Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NoRooz Mobarak! Vegan Iranian Feast!

Happy New Year Everyone!!
We had a super fun, super great NoRooz party last night! It was so wonderful. Most of my family came, along with many friends -including a few who are Iranian or have Iranian ties. Around 12:30 last night, I sat down to make a huge NoRooz blog post - and found that all the pictures we took yesterday had vanished from our memory card! Apparently we had some sort of memory card failure (very poorly timed, I must say!), and all the MANY food pics we took yesterday vanished into the ether. So, you'll have to make do with one or two recreated "leftovers" pics and lots of writing. It's a bummer too, because there was SO much food, and it was all beautiful. You'll just have to imagine last night's loving presentation!

I made loads of Iranian dishes:
khorest fesenjan
ghormeh sabzi (I actually just defrosted my BIG pot of leftovers from a few weeks ago)
kookoo sabzi
Shirazi salad
polow (rice) (we used Bazu's recipe, minus the potatoes)
sohan as ali
chickpea cookies

We also served:
assorted vegan baklava
turkish delight (yummy!)
assorted Middle Eastern breads

I mostly used this amazing site as my reference for Iranian recipes, but I'll share with you here my veganized versions.

First, HUGE PROPS to my mom who was a huge help yesterday getting ready. She did lots of cooking and sous-cheffing and actually did all the final party stuff, since I had to teach and was therefore 35 minutes late to my own party. Right on Mom! I love you!!

First we made "Khoresht Fesenjan." That's the dark, purplish dish in the back of my plate (today's lunch!). The day before yesterday I made a triple batch of the Faux Chicken from La Dolce Vegan (it's just seitan, I'm not sure why she doesn't just call it that!). The Khoresht Fesenjan was very, very good and actually quite easy to make. It's got a great texture, a very delicate flavor - with the sweetness from the pomegrantate juice coming through. It was winning over meat eaters left and right! Here's what my mom & I did:

Vegan Khoresht Fesenjan
3 batches LDV Faux Chicken (or about 4-5 c seitan), coarsely chopped into big bite-sized chunks
3 onions, cut in half and finely sliced
2 T cooking oil (or more if you feel decadent)
1 c water
1/2 c of the seitan cooking broth + 1/2 c veggie broth (or 1 c veggie broth)
1 3/4 c unsweetened pomegranate juice
2 T sugar
3/4 lb walnuts, pulsed in food processor (somewhere between a rough meal & coarsely chopped)
(it is fine to skimp a bit on the walnuts if you want it to be less fatty)
chopped parseley (for garnish)

to prepare:
First, cook your onions over medium high heat for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Cook the onions until they start to become golden. Add the seitan and stir a few times. Then, add in the water, seitan broth, and veggie broth. Bring to a boil and leave at a low boil (more than a simmer) for about 10 minutes. Add in the remaining ingredients and let it low boil/high simmer until the sauce has largely cooked down and you have a very thick, stewy sauce. You can draw this out for quite a while with no detriment, but it could be done in as much as 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on it, and stir it from time to time to keep it from burning or sticking. Garnish with chopped parseley.
Serves 4-6 as a main dish, many more as part of a big party buffet

Next up, Kookoo Sabzi, a traditional NoRooz dish. This is the multi-colored tofu scramble in the foreground of my plate above. "Kookoo" means eggs - but I just turned it from an elegant omelette into an elegant (and cruelty-free) tofu scramble! I'll cut what I did in half, because mine was majorly party-sized!

Vegan Kookoo Sabzi
10 oz firm tofu, crumbled up
1-2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp flour
1 T dried barberries (zereshk) (**Thanks Bazu! They are such a GREAT addition!**)
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 c finely chopped fresh chives/scallion stems
2 c finely chopped fresh parsely
1/2 c fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 T dried fenugreek
1/4-1/2 c veggie broth or water for steam frying

First of all, let me emphasize that finely chopped means "chopped nearly into oblivion" - at least that's how I learned to do it from my Iranian friend.

To Prepare:
Soak the barberries in some warm water for 15-20 minutes. (this is good to do while you are chopping and chopping all your fresh herbs)
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the crumbled tofu, turmeric, flour, salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes, stirring often, until all the turmeric is well distributed and the tofu has been warmed through. Add in all the ingredients except the broth, and give the mix a few good stirs to integrate everything. Add in a tablespoon or two of the broth at a time, to impart moisture and to help prevent the scramble from sticking. Continue stirring and adding broth for 5-7 minutes or so, until the scramble looks ready to eat!

(Optional variation, which I used: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. When scramble is finished, but it into a casserole or pyrex baking dish, and cook for 15-20 minutes - until the top is golden.)

We also made this Shirazi Salad, which was so wonderful and delicious. We used cherry tomatoes, cut in half, and fresh mint from the garden. Ooooh , it was great!

One of my favorite things to make every year for NoRooz are these delicious treats: Sohan As-Ali. So elegant, quick (in fact - quite a fast paced thing to make), and very tasty. This recipe is from an old greeting card that one of my cousins sent me.

Sohan Asali

1 c sugar
2 T agave nectar + 1 T brown rice syrup

4 T corn oil (or other light oil)
1 1/2 c unsalted, slivered, blanched almonds
1/2 tsp ground saffron (or about 3/4 tsp saffron threads)
2 T rose water
4 T unsalted, chopped pistachios
parchment paper
1 glass of ice water

to prepare:

First, get everything ready, chopped, etc. This goes fast once you get going. Get your parchment paper laid out onto a bit cookie sheet or cutting board near your stovetop. Soak the saffron in the rose water and set aside until needed. Put your chopped pistachios nearby.

In a heavy pan, over high heat, melt the sugar, oil, agave & brown rice syrup for about 3-5 minutes - stirring often.

Add in the slivered almonds and keep stirring for another 2 minutes or so. The mix should be firm and golden (a dark golden color is fine if you use unrefined sugar like I do). Position your ice water next to you at this point.

Add in the saffron-rosewater mixture and cook another 2-4 min. Be careful not to burn it - the color should not be dark dark brown. (I find that I use the shorter end of most of these time estimates). Drop a little bit of the mix into the water - if it hardens immediately then it is ready. If not, keep cooking and stirring. Once it's ready, reduce the heat to very low.

Drop teaspoon-full blobs of the stuff onto your parchement paper, and sprinkle on some chopped pistachios (this is a fun thing for a helper to help with). Leave a little bit of space between them, as they may spread out a tiny bit (maybe 1 inch of space). Allow the treats to cool - and then enjoy them!

Makes a lot.

I also made another Persian sweetie, which I had never made before: Chickpea Cookies! This Turkish Delight is actually storebought - but my Chickpea Cookies were one of the many memory card casualties. So this picture will have to do. Anyhow, these were *really* good turkish delight candies! I pretty much just followed the recipe as it's listed there - but here are a few tips/comments:

- use equal parts sugar & chickpea flour (like 1/2 c each)
- add in a little bit of oil at a time, until the whole mix is moistened, but not excessively oily looking.
- let it sit 4 hours or so (or even overnight)
- making the little balls isn't super easy, as it's crumbly dough, but just persist. Keep pressing and padding the dough until you get nice little smooth balls. Not bigger than 1 inch round. Set on a cookie sheet (ungreased) about 1 inch apart.
- bake about 18 minutes until lightly golden (color really doesn't change much).
- these cookies were SO CUTE and were also very tasty ... they were completely devoured, which is why I don't have a "leftovers" picture to share with you all!

For the breads we had pita bread, some whole wheat Sangak that my Iranian friend brought me for NoRooz, and also some Trader Joe's Middle Eastern Flat bread. Mmmm.

It was a really wonderful holiday - filled with love and friends and celebration and even a new outfit for me! (It's tradition to put on new clothes at the moment of the holiday - the exact moment of the vernal equinox...). Happy New Year to all of you!


  1. Yay, sale no mobarak (happy new year) Amey! As usual, you've out-done yourself with cooking... I only cooked one or two things and am being really lazy about blogging! I'm glad you enjoyed your feast - I haven't had sangak bread in so long- amazing that you found some. Oh, and I'm glad you found a use for barberries- aren't they crazy little things?!

  2. Your party must have been amazing! Too bad about your camera, but at least we got a few good pictures of all that yummy food. Thanks for the link to that site!

  3. Sounds like you had a wonderful time and a wonderful spread. I am so sorry your memory card pooped out.

  4. Wow, these last two posts have been filled with unique, fun food! I'm very impressed by your Iranian feast--how very inspiring! Maybe one year in the near future I will be able to do the same for NoRooz... Thanks for everything you shared.

  5. Happy Norooz...(as you know from Bazu, I'm an honorary Iranian)> Thanks for all the winderful recipes. And your photo of Turkish Delight made me crave some.

    Where have I been in the Middle East? I worked on a travel book on Syria, so I spent a lot of time there. Also Jordan, Israel and Turkey (which is only quasi-ME). I would love to go to Iran someday...hopfully I'll be able to in my lifetime.

  6. Oh lordy! That all looks so incredible. Happy New Year!

  7. Happy New Year! What an lovely feast- looks like you had a great time with your family.

    And I drool over turkish delight...

  8. Wow -- these all look delicious! I had no idea there were so many vegan-friendly Persian dishes.

    I don't know if mahammar is Persian or not (Turkish, maybe?), but it's a combo of walnuts, pomegranate and roasted red peppers similar to fesenjan. Sort of like a hummus or a motappa from what I understand. Very yummy, but I love all things pom.

  9. Hi from a Turkish vegan blogger,
    Just came across your nice blog. You have lots of tasty recipes and a nice place to practise yoga. Keep up the good work!

  10. Hi,
    just ran across your post on vegan iranian cooking...
    sounds amazing.

    just wanted to let you know i made koresht fesenjan using mushrooms and eggplant and it was a great substitute for the chicken.

  11. Anonymous11:30 AM

    looks really good. just wanted to add i make my fesenjoon with butter-nut squash and it really works, even though my grandma thinks its sacrilegious... :)

  12. Awesome! Thanks so much for this. It's rare to find Iranian dishes veganized :D

  13. Thank you SO much for the vegan koo koo sabzy recipe. Or rather for all these recipes! I want to celebrate Nouruz. We had a presentation about it today in my Persian language class!

  14. Thank you for Vegan KooKoo! I would add flax and cut tofu in half. Ground Flax needs to be heated with water to give the right texture for KooKoo!


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