It’s a serious pastime of mine, perusing the isles of ethnic grocery stores. Some people like antiquing or clothes shopping, I love food markets. It’s like a timewarp – I can spend hours going aisle by aisle, examining spices, bottles, ingredients. I love to find spices I’ve never used, come up with ideas for new dishes, or explore how ingredients work across different cultures.
Barberries were a somewhat recent find that have pried their way into my heart. They are small dried, currant-like berries that come mainly from Iran. They have a serious tartness that reminds me of tamarind, but their flavor is more like that of a raisin. In a pinch, cranberries would make a good substitution for them in a recipe. They have incredibly high levels of vitamin C and so have been well-received into the raw food world. They are super small but pack a lot of flavor into their tiny size.
In Persian and Afghani cuisine, these little guys are added to rice and couscous dishes to add a tarty, fruity burst. They also cook down beautifully to form a jam or jelly. I love them because of their small size – they are perfectly built for inclusion in cookies or suspension in breakfast muffins.
They are also called zereshk, so just be on the lookout if you are shopping for them. Online they can be found on Amazon.