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Sholeh zard-a rice pudding brilliantly yellow and so peppery you'll find yourself gasping after eating it-is but one of the side dishes at Assal Pastry, a chic bakery in Irvine's Little Tehran enclave. The primary attraction here is cookies: dozens of just-baked trays that rely on different types of flour and infinite pistachio presentations rather than sugar for their sweetness. Purchase a pound of any cookie (cheap at $8), and Assal packages your order inside an emerald-green box that gives Tiffany's jewelry container a run for its color.
Illustration by Bob AulThose wacky Dutch get credit for the word cookie, adapted from koekje, or "little cake," though it was probably the Persians who started experimenting with small, sweet pastries about 1,400 years ago. Whoever's responsible,... More »
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