Mokhalafat is the generic term in Farsi for the things that accompany a meal and usually refers to side dishes and such accompaniments as breads and/or beverages. The term also stretches to include torshi (vegetables pickled in a blend of vinegar, cumin, and nigella seed), sabzi (fresh herbs such as tarragon, mint, and basil), and what are collectively referred to as peshgahza – dips and spreads.
Most of the time, particularly in restaurants specializing in either Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cuisine, the only peshgahza on offer are tzatsiki (cucumber and yogurt dip; referred to as mast o’khiar at Persian restaurants though the same name is used for a cold yogurt, cumin, and cucumber soup), baba ganoush, or the more common hummus. Believe me, it can get quite tedious at times.
At such times, I order the salad oliveyeh at Persia Grill to break the boredom. Think potato salad: only, this has been pureed and seasoned with olive oil, fresh lemon, and a generous sprinkle of ground red pepper. The seasonings and the texture are what sets this dip apart from conventional potato salad and tastes fantastic on warm pita quarters sprinkled with minced fresh parsley. More than that, the gentle, somewhat familiar flavors are a good way to introduce inexperienced palates to the intricacies of Persian food.
And, for some odd reason, salad oliveyeh goes well with PG’s green lemonade or a fresh limeade if you’re having it as either a light lunch or an afternoon nosh.