Happy NoRooz, Everyone!
Last Thursday was my most favorite adopted holiday of the year: Persian New Year, aka NoRooz. Huzzah! NoRooz is officially celebrated at the exact moment of the vernal equinox, but, in the interest of social ease, we had a big dinner party on Friday night... which was also my dad's 77th birthday!
Although you might not know it from this picture, I was very proud of myself for not making too much food. Last year I went sorta crazy and made SO MUCH food for NoRooz... it was a bit too much. This year was just about perfect!
Every year for NoRooz, I like to make a few recipes that are new to me... but there are also some traditional dishes that you simply must have for the holiday - one of those is definitely Kuku Sabzi. Traditionally, kuku sabzi is an eggy omlette or quiche packed full with fresh herbs. Over the years I have tried many different veganized versions, but I think this year's vegan kuku sabzi was the best yet!
I made a double batch of the mini quiche recipe from Isa Does It, and then "kuku-sabzied" the flavors. To a double batch of batter, I added roughly 1 cup each of: minced parsley, minced cilantro, minced fresh dill, minced scallions and minced spinach. Plus, about 3/4 c chopped walnuts, and about 1/3 cup barberries (rehydrated in warm water for +/- 30 minutes). I thought they might take longer to bake, what with all those fresh herbs in the batter, but actually they only needed about 20+ minutes in the oven, and they turned out AMAZING. Plus... so easy to do ahead of time and fun finger food for the party. I will definitely make them like this again next year!
I also discovered how super fast this whole process is if I just use my food processor to mince all the nuts and herbs. Uh... why did it possibly take me so many years of NoRooz celebrations to realize this??
Sabzi PolowAnother NoRooz dish that you've just gotta have is Sabzi Polow: Persian rice with fresh herbs. If you are noticing a strong theme of fresh herbs, you are catching on. I've had really great luck with the polow technique from Terry's book Vegan Eats World... I especially like the little bit of yogurt that she suggests adding to the rice, and the cooking method is really clear. I made a 1.5 batch of her rice, but subbed out her suggested seasonings and added in about 3/4 cup each of minced dill, cilantro, chives, and parsley. As you can see, I didn't get a super golden crust (even though I cooked it longer than suggested... I think I had the heat too low)... but it still had a good crunch and it was super tasty.
Persian Sweet Potato & Orange Stew with PrunesHere's one of the dishes that was new to me this year. I'd had it in my (excessively long) list of bookmarked recipes, and I finally tried it. I thought it was NoRooz appropriate because it was full of spinach and orange juice. I even used oranges from our own tree! You guys. This was SO GOOD and was a total hit of the party. Here is the recipe, which is very highly recommended indeed!
My excellent friend and her mom came over early to help me get ready (it was fun and helpful!!). They got put to work making these Nan e Taftoon flat breads... also a new-to-me recipe off the internet. I thought they turned out pretty well, but I actually preferred the flatbread recipe that we used last year... so I"ll probably return to that one. That said, I have a deep and abiding love for nigella/kalonji seeds and pretty much any ol' flatbread with nigella seeds is a friend of mine!
Aash e Reshteh GarnishSomehow I failed to capture a photo of the traditional NoRooz veggie soup called Aash e Reshteh, but I did photograph the special garnish that goes with the soup. The soup (recipe here), is full of beans and veggies and spinach and noodles and generally it is bursting with flavor. This year I made a 2/3 batch, which was just about perfect! The garnish is a very special part - fried onions with dried mint and turmeric. Just the smell of the garnish fills the whole house with the smell of NoRooz. I love it so.
A big, fresh and simple Shirazi Salad: cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion and a few olives. Dressed with a combo of pomegranate molasses and olive oil. MmmMmmMmm.
I also made two special drinks. Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian has a bunch of really enticing Iranian drink recipes in it... including many that I have yet to try. Using her recipe, I made a batch of Irani Mint Lemonade (sorry, no picture!). I made a small pitcher of the syrup - which used simple syrup poured over fresh mint leaves and fresh lemon juice - and then let people add as much sparkling water as they liked. I also made this Pomegranate-Lime-Mint soda with fresh pomegranate juice, fresh lime juice, fresh mint leaves, and a small amount of simple syrup ... plus a bunch of sparkly water to give it fizz and to make it lighter and less intense. They were both very tasty!
(also, check out this awesome pitcher my mom gave me! even though it looks quite Persian, it's actually from my family roots in North Carolina!)
Isa's Latchkey Lime Pie, I didn't need to look any further. Now I make this one every year and my sweet Daddy loves it. As you probably know, my dad has had a very rough year ... and so this year's birthday celebration felt even more special than ever. I'm so glad he is still here with us to love and laugh and just be together.
Ahwazi CookiesHere's a super-awesome new-to-me recipe!! These interesting cookies caught my eye because they looked cool and the recipe sounded amazing - cookies stuffed with dates+walnuts+tahini??? Yes, please! The recipe was a bit like one of those old-fashioned recipes "add enough flour until you have a soft dough" (I ended up using about 2.5 cups). Also, I had to look up a recipe for homemade "self-rising flour," which was easy enough. These cookies are super cute and also super delicious. We were all calling them UFO cookies, for obvious reasons. They are just barely sweet, except for the date filling, which is naturally sweet. They're a really good treat to go with tea or coffee. Loved these!
My friends Jane and JP are organic farmers and they brought along a big bowl of beautiful strawberries - their first pick of the season. So glorious and delicious!!!
Sohan As-AliYou've got to have plenty of shirini (sweets) for NoRooz... and although I do like to mix it up, I always make a batch of my personal favorite, Sohan As-Ali. Here's my recipe. These are almond brittle candies, flavored with saffron and rosewater, and topped with pistachios. They are absolutely delicious and I look forward to them every year! I've also learned to display them on parchment paper, so that they don't stick to the serving tray (hot tip!).
We had such a wonderful evening and celebration together with family and friends. Even though I didn't grow up celebrating NoRooz, I have really fallen in love with it... and every year that we celebrate it, I feel more and more strongly connected to it. It's such a beautiful and meaningful holiday - full of symbolism and so in harmony with the natural world. I love the idea of celebrating the new year with the vernal equinox - a time of balance and a time when all of Nature is preparing to burst forth into a new cycle of growth and beauty. Happy New Year!