linda Civitello, dishes on her favorite seasonal comfort food.
When the weather gets nippy, I want to be some place cozy and elegant, eating my new favorite comfort food. The place is Flame Persian Cuisine. The food is ash—pronounced “ahsh”—a thick Persian stew made with garbanzos, kidney beans, white beans, and lentils.
For a soup so loaded with legumes, its appearance always comes as a shock: it is a bright, vibrant green. Then the mint aroma hits me, and I remember that Persian cuisine uses fresh herbs as if they were vegetables: by the cup. Swimming in the soup are cilantro, mint, parsley, dill, and chives in addition to spinach. The reshteh part is wheat noodles, a Persian symbol for good luck, especially as you embark on a new venture—and who in Los Angeles isn’t doing that all the time? On top of the ash is a garnish of thinly sliced, sweet sautéed onions and mint floating in a pool of kashk, liquid whey. [If you’re vegan, ask them to hold the kashk.]
If the soup doesn’t warm me up, then the hot bread sure does. They make it in front of you in a standing oven, a tanor, cousin to the tandoor. I love to watch the baker pull a piece off the large mass of dough, shape it, reach in from the top, and slap it against the side. In 3 to 4 minutes, he pulls out the pizza-size round of dough, slice slice, and presto!—it’s in a basket on the table. This is taftoon, a flatbread that is not quite as soft as lavash and not as pockety as pita. It is, however, sturdy enough for dunking in soup. This meal fit for a sultan will set you back a measly seven dollars. Sometimes I splurge and order the warm eggplant dip, bademjan, or hummus because that hot, fresh taftoon comes in a bottomless basket.
Owners Rasoul Minaei and his wife Mahtab (which means moonlight, as if the ash and the tanor and the cuneiform and temple art on the walls weren’t magical enough) have just purchased the restaurant a couple of doors north, Shaherzad, at 1422 Westwood Boulevard. You can get ash-e reshteh and taftoon there, too, along with beer and wine, which Flame does not have.