Thursday, March 25, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Persian New Year

Nowrūz, Persian meaning "New Light" is a traditional ancient Iranian Festival which celebrates the start of the Iranian Calendar. Nowruz marks the first day of spring when the earth stops its motion for a second. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed.

Rice cooked with lentils, dill, and spices is ubiquitous in Persian cooking, and there are many elaborate variations that include dried fruit, fresh herbs, nuts, and beans. This version is green and aromatic. Persian cooking is known for making single dishes with few ingredients, but big on spices and flavor.

Thanks to my friend, Soudy for sharing with me that it was time for the celebration of Persian New Year.


Green Rice

Makes 6 cups


2 cups long-grain basmati rice
1 teaspoon saffron threads or powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, green and white parts, finely diced
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/3 cup minced fresh dill
1 cup shelled, toasted pistachios


1. Put the rice in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Toss the rice with your hands a few times to remove the starch, and drain. Repeat this process 2-3 times. Set aside.

2. Pour 3-1/2 cups water in a small pot with a dash of salt and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, put the saffron in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of water. Stir and set aside.

3. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the leeks and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the rice, saffron water, and lime juice and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Pour the boiling water over the rice, bring the rice to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

4. Transfer the rice to a large bowl and fold in the parsley, cilantro, dill, and most of the pistachios. Season with salt. To serve, pile the rice on a platter and scatter a few pistachios over the top.