Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy New Year! Happy No Rooz!

Happy New Year! Today is the Persian New Year, my most favorite holiday of the whole year. NoRooz is a beautiful holiday celebrating the arrival of Spring - full of symbolism about growth and rebirth and renewal. For many years now, I've celebrated NoRooz with family and friends, welcoming a new year at the moment of the spring equinox. This year was extra special because the equinox arrived here in California, quite conveniently, on a Saturday morning at 10:30, a perfect time for a brunch party! Of course, there were plenty of savory options, and plenty of sweeties too!

KukuSabzi, veganized! Kukusabzi is an omelette filled with LOADS of fresh herbs. In my efforts to veganize this classic dish, I've tried something a little different every year, but I think we finally have a real winner! I made a batch of the tofu omlette batter from Vegan Brunch, and mixed in: 1 bunch parsley, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 bunch dill, 1 bunch scallions, handful of fresh spinach leaves, about 1/2 cup fresh fenugreek leaves (all herbs must be minced and chopped to near-oblivion), 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 c zereshk/barberries (which need to be rehydrated in warm water for about 20 minutes before hand). Because of all the added moisture from the herbs, the kukusabzi took a bit longer to cook than the plain VB omelette regularly does, but MAN it was so delicious!

Ash-e-Reshteh - special soup for the new year (recipe here). I love love love this soup. It's PACKED full with good stuff - greens, beans, lentils, broth, herbs, noodles... mmm. I made a huge batch to ensure plenty for everyone and some leftovers for later! You can't tell from the picture, but this is my special GINORMOUS pot... just for special occasions.

Sabzi Polow - persian rice with fresh herbs. I mostly followed this recipe here (minus the fish, obvs) This was - by far - my most successful "tah digh" thus far in life. Tah Digh is the special crispy golden part of the rice on the bottom of the pan. It still needs a little more work, and I need a little more faith that it won't burn... but I'm so happy to finally make SOMETHING resembling genuine tah digh. Also, you'll notice that a lot of these New Year dishes are loaded with minced herbs - it's because the herbs are symbolic of Spring time... fresh little bursts of green!

This is "Hindu Kush Rice Bread," from "Silk Road, A Vegetarian Journey". The recipe was a bit confusing... but the final product was CRAZY GOOD. (And totally gluten-free for inquiring minds). The recipe said "form the dough into a ball" - but the batter was more like thick pancake batter. Hm.... befuddling. So, I added another cup of rice flour (I used half white rice flour, and half brown rice flour), and it was still not "ball-forming." I just heated up the griddle, used some spatulas to spread out flat-ish shapes and cooked it up. Turned out great! I used the spatula to press down a little after flipping, to make sure it would be cooked through. The batter had serrano pepper, black pepper, mustard seeds and scallions, so it packed quite a pretty little punch!

Classic Persian Salad - cukes, tomatoes, fresh red onion, fresh mint. Mmmmmmmmm. I even got to use the pretty little Persian Cucumbers that I bought on our international shopping expedition.

My aunt Laura brought along a super delicious fruit salad - berries, citrus (tangerines, blood oranges, and cara cara oranges!), pears, apples... mmmm.

Our friend Jasmine brought this GORGEOUS apple dish - apples, sugar syrup and rosewater. It was so, so, so good.

A pomegranate spritzer drink I concocted - two pints of fresh pomegranate juice from the farmer's market, with a big bottle of sparkling water, and a squeeze of fresh lime, with a few lime slices in there. So Good!!!

Special Chickpea Cookies. I followed this recipe.* I won't lie, this recipe was seriously irritating, but I think that's par for the course. These cookies are meant to be quite dry and crumbly, so working with the "dough" is pretty maddening at times. I cheated and added 1 extra tablespoon of rosewater, though I'm not sure it helped too much. But, they came out much better than my previous efforts based on other recipes, so I'm very grateful for that. *(For anyone interested, I roasted the flour myself - for about 10 minutes at 170 F. )

Pomegranate Walnut Cookies... these aren't traditional at all, in fact, I made them up! But, hey - with pomegranates and walnuts and cardamom, I'm sure no one would object. They turned out quite nicely indeed, and my little nephew Chris was especially into them.

Pomegranate Walnut Cookies

1/2 cup FINELY chopped walnuts (pretty much minced, almost a course meal)
1/2 c whole spelt flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
2 T canola oil
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped walnuts or walnut halves
3-4 Tbsp raw/turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients (chopped walnuts -> salt). In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the molasses and oil. Pour the wet into the dry and stir to combine. Have your raw sugar ready in a small bowl or shallow cup. Form into small walnut-sized balls and dip/roll the ball into the raw sugar, then place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or silpat. The cookies will spread, so place them about 3-4 inches apart from one another. After all the cookies are on the cookie sheet, take a walnut piece and gently press one walnut piece into the middle of each cookie - lightly flattening the cookie ball a little in the process. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the outer edges of the cookies are slightly darker. Yields about 20 3-inch cookies.

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches!!! I was so stoked to find these wafer rounds at the Persian Market. I made up some pistachio-saffron ice cream, with a touch of rosewater for the filling. Not too heavy, and super fun to eat. I threw in some whole pistachios too, because I like nuts in my ice cream!

Sohan-as-ali, probably my most favorite new year treat of all! (recipe here) It's an almond brittle with rosewater and saffron... with chopped pistachios sprinkled on top. I used half brown rice syrup and half agave instead of the honey that is usually used. These sweeteners meant that the whole thing heated up a bit more slowly for some reason, but in the end I made a **perfect** batch of sohan. There are only 3 left!

And finally, I leave you with some scenes from the NoRooz decor... Beautiful Spring tulips from the farmers' market on the table...

... and here is the Haft Sin table that I set for this year - sprouts, candles, sumac, hyacinth, garlic, apples, jujubees, eggs (made of glass), ... all the essential elements to set the mood.

Happy New Year Everyone!


  1. wow! everything looks so beautiful and so lovingly prepared.

  2. you're a speedy blogger! it was so lovely to celebrate with you, thanks! and the food was obviously spectacular. hooray for spring.

  3. What a feast...good job.

  4. Wow, what an amazing looking spread! Happy New Year! :-)

  5. The omelette loooks very tasty! And the sweet treats with rosewater sound very delicious, too! I want to celebrate NoRooz as well.

  6. Yay! Happy No Rooz! Thank you for having us, we had a great time.

    That bread is phenomenal. I am going to put that cookbook on my Amazon wishlist just on account of that bread... mmm. Breadddd.

    Everything else was amazing too.

  7. today i wish i could go back in time and eat that kukusabzi and flatbread again.

  8. Talk about a new year's FEAST! The herby omelet looks fantastic, as do the chickpea cookies (crumbly or not!). I've tried rice flour pancakes in the past, too, and had the same problem--but I just did what you did (extra flour, spread w/ spatula) and they were phenomenal. Must make those again!

  9. I just forwarded this to my girlfriend who is presently in Paris. She is a long time vegetarian and a student of Middle Eastern language and history. She will be thrilled by this! I also intend to try my hand at some of these fantastic recipes.:) Eug

  10. @sophia,
    ha ha! me too!! I think I'm gonna have to make that rice bread again pronto... Good thing I have half a can of coconut milk in the fridge... :)

  11. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Great post, Amey! The noodle soup looks so good, but the link doesn't seem to be working. Would it still be possible to get the recipe?



  12. Thanks Tam,
    I fixed the link!

  13. Oh my gosh, those ice cream sandwiches sound so crazy good! All of your celebrations always look so wonderful. I just want to move back to CA and join your family!

  14. I went to a No Rooz celebration today at the Afghan embassy and I was stunned by all the amazing food and the gorgeous Haft Sin display... I can't believe I never heard of this holiday before! Your celebration looks equally amazing! I hope more people start to recognize this gorgeous holiday. (Apparently it was recognized as a global holiday last year by the UN?)

  15. Everything looks wonderful. You are so talented! I love Persian food, and am definitely going to try the recipes you listed.

  16. Wow, your No Rooz feast looks amazing every year, but I think you really outdid yourself this time!

  17. Even better than last year?! How do you do it?! Ice cream sandwich, please!

  18. Look at all of this loveliness! You're truly amazing! I wish I lived in CA and could come celebrate with you...

  19. Anonymous7:48 PM

    Finally made the Hindu Kush Pan Bread and it was ridiculously good!! I'm also really pleased with how much flavor this has without the need for deep frying. Your alternate technique of spreading the batter worked perfectly. I'll definitely be making these again. Thanks so much for including these in your cookbooklet!

    :-) jen e.


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