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