Yesterday marked the first day of spring, which Persians celebrate as Norouz. So I donned my forgiving drawstring pants, fork in hand, ready for the all-I-can eat Persian delicacies prepared by my mother. It takes days to prepare the ingredients and many hours to let all the flavours come together and meld and although I love to cook, I was very glad to just be enjoying the meal, rather than toil over its details. Apparently, it took my mother several hours to clean and hand-chop the fresh herbs for a dish called kuku sabzi, a frittata often made with egg, cilantro, parsley, green onion, dill, and spices (if you want a short cut, you can buy the herbs pre-chopped, but more traditional Persians frown upon this practice).
The same herbs also went into the sabzi polow (hence the marathon herb-chopping becoming a necessity), which is the traditional rice dish for Norouz eaten with smoked fish or cooked white fish (we added a West-Coast flair and chose sockeye salmon instead). The best part of this dish is the rice crust, or tah-dig (bottom of the pot), which is rich, buttery, and loaded with the flavours of turmeric and saffron.
So far, our menu could be considered ‘pesco-vegetarian, gluten-free’, but my mother took her inspiration further and made a vegan, gluten-free dish containing mushrooms, kale, smoked tofu, and leeks. This Norouz marked the debut of this new and innovative dish to our celebratory meal, but it was the only dish that was completely devoured by our devoted team of food lovers, so I will be sure to make it an annual tradition from now on. I hope to come up with a name for it someday that does justice to its amazing taste. Noosheh Jaan and Happy Norouz!