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
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...