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A Persian Love Affair with Herbs and Salmon & Cilantro Stew (Ghalieh Mahi)

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Fresh parsley and mint

You are probably seeing a lot of green on the world-wide-web this time of year. And frankly, it’s not just for that silly Shamrock Day where everyone is Irish once a year. There is actually another holiday that was green before St. Patty’s Day: It’s the Persian New Year, or Noruz, the first day of Spring. This year it lands on March 20th.

I have already given you all a history lesson of this beautiful celebration (you can read it here) that dates back thousands of years. No, this post is something different.

To celebrate the rebirth of nature, the beginning of spring, Persians love to cook with anything green. And this typically means fresh herbs.

And not just one type of herb, either.

In one Persian dish, you could have as many as 5 different herbs. You would think with all of this flavor they would be competing with each other, but they do not. They actually compliment each other very well.

The traditional Persian meal for Noruz is Sabzi Pollo ba Mahi, or Rice with Greens (aka “herbs”) and Fish. When I make Sabzi Pollo, I like to use dill, parsley, cilantro, green onions and spinach (not an herb, but it’s green and adds some nutritional punch).

Persian Herb Quiche/Omelette (Kookoo-yeh Sabzi)

Another traditional meal served to celebrate the new year is Kookoo-yeh Sabzi, or Herb Quiche/Frittata. This crustless egg quiche uses the same greens as Sabzi Pollo, but also includes fenugreek and saffron.

Back in February, I was visiting family in Northern California. One of cousins served a new “green” dish that my husband and I had not had before. It was Salmon & Cilantro Stew (Ghalieh Mahi).

Salmon & Cilantro Stew (Ghalieh Mahi)

Although not a traditional for the Persian New Year, this is another herb-packed stew. Similar to Ghormeh Sabzi, an herb stew made with lamb or beef, but different proportions.

Ghalieh Mahi originates from northern Iran, the Caspian Sea region where fresh fish (and caviar!) is abundant. Many dishes from this region use a lot of garlic and are sour. Apparently, you do not smell the garlic as much in this humid area and the sourness does not affect one’s constitution as harshly, either.

Prep for Salmon & Cilantro Stew (Ghalieh Mahi)

Ghalieh Mahi is made primarily with cilantro, but parsley, green onions and fenugreek are also used. I used about 4 large cloves of garlic, but you can easily add or subtract the amount of garlic you want to taste.

Onions are first sautéed with turmeric and then the herbs are added.

Prep for Salmon & Cilantro Stew (Ghalieh Mahi)

Persian stews are typically “soured” with the use of lemon juice or dried limes. Ghalieh Mahi uses tamarind, which has a slightly different sourness to it. I used a combination of tamarind and lemon juice, per my lemon-loving-husband’s request, and it turned out amazing. A little tomato paste gives the stew a bit of body.

Prep for Salmon & Cilantro Stew (Ghalieh Mahi)

The stew can be made days ahead, and actually is preferred this way so the flavors can melt together even more. You add the salmon to the stew 20 minutes prior to serving, to keep the fish fluffy and not over-cooked.

Prep for Salmon & Cilantro Stew (Ghalieh Mahi)

No matter what holiday you choose to celebrate this March, make it a green one!

 

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12 Responses to A Persian Love Affair with Herbs and Salmon & Cilantro Stew (Ghalieh Mahi)

  1. Great post Laura! I have to say I’m not too familiar with herbs. Compared to other cuisines, we don’t really put herbs in traditional Japanese food (we have different kinds). But I enjoy all kinds of herbs and hope not to be shy on using them (sometimes I’m not sure how I should combine multiple herbs). Your herb fritatta looks amazing!!!! Have a great weekend!

    • Laura at #

      Nami, you are such a talented cook, I’m sure you’ll come up with something fabulous!

  2. Maureen at #

    Love herbs but I have never tried a herb quiche fritatta. How wonderful is this??

    I’ve got the herbs in pots and I’ve got eggs – I’m in business!

    • Laura at #

      I hope you like it! I really enjoy it all year round, and not just for Spring.

  3. Kocinera at #

    What a great holiday! I love that it incorporates so many yummy, herby dishes!

    • Laura at #

      Thank you! I find myself using fresh herbs in everything I prepare. So aromatic and delicious!

  4. The fritatta looks wonderful! I just made one on Sunday…should have added more herbs since my garden is bursting :) And the stew looks fantastic as well :)

    • Laura at #

      Aren’t fritattas the best?! I really should make them more often!

  5. I just love this recipe Laura. The only change I will make when I make this tomorrow is to sear my salmon so it is medium rare and serve it atop a puddle of this delicious and healthful Ghalieh Mahi.

  6. amee at #

    I love love love cooking with herbs. Your pics are beautiful. I am inspired to create something vegetarian from this idea! Thanks!

  7. Guest at #

    “And frankly, it’s not just for that silly Shamrock Day where everyone is Irish once a year.”

    There isn’t really any need to belittle another person’s heritage/beliefs to show your own in better light. Very unprofessional and offensive. Just because many people abuse the concept of St. Patrick’s day in the US, it does not mean that there are not more people worldwide who actually take this religious holiday very seriously.

    • Laura at #

      I’m sorry you were offended, as that was not my intention. But, considering how many thousands of people who have read this post and were not offended, perhaps you read something in my post that just wasn’t there.

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