By Suzette Martinez Standring.
The first day of spring marks Nowruz, the Persian New Year, a 13-day celebration. Nowruz translates to “new day,” when families and friends share hopes, dreams, and celebratory foods. Persian dishes are spiced with herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, saffron, dried lemon, and turmeric, as well as other savory flavors. Lisa Tavakoli, founder of The Traveling Tea Coach, a Quincy based teahouse, is an expert in teas and herbs and has a culinary gusto for Persian food. Lisa’s long-standing love of the cuisine began in 1982 at a Nowruz celebration in Florence where she met her future husband, Ebrahim Tavakoli, who is from northern Iran. Many years later, happy memories over delicious meals compel this avid cook to share recipes for a celebratory spring meal in the Persian tradition.
Just as our appetites are whetted by the sight of tantalizing dishes, recipes named for their mouthwatering ingredients also spark excitement. Ghormeh Sabzi, a popular stew of beans and lamb (or beef), means “braised herbs.” Dried lemons add a citrusy note, and an array of fresh herbs are sauteed to full flavor. Green is the universal color for spring renewal, and in Ghormeh Sabzi it is symbolized using parsley, cilantro, chives, and fenugreek.
Persian spring celebrations feature favorite starches cooked with a unique twist. Polo bah Tahdig is a side dish of fragrant Basmati rice steamed atop crispy potato slices and flavored with saffron. The cooked rice is mounded onto a serving dish, and the crispy potato crust can either be placed atop the rice or sliced and arranged around it. A Persian meal often tempers the mix of spices and tastes with a cooling Cucumber Yogurt Dip. Light and creamy, it is paired with meats, spread onto pita bread, or dressed over vegetables.
Persian cuisine delights the senses, and beverages are no exception. Doogh is a refreshing yogurt drink, fizzy with soda water and aromatic with rose water and mint.
The world over, spring heralds a new season, and for Iranians, it marks a new year. It’s a perfect time to create a Persian-style feast to celebrate fresh beginnings!
Pottery is available at Local Pottery, Norwell. Photo: Bowls: Butterfield Pottery is wheel-thrown work by Dave and Susan Butterfield of Ulster Park, NY. Platter: The artist behind the hand-built work of Natural Elements Pottery is Christy Knox of Cummington, MA. Serving utensils are by Metallic Evolution.
The Traveling Tea Coach firstname.lastname@example.org
Suzette Martinez Standring is an author and writing workshop presenter who lives in Milton and is captivated by food wizardry in all forms. Nowruz Mubarak means “Happy New Year” in Farsi, which is celebrated on the First Day of Spring. Toasts all around!