I first had the saffron ice cream called bastani akbar mashti in 1978 in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. I was in Iran with my mother, the last trip I would make to her native country, mere months before the Revolution that began what has become forty years of acrimony between our two nations.
But on that day, the Bazaar was packed with shoppers seeking out everything from daily staples to luxury goods. Everywhere I looked there was a riot of color, fabric and food. The smells of roasting kebabs filled the air mingling with the scent of tea brewed with cardamom.
The ice cream, delicately yellow and aromatic with saffron and rosewater was punctuated with the occasional crunch of pistachios—a prized Iranian export—and bits of frozen cream. Even though I’ve had versions of it since, none have ever been as good—either too light on the saffron, too sweet, or omitting the frozen cream nuggets.
That all changed when I visited Green Leaf Catering Truck, the mobile restaurant of Dariush Rose and his son Samuel. Even though I was standing in a scrupulously clean, stainless steel truck the first taste of the creamy treat, made by Chef Dariush Rose, transported me back to that day in the Grand Bazaar.
Chef Dariush, formerly the Executive Chef at the British Embassy in Tehran where he cooked for Prince Charles and numerous other dignitaries is, along with his family, a recent émigré to the United States, arriving from Vienna to which they fled seeking religious freedom as Iranian Christian refugees. Making their home in Connecticut with the assistance of New Haven’s Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) the chef has returned to his passion cooking Persian food along with continental favorites from his food truck Green Leaf Catering—so named for the importance of fresh herbs in Persian cuisine.
Rose is also an painter and sculptor whose work was part of Stories from Near and Far: Refugee Artists in New Haven an art exhibit this past summer at the New Haven Museum. Like his art which is complex and rich with meaning, Rose’s cuisine demonstrates mastery of this ancient cuisine that melds subtle flavors elegantly and with a deft hand.
“We make everything from scratch,” said Rose’s son Samuel, who is finishing his final semester pursuing his business management bachelor’s degree at Central Connecticut State University. “That means we keep our food truck menu small to make sure we can control quality, but we do a lot of seasonal variation to keep it interesting.”
Chelo Kebab or kebab with rice, a beloved Iranian restaurant dish, is a staple of the truck and Rose offers both chicken and beef versions of ground meat and filleted meat kebabs. Rich with grated onion and spices, the grilled kebabs are flavorful and moist—a particular feat when it comes to the chicken version. They are served with the traditional fire-roasted tomato and steamed basmati rice garnished with saffron.
Unlike many Persian restaurants Rose’s offerings extend into the realm of Iranian home cooking including items like kuku an herb-redolent frittata and soups according to the season. This fall the chef is serving a thick lentil soup garnished with yogurt he also makes in-house along with pickled vegetables—both popular condiments. Traditional stews—koreshte—are also a part of the rotating menu including the popular sweet, sour and nutty fesanjan, which is made from ground walnut, pomegranate syrup and chicken.
Green Leaf’s catering menu is even more extensive offering a wide variety of dishes of the kind that a lucky guest might have at Persian home. If you aren’t on someone’s guest list, Rose sells many of these in takeout containers to reheat at home later.
Currently primarily located in Southington, the truck does make its way to New Haven and is pursuing a more permanent location in that city. Catering services are available throughout the state for larger events. On the menu as the business grows: Packaged Iranian foods including a wider range of frozen dinners for eating at home later.
Find Green Leaf Catering in Southington at 447 Main Street and follow their other locations and events on facebook @greenleafcateringllc (203) 819-2663