Persian New Year’s Eve Dinner

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Every year, all Persians eat a specialty dish that translates into Green’s Rice Pilaf. My family is no exception in celebrating this fantastic culture.

Herbs’ Rice Pilaf or so-called “Sabzi Polo” is a dish that we make with garlic and herbs cooked with rice in Persian rice pilaf preparation, called “Polo”. The herbs used in Sabzi Polo are minced coriander, parsley, dill, chives and green garlic stems (green onion), and fenugreek leaves; one portion of each will do.

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Although celebrating Norouz is very old cultural event, eating fish and Herb’s Rice Pilaf is not that old.

A story I came across for eating fish in Notouz night, says that since the cities were faraway and getting food items from other places was hard, people would rely on dried fruits, preserves and food concentrates until the spring, they could catch fresh fish from the defrosted rivers. Eating fish was celebrated as it symbolized happiness and health. Iranians would thank God for all their blessings in the springtime thanksgiving night. I am not sure how true this story is and how it related (and I do not think it is that of an importance), but I know that this food is a traditional Persian food and it is delicious! Kiamehr was so excited to see a big fish that close for the first time, and he also loved the meat from fish kobab. He said, “I love you mommy for cooking the fish; hmmm, it is so yummy”.

I think that the most important aspects of food are the look and taste! I never asked my mama that, “why we eat fish at the New Year’s Eve!” All I always cared was the green look of Herb’s Rice Pilaf and how it tasted! The same way I choose to prepare and serve my fish to my children. I hope they too take the culture along with them and share it with all other distant friends and relatives.

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Herbs’ Rice Pilaf (Sabzi polo)

600 gr Basmati or long-grain rice

1kilo herbs

2tablespoon vegetable oil

4tablespoon salt

First remove the stems from the herbs and wash thoroughly. Chop them finely and set aside. Wash rice with cold water three times and leave in water floating. Add 3tablespoon salt and let rest for at least one hour.

Fill 2/3 of a 3 liters pot with water. Put the pot over high heat and add one tablespoon salt until it boils. Drain the extra water from the rice and added it to the boiling water. When rice is half way cooked, the rice grains start to come to the surface of the boiling water. This is the time to remove it from the heat and drain in colander (a basket with small holes that rice does not pass through). Rinse rice with cold water to remove some of the salt. let drain completely.

Add oil to the same pot. Then layer rice and herbs, and gently mix with a fork. At this point you do not have to completely mix herbs and rice. It will mix when you serve it.

Place the pot over low-medium heat for 5 minutes until the pot feels hot to the touch. Place a clean cloth or a paper towel under the lid. Then lower the heat to low and brew for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove lid for the steam to escape and serve in a flat serving dish along with fish.

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Fish Kobab with Sour Sauce

Market list

One medium whole fish, cleaned, rinsed, and dried

50 gr melted butter or olive oil

2 lemon, sliced

Salt and pepper, extra salt for massage

Market list for sour sauce

One medium onion, finely chopped

Three garlic cloves, minced

2tablespoon tamarind paste

2tablespoon pomegranate paste

2tablespoon cranberry

2tablespoon raisin

1tablespoon pistachio and almond rinds (to decorate)

2tablespoon walnut, crushed

1tablespoon butter or olive oil

1cup orange juice

How to prepare the fish

Massage the fish inside out with salt. Let rest for half an hour. Then rinse with cold water to remove extra salt and pat dry with paper towel.

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Preheat the oven broil (grill) to 375 Fahrenheit. Place a piece of parchment paper over the oven roasting rack net, and place the fish over the paper (placing fish over the net helps the heat to circulate, thus, fish cooks more evenly). Season fish’s inside and out with salt and pepper. Insert the lemon slices inside the cavity and massage the butter and put inside the oven for 20-25 minutes to cook. Half way through the cooking, slowly, return the fish so both sides cook evenly.

Meanwhile, sauté onion and garlic in a non-metal or coated saucepan for 5-7 minutes. Add turmeric and pepper and sauté for another minute. At this stage pour in all other ingredients and let simmer for 15 minutes or until it thickens. Decorate with pistachio and almonds and serve with fish.

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