Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy New Year!!

Happy NoRooz! Happy New Year!
Yesterday was the Persian New Year, No Rooz, and as always, I hosted my annual No Rooz Party! Unlike my pal Bazu, I'm not even Iranian... but I have a true affection for No Rooz. It started for me after college when I had a job restoring antique Persian carpets, and had an Iranian boyfriend for 3 years. I loved learning about No Rooz from him and my Iranian co-workers... and even after Ali and I split up, I couldn't let go of lovely No Rooz! Here you see a picture of my beautiful sabzi, that I grew from some lentils in my cupboard. Aren't they sweet? Bazu's picture is better though!

Oh No Rooz, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways? I love celebrating the new year along with the natural world around me. I love cleaning the whole house, at the same time that all the trees have fresh green leaves. I love setting up my Haft Sin table with (fake) eggs, sprouts, hyacinth, sumac, apples, garlic, rosewater, vinegar, and other goodies. I love having a big springtime party with my family and friends. I love wearing new clothes at the precise moment of the Spring Equinox. AND I love having an excuse to cook up some delicious Iranian food!!

Last night we had about 15 people over to ring in the New Year with some fun and feasting. I made this lovely "Shirazi Salad" - tomatoes, cucumber, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper, and fresh mint. It should have raw onion too, but I forgot. No one seemed to mind! I think that the olive oil should be rather liberal, but I have quite a few loved ones who aren't into oil, so I left it off.

I also made a nice version of vegan Kuku Sabzi. Kuku sabzi is a baked omelet packed with fresh herbs. Obviously, I'm not going to cook up an actual omelet. Last year I made it as a tofu scramble, which was great... but I wanted to try something different. This year I decided to work with my "torta di ceci" recipe, which has that eggy flavor that chickpea flour can have. I added in the fresh herbs and cooked it up. It turned out pretty well, but I think that the flavor of the ingredients was sort of overpowered by the chickpea. Which isn't to say that it wasn't delicious, just not precisely what I was looking for. Two and a half 10-inch pans of this stuff had disappeared by the end of the evening, so it was certainly popular! I think next time I'll just add even more herbs and flavorings. Here's the recipe I came up with:

Vegan Kuku Sabzi, version 2.0
1 1/2 c sifted chickpea flour, gently packed
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 c water
1 Tbsp barberry/red currant (zershk) (optional if you don't have these)
1/3 c finely chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 c finely chopped chives or green parts of scallions
2 c finely chopped parsley
1/2 c finely chopped cilantro
1/4 c chopped fresh dill

(*note: finely chopped, in the case of the herbs, means nearly obliterated, chopped and chopped and chopped some more)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, and salt. Then whisk in the water and olive oil. A few lumps are okay. Let sit for 2 hours (or all the way up to over night). Some time before you are ready to put it in the oven, let your barberries soak in warm water for 15 minutes. Then pick out any twigs and drain off the water. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400. Lightly oil a 10-inch tart pan or rimmed pizza pan. The batter will be liquidly, so a tart pan with a removable bottom will not work. Add the barberries, walnuts, pepper, and fresh herbs to the batter. Stir well. Pour into the oiled pan. Cook for 40-50 minutes until the edges are golden and crisped and the surface is lightly cracked. Enjoy!

I also made a huge batch of another traditional No Rooz item, Ash-e Resteh soup. It's a lovely noodle soup. According to the cookbook that my friend Laurie lent me, the Iranians eat noodles at the new year to symbolize the many different paths that life can take. How sweet! I've heard of this soup, but I hadn't ever had it before (or made it, obviously). I had two recipes, which had some similarities & some significant differences - both in ingredients and instructions. I read them over and took a few ideas from each recipe... and came up with a giant pot of soup that was a tremendous success. I made a 1 1/2 batch, and I should have made a double batch (or more) - this soup is CRAZY GOOD. It takes a long time, but it isn't much work. If you're just around the house, it's a great soup. You should really make it. Soon. Persian New Year goes on for 13 days, so technically, you've got until Monday the 31st to make it and still be celebrating NoRooz.

here's the recipe I came up with:

Aash-e Reshteh
1-2 T olive oil
2 large onions, halved & cut in thin half moons
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 c dry kidney beans
1/4 c dry navy beans
1/4 c dry chickpeas
10 c water
1 c lentils
4 c veg broth
1 c coarsely chopped chives or scallions (green parts)
1/3 c chopped fresh dill
2 c coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 c coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
4-5 c fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1 fresh beet, peeled & cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
6 oz. linguine, broken in half

1 large onion, halved & cut in thin half moons
2-3 Tbsp dried mint
1 Tbsp olive oil

Soak kidney beans, navy beans and chickpeas over night. Drain the beans and get rid of the bean water.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion & garlic, and saute until golden colored, stirring from time to time. Stir in the turmeric and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the soaked beans, 10 cups of water, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add the lentils and 4-5 cups veggie broth, and return to a boil, lower to a simmer. Simmer for 45 min - 1 hour. Stir from time to time to prevent anything sticking to the bottom. Add the parsley, scallions/chives, cilantro, dill, spinach, salt, lemon juice, and beet. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your garnish. Heat the 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute until golden. Add 1 tsp turmeric and 3-4 Tbsp dried mint. Continue cooking until well browned. (if you don't mind more oil &/or time, cook them until they are crispy).

With the soup at a lively simmer/low boil, add the vinegar & noodles, and cook for another 10 minutes until the noodles are tender. Adjust salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste. Serve with garnish and eat hot!

Serves about 8-10 people.
Combination of recipes from "Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook" and "New Food of Life"

I also made up a big pitcher of some nice Pomegranate Soda, but didn't get a picture. I used fresh pomegranate juice from the farmers' market, lime juice, sugar syrup (sugar melted in water), sparkling water, and fresh mint. So good!

"What about sweets??", you ask...
Well, there were plenty of sweets! In fact, as with so many celebrations, sweets are an important part of No Rooz. Here's what we had:

These are called "Tut" in Farsi, but I just call them "tasty!" Laurie brought these from the Persian grocer over in San Jose. They are basically marzipan with a heavy shot of rosewater, shaped like little mulberries. Mmmm.

I made a big batch of these Chickpea Cookies. They didn't turn out as well as last year's batch... not sure why. It's a tricky recipe. The ingredients are just chickpea flour, sugar, and oil. Better luck next time! Don't you love my little mousy platter? So cute!

I bought two different varieties of dates from the farmers' market... mmm! I especially like those dark little smoother ones. They are called "Bahri Dates" and they are smooshy and super super sweet.

And then, two No Rooz specialties! I made this fabulously fun sorbet, another recipe I've heard and read about but had never made before. It's a sorbet flavored only with sugar and rosewater, but it has rice noodles in it!! How crazy and fun is that? I think you can see one little rice noodle poking up by my spoon. We had a bit of trouble getting my little ice cream maker to freeze the stuff, since it was so liquidy to start with... plus we were just impatient and decided to eat it at "slurpee" texture. As according to the recipe in the "Food of Life" Persian cookbook that Laurie lent me, I served it with sour cherries, sour cherry syrup, and pistachios. Okay, okay, the cherries were from a can. So sue me! Isn't it beautiful?

And of course, it just wouldn't be No Rooz without a big yummy batch of Sohan Asali. Oh man, I love these little candies. Almond brittle made with rosewater and saffron and sprinkled with pistachios. So unbelievably good.

Hope you had a great first full day of Spring. What a lovely time of year!


  1. oh my goodness! this all looks inCREDible! I'm almost wishing I didn't have fresh groceries to eat, because otherwise I would be making that soup right now. I love the reason they have for eating the noodles, too. :)

  2. Anonymous7:31 AM

    Happy Persian New Year!!

    Those chickpea cookies look delicious. =)

  3. Anonymous4:20 PM

    wow, how delightful! i don't think i've had Kuku Sabz before. that looks very intriguing!

  4. Norooz mobarak, Amey! As usual, your delicious celebration puts me to shame! I love that you had success with kookoo sabzi- my attempt last year didn't set up nearly as beautifully.

    Yes, absolutely, it would be awesome to celebrate together one year!

  5. Hi, Amey! I remember your Norooz celebration from last year and this one looks just as wonderful!

  6. beautiful! i had never heard of norooz before you and bazu, so i love learning about it and seeing all this deliciousness!

  7. What an amazing spread! I'm really taken with the Sohan Asali... looks like just the thing to get stuck in my teeth, like all my favorite candies.

    I'm glad you stumbled across my blog because somehow I hadn't seen yours yet! Love the photos, recipes, and postivie energy. I added you to my blogroll. :)

  8. Happy No Rooz! I'll take some Aash-e Reshteh, Tut, & Sohan Asali, please!

  9. Happy Happy No Rooz! What a lovely feast- everything looks divine.

  10. I woke up to a news cast on NPR about No Rooz and all of the desserts that are traditionally served. I was so sad that I didn't have it together to do something for the holiday. Thanks for letting me live through your magnificent spread!

  11. Anonymous7:34 AM

    great to see that there are some more persian vegans:)

    i just tried a other version of a vegan kuku sabsi with some soy cuisin from alpro (do you know that?) and some soy flour. it was fantastic!!!: )

    would be nice to hear from you.


  12. Gabrielle7:00 AM

    Oh gosh, Amey, you are the best! What a beautiful spread, and I have really learned a lot about Norooz from your posts and my subsequent googling. That video is amazing and makes me miss you and your kitchen so much. <3!!! Happy New Year!

  13. That sorbet sounds crazy! (and good!) Have you ever tried "Falooda" ? It's like a strawberry milkshake, but with basil seeds, nuts, and noodles in it! It's insane (and soo tasty!)


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