Looking at me, you wouldn't know it, but I actually love eating things like Macho Nachos.
Terrible, I know, but I'll be the first to admit I'm a sucker for marketing traps and the name got me.
Summer came early this year and I've been dreaming about the past and picnics we used to enjoy in our backyard in Iran when I was a little girl.
Snow in the winter, beach days in the summer shatter the myth that Iran is a dry desert. Tabriz where my mom's mom was born is famous for rocky mountains and blooming valleys.
A country rich in lush mountains, gurgling rivers and idyllic seasides, Iran's natural beauty is sheerly stunning.
The Persians are an ancient culture whose beautiful structured gardens rival those of Europe and Asia.
The traditional Persian garden has a rectangular shape featuring various trophy plants, especially exotic roses. And the babbling fountain is the jewel at the center. Some of the most famous are palacial gardens like Shazdeh in the Kerman province where my father's father was born.
Persians love picnicing, anywhere under a shady tree. This was a culture that we Armenians also enjoyed in Iran.
Our teeny backyard was far more humble than the famous gardens, but we still loved it all the same.
My parents would take our Persian rugs outside, lay them onto the stone pavers and set up a tempting picnic.
The tea samovar was ever-present, but the hot weather really called for all things crisp and cool, like a refreshing mint and cucumber drink.
Mother's Day recently had me thinking about how grateful I am for my family and the wonderful lessons passed on from my grandmothers to my parents, to us and to our children. We have new summertime favorites now in the States, like searching for antique treasures at local estate sales with Mom.
Living in Los Angeles among a big Persian and Armenian community makes it easy to keep old traditions alive.
So, when I saw the fresh spearmint at the market, I jumped at the chance of making
Mom's refreshing mint syrup called sekanjamin.
Refreshing Cucumber-Mint Julep:
Mom's Persian Sekanjamin
Mom's formula for sekanjamin is:
1 part vinegar
2 parts water
2 parts sugar
lots of fresh mint
For about a gallon, use a big pasta pot or large stainless bowl.
5 lb bag sugar
8 cups water
4 cups vinegar (white or cider)
4 cups mint, washed
Note: Take extra precautions when working with hot sugar and syrup.
I suggest you put the pot/bowl onto the back burner of the stove, where little hands can't reach.
Don't remove it until your syrup has completely cooled, overnight.
Stir water and sugar in a large pasta pot or stainless bowl.
Place onto back-most burner of your stove.
Heat to syrup consistency, on a gentle boil, maybe a hour.
Add vinegar, bring to a boil again.
Lastly add mint & continue to boil another 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the syrup to cool, overnight.
To serve, combine 1-2 Tb (to taste), freshly shredded Persian cucumber, chilled water, topped with ice. Add a tall spoon, if you have one, so you can eat the cucumber. And, a straw.
City folk, look for the sexiest, long- necked glass you have, like a elegant beer glass.
Country folk, find your favourite old mason jar and grab a stripey straw.
Bottle in a clean, recycled glass juice jar or maple syrup container. Store for up to a year (if it lasts that long) in the refrigerator. This sweet & tangy syrup makes a lovely homemade gift for someone very special.
I realize how much my days revolve not only on the present, but also on the happy memories my parents have given me.
Something as simple as Mom's mint syrup revives so much of the past.
Dad & I will often wake up in the wee hours on summer nights to enjoy cold lettuce leaves dipped in the golden syrup.
These are the times I cherish now and the traditions I hope to share with you.
This cucumber~mint julep is a refreshing tradition enjoyed by Persians for centuries
on beautiful hot nights,
shared with old friends and family, laughing and remembering
happy memories under the summer stars.