Here's what I served last night for Novroz (observed). For the record, I feel really guilty that I didn't get my act together to grow sabzeh (sprouted wheat) or make samanu (pudding made from sprouted wheat), nor did I manage to assemble the haft-sin table. But I did get all the traditional good-luck foods, and I remembered to light candles! My restrictions for this meal were: no dairy, no nightshades, no sunflower, no almonds, no honey, no gluten, and any other nuts had to be easy to pick out and eat around. I planned for twelve people, and ended up having fourteen. There was enough food for everyone with a tiny amount of leftovers, but it was a near thing, and I should have made twice as much salad and half again as much kuku.
The pre-dinner snack spread included seven varieties of dried fruits and nuts, in addition to Mike's usual cheese, salami, and crackers plate. This is important because seven is a lucky number and also the fruits and nuts symbolize abundance for the new year.
Also Mike bought some pies from Petsi's for Pi(e) Day. I think he got a key lime pie and an apple pie? By dessert time I was far more interested in the bottle of Laphroaig than more food. Mazy's Jewelled Rice
My family usually serves biryani
on Novroz, but any sufficiently complicated rice dish will fulfill the spirit of the holiday. The one we used came out of Ana Sortun's book, Spice
, and I've made it once before. We left out the nuts for allergy reasons, and subbed in a few drops of rose water for rose petals, since we couldn't find food-grade roses. And by "we" I really mean ratatosk
, who did the cooking, and Mike, who did the shopping.
1/2 cup sultana
1/4 cup barberries
4 small carrots
zest of one orange
1/2 cup sugar
2c basmati rice
1/4 tsp saffron
1 sweet onion, finely diced
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
dash of rosewater
1/4c olive oil
Wash rice thoroughly and soak for one hour.
While rice is soaking do a zillion other steps:
Peel carrots, then use vegetable peeler to continue peeling strips off the carrots until you have a core too narrow to hold onto anymore and a mountain of carrot ribbons. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the sugar, and bring back to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the orange zest and the mountain of carrot ribbons, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the carrots are tender. Drain and set aside the carrots. If desired, save the cooking water to make candy out of later.
Pour hot water over the sultanas and barberries and leave to soak.
Saute the onions in butter or oil (we used oil because of a dairy allergy in the dinner party) until soft and golden. Add the spices and fry for thirty seconds longer then remove from heat. Sprinkle with rosewater, stir, and set aside.
Breathe a sigh of relief that you have decided to skip the nineteen steps involving blanching, peeling, and roasting various nuts.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt to taste, add rice. Boil rice for eight-ish minutes or until kinda sorta done. Drain rice. Curse the fact that you do not have a large enough strainer to properly cool the rice. Hope for the best while fighting off the sinking realization that your pilau is going to be mushy.
Drain the sultanas and barberries. Mix everything together in a roasting pan, or in a clay pot you liberated from your mother-in-law's kitchen. Add the olive oil and stir.
Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or so, until crispy on top. Kuku
My parents conflate the southern US tradition of greens on (Gregorian) New Years with the Persian tradition of fresh spring herbs on Novroz, and then replace greens of any stripe with cabbage because Dad refuses to eat collard greens and Mom really hates cilantro. And cabbage is kind of green. Sort of. ANYWAY, according to the internet and also my Iranian ex-boyfriend, a frittata of eggs and fresh herbs is traditional, so that's what I made.
2 medium-ish leeks
1 bunch dill
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 small handful barberries
salt and black pepper to taste
oil or butter
Thoroughly wash the leeks. Finely chop the leeks and herbs. Beat the eggs, then add the salt, pepper, barberries, and greens. Oil a pie plate or oven safe frying pan, pour in the egg mixture, and tightly cover. Bake at whatever temperature the oven happens to be on for everything else you're cooking for 15-30 minutes, or just until the top of the omelet is set.
I thought this tasted overwhelmingly of dill, to the point where I couldn't discern any other flavors. Other guests insisted that the cilantro dominated the flavor, while others said the barberries were the dominant flavor. I don't know. Tune the ratios of ingredients to taste, I guess, is the takeaway. Citrus Fennel Salad
1 fennel bulb with tops
small handful mint
olive oil, flavored or infused if you like
Dice the fennel, bulb, stem, fronds, and all, into bite size pieces.
Peel and chop the citrus. The easiest way to accomplish this is to slice off the top and bottom to make flat surfaces to rest the fruit on. Holding the fruit steady on the counter, use a paring knife to cut away the rind and the bitter white pith from the upper hemisphere. Flip the fruit over and repeat. Cut the peeled fruit into round slices, cutting across the wedges. You should now have three to five disks made of triangular wedges. Pull the sections apart with your hands.
Wash and finely chop the mint.
Mix everything together. If desired, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt or other spices. To really be fancy, save any juice from when you chopped up the fruit and make a vinaigrette with it. (I didn't bother with this, and just drizzled with persian lime infused olive oil.)
Make sure to take a serving of this salad early in the evening, because left unchecked, Ratatosk can and will devour the entire bowl. Stuffed Fish
Fish is the traditional centerpiece of the Novroz meal, something about symbolizing fertility and long life. (Some people also buy a live goldfish to put on the decorative haft-sin table for the same symbolic reasons, but I find it barbaric to buy an animal and then keep it in unliveable conditions--everyone I know who does this uses a goldfish bowl with no filtration or oxygenation or anything--for a few weeks until it dies a miserable early death.) The recipe I used last night is modified from North African Cooking
, which has a terribly unfortunate subtitle and, according to my in-laws, is not at all authentic, but all the recipes I've made from it have tasted good, even if they are rather tuned for a western palate. (Claudia Roden's book
is more authentic, but the recipes are all more complicated and not feasible for the timeline and number of helpers I was working with.) The recipe called for shad, which the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch says you should never eat, so we used hake, which was the best compromise between MBSW's guidelines and the fishmonger's recommendations of what was freshest yesterday morning. Our hake was longer than my baking sheet, and weighed six pounds.
2.5 Tbsp ground rice
3/4 cup water
1 cup pistachios
fresh grated ginger to taste
1/2 small onion, grated
cinnamon to taste
salt to taste
1 fish, large enough to serve your party, gutted, scaled, and with head, tail, and fins removed
2 lbs dates
Bring the water to a boil, add the ground rice (you don't need to buy rice meal; rice + a coffee or spice grinder will work just fine) and boil for thirty seconds. Remove from heat.
Finely chop the pistachios. Grate the ginger and onions.
Add the pistachios, sugar, salt to taste, cinnamon to taste, a small spoonful of grated onion, and a large spoonful of grated ginger to the rice porridge. Stir thoroughly.
Remove seeds from dates, and fill dates with the pistachio/ricemeal mixture.
Butterfly the fish, and rub the inside and outside with spices and the rest of the grated onion and ginger. Fill the inside of the fish with the stuffed dates, and then close it back up. If the dates won't all fit, just pile them on top of the fish. Throw in a handful of unstuffed dates so anyone who can't eat pistachio can still have fishy cooked dates. Wrap the fish and fruit tightly in aluminum foil and bake at 350F for 15 minutes per pound of fish, or until the flesh at the thickest part of the fish is opaque. Vegan Kheer
I was freaking out on twitter yesterday morning, because I had planned to make sooji ka halwa
, which would have been easy to make dairy free (just replace the ghee with vegan margarine), but I found out the morning of that one of Mike's friends is sensitive to gluten. sinboy
recommended vegan kheer, and I am incredibly grateful, because that would never in a million years have occured to me. The recipe called for almond milk, but one of the guests was allergic to almonds. I almost made two versions: one with almond milk for the dairy-free people, and one with cow's milk for the nut-free people, but decided against that on the grounds that I really really did not want potential landmines or cross-contamination hazards on the table. I almost subbed in rice milk, but it turns out rice milk has, like, a zillion ingredients, one of which is sunflower oil, which another guest couldn't have. I ended up using coconut milk, and it turned out fine.
1 can coconut milk
1c basmati rice
2Tbsp ground cardamom
1 pinch saffron
1c sugar or to taste
Soak saffron in warm water for at least fifteen minutes.
Add everything to a pot, bring to a simmer over medium-high fire, then turn to low and let simmer for however long it takes to put together the rest of the meal. Stir occasionally and add water to prevent the pudding from drying out and sticking and burning to the bottom of the pot. Serve hot or cold. If it won't kill you, garnish with pistachios, slivered almonds, or cashews. comments were made at DreamWidth. You can comment there using OpenID.