persian new year: 8 posts

Persian Olives in Walnut-Pomegranate Sauce

For the symphonic complexity of Persian cuisine, with all of its rice pilafs bathed in saffron and rosewater, meats flavored with dozens of herbs and desserts made out of nuts and flowers, it’s the simplest dishes that illustrate most fully the imaginative riches of this venerable culinary tradition. It can be said that Persian cuisine is the closest relative to perfumery. It’s based on accords and notes.

One of the most popular accords is walnut and pomegranate. It’s a perfect harmony of sweet and sour, delicately smoky and fruity. You can build plenty on this base, but one of my favorite recipes is a simple blend of green olives in a walnut-pomegranate sauce. The dish is called zeytun parvardeh, which means preserved olives, but with the word “parvardeh” having the secondary meaning of “nourished,” it also makes me think of olives that have been well taken care of before they ended up on my plate. You will be too after tasting this dish.

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Haft Seen

Out of all holidays, Nowruz and Easter inspire me the most with their promise of rebirth and hope. Nowruz, which means “new day” in Persian, falls on the spring equinox (March 20th in 2016) and is celebrated for the thirteen following days. Often called Persian New Year, it’s an important celebration not only in Iran, but also Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Georgia, India, Turkey, and other lands that were once part of the political or cultural Persian sphere.

haft seen1

I received a glimpse of Nowruz through my Azeri stepmother, although my own explorations directed me further down the path. While today it is by and large a secular event, observed by people of different religions and communities, Nowruz is a 3000 year old holiday with rich symbolism and ties to ancient Zoroastrian traditions. Nowruz contains beautiful, colorful and uplifting elements, a great reason to celebrate it.

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Rhubarb Rose Sherbet

Let it be spring! Nowruz, or “new day” in Persian, falls on the spring equinox and is celebrated for the thirteen following days. This year it fell on March 20th, and now we’re in the Persian year of 1393. While Nowruz is a major festival in Iran, the holiday is also celebrated in other countries, where ancient Persian culture left its mark, such as Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, India, and Turkey. The festivities came into our family with my Azeri stepmother, and along with Easter, Nowruz is one of my favorite holidays for its rich symbolism of renewal and hope. It’s also a reminder that winter’s grasp is weakening and that warm days are around the corner.

hyacinthrhubarb 4

In every home, the centerpiece of Nowruz celebrations would be a table decorated with seven items, haftseen or the seven S’s. Seven is considered a lucky number, and each item on the table beginning with the letter seen (s) in Persian has its unique meaning. For instance, seeb (apple) represents beauty, seer (garlic)–good health, serkeh (vinegar)–patience, and sekeh (coins)–prosperity. The arrangement is ornate and colorful, and people make rounds admiring each other’s haftseen tables, sharing good wishes and delicious food.

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