Herb Rice and White Fish: traditional Nowruz fare!

Our Nowruz celebration continued with a wonderful Persian ritual:  Chahar Shanbe Suri, the fire- jumping tradition. We stepped outside, in spite of the cold temperature, to find two small bonfires. Once our hostess had handed us papers with the names of loved ones who could not be with us, or ICC members in faraway locales, each of us had to jump over the fires while shouting “Zardiyeh Man az tou sorkhiyeh to az man” , which means “May my sickly pallor by yours and your red glow be mine”. This Zoroastrian purification chant helps get rid of any negative experiences in the past year and bring health and luck in the New Year.

After this, we were ready for more food.  Our hostess was feeding a crowd and worked countless hours in her kitchen to prepare mounds of rice and fish for all to share. Look at this Sabzi Polow (Herb Rice) and Mahi (Fish). The symbolism of herbs (rebirth) and fish (life) was well represented with these appetizing dishes!

For the rice you’ll need:

2 Cups long grain rice (Basmati rice)
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/4 cup chives or scallions
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 cup coriander
1/2 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 4 Tbsp hot water
2 Tbsp butter
Salt, pepper, vegetable oil or olive oil
Wash the rice with cool water a few times. Soak in water, add 1 tablespoons salt and set aside for couple of hours. The longer you soak the rice the fluffier it will be when cooked.
In a large non-stick pot, bring 5 cups of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Drain the rice and pour into boiling water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring water back to a boil. After 5-7 minutes test to see if the rice is ready. Rice should be hard in the center and soft on the outside. Also another way to see if it’s ready to drain is that you will see the rice gains starting to come to the surface of the water.
Drain the rice using a colander and rinse with cool water.
Add the chopped herbs to the rice and mix . Be careful to not break the rice grains.
Return the pot and heat 3 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat. Place the rice and herb mixture in the pot in a pyramid shape. (our chef adds lettuce leaves at the bottom of the pot) Add butter to the top, make 3 holes in the rice with the bottom of a spoon to release the steam. Lower the heat, cover the lid and steam the rice for 45-50 minutes on low heat.
For the fish (any white fish will do : tilapia, branzino) and if you’re lucky, it swam in the Caspian Sea!
Heat 3-4 Tbsp oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place fish fillets in the pan and fry both sides until golden and crispy. Serve with the rice.
NOSHE JAN!! (Enjoy)

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