by Jinous Jahromi
Wedding and Event SpecialistEvery March, my family celebrates Persian New Year (Nowruz) which marks the beginning of spring and the start of the Iranian calendar. During these thirteen days we go all out! Of the many festivities and family traditions, my favorites are always the food, especially Persian Fish with Herb Rice.
The Haft-sinWe start by prepping our Haft-sin, which is a table full of seven different traditional items. Each item begins with the same Persian letter (which is pronounced “seen”) and symbolizes a different hope for the new year. Lentil sprouts, representing rebirth and renewal, were always one of my favorite items of Haft-sin because we grew our own, and I would beg my grandparents to let me be in charge of watering the tiny sprouts. The second item, samanoo, is a sweet pudding that symbolizes wealth and fertility. I didn’t care much for the taste, but Grandpa loves it, so Grandma always made extra for him. Sumac (which tastes amazing on rice and kabobs) is a red berry spice that symbolizes the color of sunrise. Apples represent beauty and nutrition. Garlic stands for health and medicine. Vinegar signifies age, wisdom and patience. We also had dried fruits on the table, but I’m not sure what they stood for. I just remember trying to convince my grandma to get dried apricots so that I could eat some too. In addition to all these Haft-sin items, we would add goldfish, which I loved because, I mean, who doesn’t love goldfish, right? My brother and I would always argue on who got to feed the fish. Goldfish represent new life/new beginnings. We would also add some coins and flowers, traditionally hyacinths if we could find any, for the beauty and fragrance. On the last Tuesday before Nowruz, all our families and friends would get together and build small bonfires. Then we would jump over the flames as a symbol of wiping the slate clean of the past year and starting fresh. Believe me, the first time I did this I was excited, but scared to catch on fire. But, like I said, the best part of Nowruz is the food. If I could, I would eat Persian food all day and every day. On the night of the New Year, we eat sabzi polo (herbed rice) with mahi (fish). To this day, my grandma makes the best Persian fish with herb rice. I loved going shopping at the Persian market with my grandparents, then going to Costco to get the Atlantic salmon. We had to make sure to get plenty to feed our whole family and enough for seconds and leftovers. I still have the oil-marked, torn paper I took notes on as I carefully watched Grandma prepare the sabzi polo. I am still trying to get the technique down perfectly. It’s tricky, but I’m almost there.
Persian Fish with Herb Rice
(Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi)
Sabzi Polo (Herbed Rice)INGREDIENTS
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
- ½ cup packed sliced fresh garlic chives (At an Asian market, these might be called nira or Chinese leeks.)
- ½ cup packed chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ cup packed chopped parsley
- a dash of ground saffron powder (optional) for the top
- In a 3-quart saucepan (or rice cooker), boil 4 cups of water. Add 2 cups of rice. Allow water to reach a simmer. Cover and reduce to medium low heat. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the water is gone and little holes appear in the surface of the rice.
- Drain in colander and rinse with cold water.
- Add the prepared herbs and gently toss together to combine. Pour mixed rice back in the same pot and put it back over medium low heat.
- Cover the pot with a kitchen towel. (Be careful not to let the towel touch the heat and catch fire!) Let the wet rice cook in its own steam for 45 minutes to one hour, or until the steam rises and the tahdig (the skin on the bottom of the rice) is golden and crisp.
- 2-3 pounds of salmon
- kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp saffron powder
- juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup of water
- lemon pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Pat dry salmon, with or without skin, and sprinkle kosher salt on the front and back side.
- Place on greased sheet pan. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
- In small bowl, mix together lemon juice, water, and saffron powder. Pour saffron mixture on salmon and sprinkle lemon pepper.
- Return salmon to oven and cook for 15 more minutes or until salmon reaches 130° F. (It should be easy to pull the fish apart with a fork.)