Barberry For You, Zereshk For Me

I have the habit when I go food shopping, to come across ingredients that I’ve never seen or used before.  This happened to me a few years back when I was picking up my usual haul from Mid-East Food Centre.  I looked into the refrigerator case and saw a bag of jewel-like red berries.  I asked the owner what they were, and how did he use them?  He graciously opened a bag and let me try a few while he explained to me what they could be used for.   He told me that they were called “zereshk”, and that they were typically used in Persian rice and in chicken dishes. Barberries have a sour taste, yet there is a hint of sweetness in the end.  These little red berries are one of the largest exports of Iran, a fact that I did not know.  So, I purchased a few bags, and left for work in anticipation of creating something with theses red jewels.

Click here for full set.

Click here for full set.

In the kitchen at work on a busy Saturday night, I decided to make a vinaigrette with the barberries to pair with grilled Digby scallops and charred baby leeks.  The outcome of this vinaigrette stunned us all, and soon became a favorite in the kitchen, and eventually made it’s way onto one of my menus.  I have paired this vinaigrette not only with seafood and chicken, but works beautifully with lamb and is great for stuffing’s.

Here is a super easy recipe for the vinaigrette that I use on everything these days.  If you cannot find barberries, feel free to substitute with dried cranberries or cherries.  Cheers!

Barberry And Mint Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup roughly chopped Barberries
  • 1/2 cup chiffonade of mint
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sumac (optional)
  • 2 lemons zest and juice
  • salt & pepper to taste.

Mix all the ingredients and taste.  Adjust seasoning if needed.  This keeps refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

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