Nowruz (also spelled Nouruz, Noo-roz and Nooruz), the Persian new year, is almost here and the Iranian American community celebrates this non-denominational holiday with bountiful dishes from home along with the famed Haft Seen, a traditional and ornate table display with special foods that symbolize good fortunes for the year ahead. If you've never seen a haft seen or haft sin, do yourself a favor and get invited to Nowruz event. Hundreds and even thousands of perfect little miniature pastries are carefully mounted on trays. It's like a middle eastern willy wonka heaven for sugar junkies.
Nowruz is celebrated at the beginning of Spring by Iranians that come from all religious backgrounds. Traditionally served is a stuffed fish recipe called Mahi-e Shekam Por with cilantro, tamarind paste, saffron and walnuts.
For the past three years, I've had the privilege of spending many an afternoon cooking with Roshanak Yousefian, owner of Popilee, a small business that creates delicate and traditional Persian Pastries often found on the haft seen.
The recipient of a women's enterprise action loan fund, Yousefian has lived in the United States for 20 years. After working in a variety of different businesses and countries, she finally decided to pursue her life long passion for food and works tirelessly to grow her business as both a private chef/caterer and producer of sweets such as of Baklava, toot, breshtook, and nan-e-bernji.
She has taught me how to make the famed dishes such as Ghormeh Sabzi, a long cooked beef stew made mostly with herbs and red kidney beans, as well as Braised lamb shanks, fesenjoon, Celery Stew and Rice dishes such as Sabzi Polo(Green Rice with dill and fave beans) and Stuffed fish, both of which are traditional for Nouruz.
She is very proud of Iran's rich culinary history and takes dishes she has learned from her aunt and family members growing up recreating them here in New York City.
My mother was born in Tehran, and her family were refugees fleeing Tbilisi, Georgia and soon moved to Israel in 1948. Though I grew up with dishes such as dolmeh and rice with tahdig, Nowruz was never a holiday I grew up with or knew about until I met Roshanak.
The layers of flavors, from spices like saffron and fenugreek to herbs like chives, dill, cilantro, parsley, celery leaves, basil and fruits such as tamarind and pomegranate make Persian cuisine so incredibly unique and distinct from other middle eastern cuisines. But get ready for a serious amount of chopping. There is a TON of herb washing and chopping in preparing many Persian dishes but we've kept it pretty simple with Roshanak's recipes on The Inherited Plate. You can check out food52 and and Louisa Shafia's book The New Persian Kitchen for great resources and recipes besides the great ones we have here on our site!