Before there was Passover and Easter there was the Persian New Year or Nowruz. This holiday brought in the new Spring season along with a variety of different dishes.It shows Iranian cooking at it's best,, full of colors and flavors.
Melissa Clark wrote about this precursor of Spring holidays in her A Good Appetite in today's New York Times Food section.Nowruz is one of those non-religious holidays, similar to our Thanksgiving in the sense that all religions, Muslim, Jewish and Christian celebrate this ancient Zoroastrian holiday that has been celebrated continually for 3,000 years, millenniums before Islamic conquest .Preparations for it include many rites that are familiar to us. There are dyed eggs, complete housecleaning and copious amounts of herbs. Nowruz occurred on March 13th of this year however the holiday dishes can be enjoyed all season long. the holiday lasts for thirteen days with feasting and visiting.Los Angeles has the most Iranians however it surprisingly lacks Persian restaurant. Most holiday dinners occur at home with home cooking and ancient recipes. The dishes are fragrant , diverse and highly refined, based on complex culinary techniques.The cooking influenced Middle Eastern ,Moroccan, Northern Indian and Turkish cuisines with its' highly sensuous recipes. Persian cooking is known for its' fragrant and flavorful tastes.
A Persian kitchen is full of aromas. It is perfumed with flowers and herbs such as roses fenugreek and mint along with spices such as saffron, sumac and cardamon .The Iranians were using pomegranates long before they became trendy and barberry a type of cranberry like berry. Nowruz dishes contain these and are chock full of symbolism. There is sabzi polo mahi an herbed rice with fish that represents life and rebirth , fresh green herbs that means renewal and rebirth while the rice symbolizes prosperity.Kuku sabzi a, type of frittata stuffed with herbs to represent fertility. Herbs are in abundance in Persian cooking which represent the earth Ms. Clark gives the recipe for Persian rice which is basmati rice redolent with such herbs as parsley, cilantro mint along with basil, fenugreek chives and tarragon.Saffron is also added along with ghee for flavor and color. Sweets are also a big part of Nowruz. Toot, a rose water flavored almond paste represents a life full of love and sweetness is also made.It's a homemade version of marzipan made with ground almonds, confectioners sugar and rose water that's molded into hearts or cute figures like bunnies.
Nowrus is the well that all spring holidays come from. It also is a showcase of Persian cooking at its best, full of flavor and fragrance. The dishes can be made even now as the season continues on.