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Warm up with dizi instead of your pumpkin spice latte

I don’t understand the pumpkin spice craze or the need to link a season with a particular flavor. I like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg separately as well as in my pumpkin pie. I don’t need it in a latte, Spam or Cheerios. I have a better suggestion for a dish that will warm your insides this week. This is what you should think about when someone says pumpkin spice season. And, it’s good year-round. What could be the best tuna sandwich?

Romik Abediyan becomes anxious when the weather app predicts rain, and the temperature drops. Nersses vanak, the owner of Nersses, knows that his small restaurant in Glendale is one of the most difficult places to find. dizi. And when it’s cold outside, the Iranian lamb and chickpea stew is what you’ll want to be eating.

“We usually run out,” he says. “We can only make so many, and my father is the only one who does it.”

Abediyan’s father makes his dizi by cooking lamb, chickpeas, white beans, potato, tomato and onion with a little bit of water and a pinch of turmeric, for hours. The cooking liquid is combined with the juices of the meat and vegetables to make the base for the stew. The gaminess of lamb is absorbed into the sauce as it bubbles.

Romik Abediyan of Nersses Vanak Glendale displays dizi.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

According to Abediyan, the soup’s name is derived from the small vessel it is cooked in. Nersses Vanak uses tiny metal bowls that resemble miniature pitchers and vases. He calls it abgoosht if someone prepares larger pots.

“Originally it comes from Iran, and it’s for people with hard labor jobs,” he says. “It’s a recipe that’s hundreds of years old and we learned it from my grandfather.”

Abediyan’s family ran a restaurant in Tehran for almost 60 years, and dizi was one of the specialties.

When you order, the server will ask if you’d like to prepare the stew yourself, or have it prepared for you in the kitchen. Ask to do it yourself. There’s a certain level of ceremony involved in the serving and preparation that will help keep you warm and engage everyone at the table. And don’t forget to ask for an order of torshi (tart, pickled vegetables), too.

The stew is served in the same metal bowl it was cooked, with a rim stained by broth and a few dried herbs. On the side is a meat smasher that looks like a cross between a tiny metal plunger and Thor’s hammer, slabs of warm, blistered flatbread and an empty bowl. Grab a napkin or piece of bread to hold the neck of the pitcher. Once the soup is poured into the bowl, make sure to keep the pieces of potato and lamb that are still in the liquid. Use the smasher to mash the meat and vegetables into a thick paste. Don’t worry, if you look like you’re struggling, your server will take over, aggressively swirling the smasher around to make the paste. You’ll need to put some muscle into it and you can ask your fellow dining companions to help.

Once the paste has thickened, you can scoop it into your bowl or make wraps using the provided flatbread. I like to add the paste to my hot soup and eat it as bean dumplings and lumpy meat. And once I’ve finished, add in torn pieces of the flatbread to make chewy, stew-soaked croutons.

Dizi at Nersses Vanak

A spoonful of dizi from Nersses vanak is poured onto the plate.

(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

“Some people copy us, but they don’t really do it,” Abediyan says. “We are one of the best on this, I can tell you that. I never say I’m good, but we are good on dizi.”

If you’re not planning to build out your meal with plates of kebabs, order one dizi per person and choose your own stew adventure.

The tuna sandwich from Bub and Grandma's restaurant in Glassell Park.

The tuna sandwich from Bub and Grandma’s restaurant in Glassell Park.

(Jenn Harr / Los Angeles Times).

Tuna sandwich from Bub and Grandma’s

There’s plenty to ogle over at the new Bub and Grandma’sGlassell Park Restaurant Donuts, croissants and muffins are all available in the bakery case. Open kitchen allows you to see all the sandwiches in action. We ordered almost all of the items when we visited friends recently. I’d be happy to repeat it all, but my heart belongs to the tuna salad.

It’s often the lunchtime workhorse. Wrapped in plastic film and thrown into lunch boxes and office fridges around the country, it’s dependable and filling. It’s easy to forget about it after you eat it. Andy Kadin, the owner, and Zach Jarrett, the chef, want you to keep their tuna sandwich in your mind.

“I realized as I was developing the sandwich, people have strong opinions on tuna,” Jarrett said during a recent call. “Everybody’s tuna salad is their tuna salad.”

My usual method involves draining the tuna very well, shredding it until its consistency is like sawdust, and then adding copious amounts mayo, diced pickles, and red onion. My dad loves extra mayonnaise on his bread. My mother often substitutes mayonnaise for mashed avocado and adds sweet pickles. I bet you also have a go to recipe.

Kadin and Jarrett were inspired by what they describe as “the quintessentially perfect tuna sandwich” from Palace diner, a restaurant about 15 minutes outside of Portland, Maine, where the sandwich comes with a wedge of iceberg lettuce.

“We spent a lot of time obsessively worrying about it,” Jarrett said. “That, and everything else,” Kadin added.

Oil-packed tuna is used as the base for the salad. Once it has been drained, it is mixed with mayonnaise and housemade sweet pickles. Christopher Lier, the lead baker of the sandwich, uses unbraided bread challah from an old milk bread tin. It’s soft, squishy and eggy, everything a good challah aspires to be.

Andy Kadin from Bub and Grandma's

Bub and Grandma’s owner Andy Kadin poses for a picture at the restaurant.

(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles T)

The sandwich has an exaggerated height reminiscent of a classic stacked sandwich from a deli, thanks to an extra large wedge iceberg in its center and a mound topped with tuna salad. It’s the sort of sandwich you give a good squeeze to encourage the proper distribution of ingredients to all the corners and edges. The tuna salad includes slivers and more sweet pickles. Spread the mayonnaise and yellow mustard on both halves of the challah. It’s a touch too heretical, depending on who you ask. It makes the sandwich.

“That combo of lettuce and yellow mustard triggered a specific taste memory the way American cheese has an irreplaceable void,” Jarrett said. “It’s just correct.”

The first bite brings back memories of school lunches, picnics at the beach with packed coolers, and quick rainy-day sandwiches made by my mother. Jarrett only toasts one side of the bread and puts it on the inside to get that first bite. Then, you’ll have a satisfying crunch.

I took half to my house to eat the next morning. The wedge stayed intact and the bread wasn’t soggy. It was a tuna sandwich that will be cherished forever.

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