Nowruz is our national holiday, which happens on the Spring equinox. Every year, at this time, no matter what religion you are, if you are Iranian, you celebrate Nowruz. It has no borders between people. It’s all about starting fresh and bringing everyone together. This is what Nowruz means to me and means to many people from Iran. I always loved this tradition.
For me, it’s naturally so important. It’s like Christmas to a Christian or Channukah to a Jewish person. Now that I’m here by myself, I try to share it with friends because I don’t have my family here. The year renews, the earth has its rebirth and this is why I love it.
-Roshanak Yousefian, Owner Popilee
Serving Size: Serves 2
Mahi-e Shekam Por
Persian Stuffed Fish
1 Whole Branzino, scaled and gutted
Juice of ½ lemon
Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for cooking
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves, packed (about 2 bunches/150g) finely chopped
1/2-1 tsp. green chili or jalapeno, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried fenugreek
1 1/2 Tbsp. tamarind paste
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. turmeric
Pinch saffron, dissolved in ½ tsp. hot water
1 lemon, sliced
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Score the fish, dry well with paper towels. Rub inside and out with the juice of ½ lemon and season similarly with salt and pepper. Set aside on a parchment lined sheet tray.
In medium pot or skillet, heat a thin film of oil over medium heat. Cook the onion until golden brown. Add the turmeric and the garlic and sautee another 30 seconds.
Over low heat, add the fenugreek, cilantro, and chili and cook until wilted and the liquid has evaporated. Add in the tamarind paste, walnuts, cumin, saffron and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool slightly.
Stuff the fish with mixture and fasten with string or toothpicks. Lay the fish over the lemon slices and bake until just cooked through and opaque, about 25-30 minutes.
Arrange on a platter and serve with Sabzi Polo or Green Rice.