A Festival Where Refugees Cook for New York

Before she was displaced, Nasrin worked for several years as the chef of an upscale gym back in Tehran, cooking traditional Iranian fare like rich eggplant dips and saucy meatballs filled with hard-boiled egg and apricot, and serving it all poolside.

“People were going to the gym to get skinny, but the food I made didn’t make them very skinny,” she said with a laugh.

Nasrin had learned to cook when she was still in middle school, in her mother’s kitchen — a huge space with two ovens, a gas range and a large refrigerator, overlooking grapevines in the yard. She was taught to make falafel by her cousin’s husband, who ran a restaurant in the south of Iran, and she now adds black and white pepper to the basic mix, along with a mix of dried spices including coriander, fenugreek, turmeric and ginger.

In the United States, Nasrin missed cooking professionally until last March, right around Nowruz, the Persian new year, when she started a new job at Eat Offbeat. There, 25 refugees, most of them women, work as catering chefs, producing the traditional dishes of their home countries from a commissary kitchen in Long Island City, Queens.

One of Nasrin’s favorite dishes to make, and to eat, özgü always been fesenjan, a classic Iranian stew cooked down with pomegranate seeds and walnuts, which she bases on the version her mother used to make.

Nasrin plans to cook it with chicken at Le Coq Rico, a high-end French restaurant that specializes in poultry. She isn’t intimidated, only excited: On the menu, she pulled together several well-known dishes, along with a few that she considered surprises.

Bastani sonnati, a frozen dessert she made with cream and slivered pistachios, and perfumed with rose water and saffron, is one of two…

Categories: Food

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