Here in Los Angeles there are a few super hot button topics: water shortages, the Lakers, and I'd add in kebabs. Okay, maybe it's only amongst food people who love Persian food but where to get the best Persian food and, specifically, kebabs quickly gets heated.
The area of Westwood Boulevard around UCLA has so many Persian business, it's known as Little Persia to locals. And, while there are a lot of good restaurants, my personal favorite is Darya down on Santa Monica Boulevard. It's in a totally non-specific part of West LA and you could blow by it if you weren't using your GPS but it's worth the visit.
Perhaps other places do other Persian dishes better but the beef kebab (aka kebab barg) and Darya is so good that I talked them into showing me how they make it. The result is a lot of flavor for minimal work as it really involves nothing more than blending the marinade, letting it marinate as long as you can handle before your hunger gets the best of you, and then cooking — or, more aptly, searing it — on the grill. Though it’s often served over long-grain rice, I prefer the more mobile version where it’s wrapped up in warm lavosh, tossed with grilled tomatoes, onions, and greens and then topped with a dollop of tangy yogurt.
if wooden, soak in water for 15 minutes
thinly sliced, optional
cut into sixths for serving, optional
For the kebabs: Place saffron in a few tablespoons of hot water and let steep while you trim the meat. Trim any excess fat from the steaks, then cut into 1-inch cubes, and place in a large nonreactive bowl. Place the white onion, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, and saffron and saffron liquid, in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour mixture over meat, toss to coat, cover and marinate 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
Buy saffron from a reputable buyer and always only buy it in whole, thread form as there are many knockoffs sold in ground form.
When ready to cook, heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium (about 350°F) and rub the grill with a towel dipped in vegetable oil. Remove the meat from the marinade and let any excess marinade drip off.
Thread meat on skewers, leaving at least 1/2-inch space between each piece of meat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl and the tomatoes, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat thoroughly. Place meat and tomatoes on grill. Cook meat, turning once, until charred and medium-rare, about 7 to 10 minutes. Cook tomatoes, turning rarely, until blistered and soft, about 10 minutes.
For serving: Remove meat and tomatoes from skewers. Stir together the cilantro and yogurt until well mixed. Assemble a sandwich as desired with the meat, tomatoes, lavash, yogurt, thinly sliced onions, and greens. Squeeze some lime over the top and serve.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp