Curious about how I rate cookbooks? You can always check out my rubric HERE.
I purchased Naz Deravian’s cookbook, Bottom of the Pot, after developing a keen interest in Persian food from Salt Fat Acid Heat. Honestly, I am totally and completely smitten with Persian cuisine.
Bottom of the Pot is a rich, immersive book. It is as much a cookbook as it is a story of leaving home, family, and the role that food plays in making a new home elsewhere in the world. Naz tells of how her family fled Iran, moved to Rome, then Vancouver, and how she finally settled in Los Angeles. I’m not always one to thoroughly read the anecdotes that accompany recipes, but her writing is sensual and illustrative. It was hard to resist, much like her food!
If you’ve never heard of Naz Deravian, neither had I. She’s an actor and a home cook. And yes, I totally looked her up on IMDB. While I didn’t initially recognize her, I’ve definitely seen a number of things she’s been in. If you like podcasts, she was also on a recent episode of The Splendid Table, titled Four Persian Cooks. I highly recommend giving it a listen.
And while it doesn’t seem to have been updated in a while, Naz has a few original recipes posted to her blog, Bottomofthepot.com.
To put it simply, Bottom of the Pot is a beautiful book. The striking cover, with a golden tahdig centered against a deep blue background, is a good indication of the style and caliber of visuals throughout the book. Eric Wolfinger, the photographer, did a wonderful job. He masterfully layers textures and colors to showcase each dish, and I especially loved the shots of Naz and her family.
It’s the kind of cookbook that really transports you, and I had not one single complaint in regard to the design of the book. I still get a little ping of joy every time I see it on my cookbook shelf.
Please don’t let the cookability score discourage you – the food is absolutely delicious, and worth every minute it takes to prepare. But as with any new cuisine, there is a learning curve. And for a cook like me, who is just starting to explore Persian food, her recipes were not always easy to throw together on a weeknight. Instead, they were more like weekend cooking projects.
I did have to purchase a number of specialty ingredients to get started – some spices, pomegranate molasses, and a couple of floral waters. And I still have a few recipes bookmarked for when I can get around to acquiring some dried limes and verjuice.
The portions are very large, as most recipes are written for 6 to 8 servings. I did find that some, when prepared, were more like 10-12 servings! Naz does mention this in the introduction, and talks about how abundance and large quantities of food are simply a part of a food culture that values sharing and generosity. While I love that, it was a bit too much food for just two people. I’ll usually halve her recipes, now that I’m more familiar.
The only detail that actually bothered me was that the recipes don’t include a note about how much total time it will take to prepare. I know, I know, I should always read through a new recipe before using it for the first time. But most of the time, I just give it a quick skim, and sometimes I totally wing it. There were a few recipes of hers that I did the latter with, only to find out 30 minutes in that it needed another 2 hours to simmer! Poor planning on my part, but also a quick note at the top of the recipe would be most helpful.
Here’s what I’ve made so far:
- Tomato cucumber salad
- Butternut squash soup
- Chelo ba tahdig (steamed persian rice with tahdig)
- Loobia polo (green bean rice)
- Adas Polo (lentil rice)
- Sheveed polo (dill rice)
- Quinoa with fava and figs
- Khoresh fesenjan (pomegranate walnut stew)
- Naan-e barbari (barbari bread)
- Kookoo sabzi (fresh herb kookoo)
- Yeralma Yumurta (smooshed potato and egg)
- Sumac cauliflower
- Mahi shekampor (stuffed branzino)
- Roasted dill salmon
- Roasted squash and grapes
- Goosht ghelgheli (everyday meatballs)
- Koofteh tabrizi (stuffed meatballs)
- Sharbat-e sekanjebeen (honey and vinegar sharbat)
Value is such a hard thing to quantify. In terms of cultural value, Bottom of the Pot really offers a lot. Again, as someone new to cooking Persian food, I found it to be a delightful entry point. I found the introductory section to be especially helpful and fascinating, as Naz breaks down the Persian palate, and key concepts for cooking Persian food.
It is also a very human book, providing context, color and warmth about a culture that I don’t often hear positive things about in the media. I very much appreciate her willingness to share her stories, as well as her recipes.
In regard to monetary value, I’d say that it’s about average. I think I paid $37.50 for a new copy, and it’s about what you would expect of a cookbook in that price range.
Fomentation Factor: 4/5
The lovely thing about learning to cook new cuisines is that the different spices, flavor combinations, textures and ideas always seem to trickle into my usual, everyday cooking.
Bottom of the Pot absolutely inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. And it has just the right amount of novelty, new technique, and simpler preparations that I keep returning to it again and again every time I feel like something different.
I still haven’t mastered tahdig yet, but I sure am enjoying the process!
Bottom of the Pot Total Score
Overall, I gave Bottom of the Pot a score of 17.5/20!
My COOKBOOK BOOKMARKS were so crazy useful as I cooked my way through Bottom of the Pot!
To get a set for yourself, subscribe to my email list! You’ll get a free downloadable file for my cookbook bookmarks. Once you’ve downloaded them, you can print as many copies as you like. Bookmark as many recipes as you need to! Really, it’s such a basic, analog tool, but they make such a difference to my peace of mind.