Thursday, May 09, 2019

NoRooz Mobarak! A Persian New Year Celebration!

Happy NoRooz!

Happy springtime to you! If you are a long-time reader of my blog, you already know about my deep love for Persian New Year. I first started celebrating NoRooz about 25 years ago, when I had a boyfriend who was from Iran. I just fell in love with pretty much everything about this beautiful and meaningful holiday. So, even after he and I parted ways, I decided I would keep on celebrating NoRooz! 

This year we celebrated Persian New Year a little bit late... but technically the NoRooz season goes on for a good little stretch, so it's all good! For me, NoRooz is a lot like Christmas or Thanksgiving, I spend a few weeks scheming what dishes I'll prepare, I clean the house, I set up my Haft Sin display on the mantle... It all builds excitement and anticipation. 

One thing you need to be prepared for with NoRooz: SO MANY HERBS. This year I bought 5 bunches of scallions, 5 bunches of cilantro, 6 bunches of parsley (and then I had to send Mr VE&T out for more!), 5 bunches of dill, and a ginormous bag of baby spinach. Herbs galore! NoRooz is a celebration of springtime and the herbs are symbolic of the verdant growth of spring. They are also super beautiful and aromatic and delicious. Several years ago, I got a tip that I could do my herb mincing in the food processor - a major boon! The night before NoRooz, my pal came over and helped me de-stem and separate all my bunches of cilantro and parsley. So helpful and way more fun with a buddy!! 

Many Persian dishes also call for saffron - such a gorgeous and special ingredient. This is a dish of saffron threads soaking in rosewater... getting ready to be a part of one of the sweeties I made. I love all the beauty and aromas of the ingredients as I'm cooking and preparing for NoRooz.

Nan-e Barbari
I found this recipe on the King Arthur flour website several years ago and it's been a favorite ever since. The bread is a bit chewy, but not too dense. Those long ridges are made by pressing the end of a wooden spoon into the surface. Such a cool effect. This year I used my homemade "everything but the bagel" (with added nigella seeds) on top - so good! Next year maybe I will make 3 loaves, since this stuff always flies off the appetizers table in a flash!!

all sliced up and ready to be enjoyed!

Cheese and Herbs Platters
I made two cheese platters for hungry NoRooz celebrants! I started the homemade cheese about 5 days before the party, using the cashew chevre recipe from Miyoko's Artisan Vegan Cheese cookbook. It's actually really easy (especially if you cheat and use store-bought rejuvelac), but it does take several days to ferment and get the best flavor. I rolled each log in a mix of minced fresh herbs and walnuts. To go with the cheese was lavash, fresh herbs, sliced dates, radishes and olives. SO good!! I prepared two large platters and there was barely any left by the end of the evening.

Shirazi Salad
Every party needs a giant fresh salad - and NoRooz is no exception! Shirazi Salad is simple and perfect - cukes, tomatoes, red onion, olives, and a hearty dose of fresh herbs. This year my friend Kenan came over and spent the whole afternoon helping me in the kitchen. It was so fun and so appreciated. Kenan is Turkish and knows his way around a good salad! In fact, he was so super helpful that we even had time to sit down and take a rest for 45 minutes or so!!

Ghormeh Sabzi
Oh, the magic of Ghormeh Sabzi!! So flavorful and perfectly rich - boatloads of fresh herbs, some portabello and onion sauteed for umami, kidney beans, and dried Omani limes for seasoning... this is a really special dish and a NoRooz classic! Can you see the big round dried limes in the bowl up near the top of the picture? Dried limes are a very special and underappreciated ingredient! I used one of my very favorite and most special serving bowls for this dish - a huge bowl that I bought in Portugal several years ago. 

Vegan Kuku Sabzi

Kuku Sabzi is traditionally an omelette full of minced herbs, chopped walnuts, and barberries. After years of trial and error, I settled on a good recipe based on the mini tofu quiches from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's recipe. Yet, trying to wedge those little quiches out from my mini muffin pan was an unappreciated amount of labor and struggle on a day when you need every minute! So, I've been working my way back to trying to prepare kuku sabzi in a more traditional form: a giant piece cut into wedges. Using my usual recipe, this time I put the batter into my biggest cast iron pan, put the pan on a pizza stone in the oven, and baked at 375 for about 30-35 minutes. It takes a while to backed through, and the pizza stone really helps the bottom cook at the same place as the top. 

 This is one of my top top top favorite NoRooz dishes. Seriously, you should try them. The flavors are so harmonious, and unless you're used to Persian food the flavor combination will be new and unexpected! If you don't have barberries, just use cranberries or leave them out all together. You will love them either way!

Sabzi Pillow
A proper Persian rice is one of the highlights of any Persian feast, and sabzi polow is the dish to make for NoRooz! This is rice mixed with a bazillion minced herbs, some sauteed leeks, some vegan yogurt, and vegan butter. The rice is rinsed and parboiled before being slowly steamed to create a crunchy "tahdig" crust all around the exterior. The crunchy bits are the best part!! 

The final act of flipping the polow out of the pot and onto the serving platter is always a moment of hope, prayer, and trepidation - will the crust be undercooked and not sufficiently golden? Will the crust be overcooked and burnt?? This year I was delighted with my golden crunchy tahdig, even if a little spot stuck to the pan and had to be cosmetically repaired! I'll choose that dilemna over insufficient crunchiness every time!

Amoli Rice
I don't make this rice every year, and I know it's kinda crazy to have two rice dishes, but there were plenty of folks in attendance, and this dish is just so delicious. This recipe is from Silk Road: A Vegetarian Journey. It's a visually beautiful dish, with an elegant combination of sweet and savory flavors: rice with candied orange peel and grated carrots, barberries (and/or cranberries), raisins, almonds, all tossed with a dressing of fresh herbs, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil - and served over baby arugula. It's just so lovely and colorful, and the flavors and textures are great together.

Aash-e Reshteh

This soup is a NoRooz necessity! And as long as you use veggie broth, it's authentically vegan! When I was making the aash this year, I was just transported to a flood of NoRooz memories - kinda like eating a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving time. The aroma of the herbs and spices cooking together is so distinct and so evocative. This is a hearty bean soup with three kinds of beans and lentils, along with noodles, beets, onions, lots of seasoning, mounds of herbs and spinach... It's so satisfying and actually so healthy. 

The food of NoRooz is special and elegant, but not overly rich or decadent. I love this about the holiday actually! It's so seasonally appropriate that foods celebrating springtime wouldn't be meant to leave you feeling overly bogged down or heavy. Instead they are full of freshness and life! 

Magical garnish!!!
This little bowl may not look like a beautiful picture, but this is a sublime concoction of finely sliced onions cooked into oblivion with dried mint and turmeric until the flavors meld and harmonize and become absolutely stunning. This is meant to be a garnish for the aash-e resteh, and I always make a double batch so that my friend Jasmine and I don't have to fight over it! Ha ha. 

My dinner plate of celebratory joy!
Here's my plate full of Persian food - colorful, beautiful, varied, delicious, healthy, elegant, and amazing. 

Party drinks!

I made two simple party drinks: a pomegranate limeade and a mint limeade. For the pomegranate limeade I just combined fresh pomegranate juice from the farmers market with fizzy water and a good dose of fresh lime juice from our lime tree. For the mint limeade, I made a batch of simple syrup, which I poured over a big heap of fresh mint while it was still hot and left it to steep for a few hours. Later I took out that weary mint and added the minty syrup with fresh lime juice, fizzy water, and several sprigs of fresh mint. Easy and delicious! It's nice to have a fresh, light drink with the rich and nuanced flavors of NoRooz. 


"What about desert?", you may be wondering. Oh yes, there was desert!! This year I was very proud of myself for only slightly overdoing it with three different sweeties, rather than completely overdoing it with 4-5 sweeties!! Ha ha. That's what I usually do. 

The first thing I made was a big batch of tut - Persian marzipan sweets made with almonds, powdered sugar, and rosewater. They are so beautiful and elegant. They're meant to resemble little mulberries, so after they've been formed into oblong shapes, they're rolled in sugar and then you put a little pistachio slice in the fat end so that it looks like the stem on a mulberry. If you have a food processor, this is an extremely easy and quick recipe, with very lovely and elegant results. If you don't have a food processor, I'm not sure what to tell you! Borrow one from your neighbor? 


Look at these beautiful cookies!! Persian culture values beauty and elegance - you can see it in their poetry, architecture, music, miniatures, and of course also in the food. Several years ago I bought this beautiful wooden Kolompeh press from - Fariba's website has a TON of amazing recipes and she also has a great bazaar with her baked goods (several of which are vegan), as well as beautiful objects that she brings back from her visits to Iran. I've bought several things from her over the years and I love them all.

I was so excited to use my kolompeh press at last, and to make these gorgeous and sophisticated cookies! These cookies don't actually have any sugar in them - the dough is savory kinda like pie crust, and the filling is made with dates and walnuts and a Persian spice mix. They're very light and lovely! I sprinkled the tops of some with ground up pistachios and left others plain so the design would be more visible. I was so happy with how they turned out and will definitely make them again!!

Dessert platter full of pretty sweets!

Here you can see my tuts, my finished kolompeh cookies and some sohan as-ali. Sohan were the first Persian dish I ever learned to cook and I love them so much. Usually there's a bit of drama with candy making, but this year I was patient and relaxed and they came out perfectly! Was this just a fluke of good fortune, or am I getting the hang of it?? Next year will be a true test! Sohan are a toffee of sorts, made with almonds, saffron, rosewater, and topped with pistachio bits. Oh man. They are just amazing. 


Are there any holidays that you celebrate that most people don't celebrate? NoRooz has become one of my favorite times of year and I feel so much energy and anticipation and joy during this whole time. It's funny to be at the market shopping fory 100,00 bundles of herbs and having other people ask "what are you going to do with that??" One year I went to the Persian market about any hour away, right before NoRooz, and the whole store was bustling with excitement and happiness. It was so wonderful to be part of the collective vibe of the holiday. 

Either way, springtime and rebirth and renewal and the return of light are all beautiful things to embrace and recognize with ceremony and joy. Happy spring to you!!


  1. I love this post every year. I am always in awe of how much you make! Truly a labour of love!

  2. This is the greatest post! I want to make everything! Also if I ever come I'ma need one of those breads all to myself :)

  3. Second favorite post of the year, first being the rainbow potluck. So much inspiration. I am trying to find my own traditions to ring in Spring. These dishes look so tasty.

  4. I love reading your NoRooz post every year! Your excitement and deep appreciation are so contagious and inspiring!

  5. Yay!! I look forward to this post every year. Your joy is palpable and contagious.

  6. Danielle4:40 PM

    All of this looks delicious, but I'm especially intrigued by the kolompeh! I'll have to try making them myself!

  7. After years of eagerly devouring your No Rooz posts every year, I finally found Silk Road in a local used bookstore and I am now certain I need to make the Amoli Rice ASAP. Sounds like another wonderful holiday!! Thanks for sharing!


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