Wednesday, March 15, 2017

An Herbal Feast For The New Year

The Persian New Year ,Nowruz, starts with the coming of Spring and all things green.It's no wonder that the new year's feast is full of verdant  herbs. These are not only celebrating the rebirth of all things vital but Iranian cuisine itself.

Samin Nosrat,a famed food writer and teacher herself, wrote about her holiday and the foods. that are a big part of it .The holiday lasts thirteen days and begins on Monday with the coming of Spring. Families gather around a haft sin, a table spread with seven items.These are sprouts which symbolize rebirth, along with apples that represent beauty and purity.Music is played and rosewater dabbled into guests'palms.It's eleven days of herb filled savory dishes and tea treats.On the final day, Persians take to the outdoors with a celebratory picnic.Most of the meals eaten are usually at home. The cuisine is labor intensive with a good deal of time spent chopping herbs.The focus is on easy to make kebabs and rice, Herbs play such a significant part in the cooking that they measured by the kilogram instead of the bunch in Iran. They can be served fresh but also withered, stewed and even fried in the cuisine.

The herbs figure heavily in the recipes, Ms. Nosrat gives.There is a herb and radish salad with feta and walnuts.It's rich with chives and cilantro, along with dill, mint and tarragon. They're mixed into a vinaigrette , then poured on top of radish and cut Persian cucumbers that have been tossed with crumbled feta cheese.Another festive dish is herbed rice with tahdig.Again there is a large quantity of dill and cilantro, about a cup each into basmati rice that has been cooked with leeks - another flavorful turned into a crisp cake that's been pan fried. The bottom layer is the basmati mixed with Greek yogurt and the rest of the rice is piled upon it.Fish is also laden with herbs. Branzino or rainbow trout is stuffed with the finely chopped  leaves and stems of both cilantro and dill. A cup of chopped chives  gives it some punch as do scallions and garlic. Tarragon rounds out the flavor with its' mild earthy sweet taste.The filling becomes a kind of pesto when walnuts and oil are added to the blend.

Persian cooking celebrates the verdancy of a returning Spring. It' is a time of enjoying the freshness of herbs in all savory dishes. These bring to mind the renewal of the season.

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