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Entries in new year (2)


Sorrel Sauce for Salmon- to ring in a New Year

Sorrel sauce, Banamak Recipes for New Year

I really meant to update this blog and post a million recipes (mostly cookies, sorry), but life and work got the best of me. I’m happy to say that I’m ready to share again. I was motivated by the invitation to contribute to a round up of NoRuz recipes (see link at the bottom of this post) by a great group of Persian Food bloggers. I hope you get a chance to read and comment on them all this week.

Last year, my mom and I were featured in an article on Persian New Year traditions in Edible Seattle.  We talked about some of our family food traditions and rituals. I was honored to have my kuku recipe included in the print edition.  The on-line edition does not seem to have the recipe available, but you can find it here.

Much like American Thanksgiving, the NoRuz menu is set in tradition. Fish, sabzi polo and kuku are essential components; the other items can change from year to year. For the fish course, many Iranians serve a smoked Lake Michigan whitefish or another firm fleshed white fish.  Growing up in Seattle in the 70s and 80s, smoked whitefish was hard to find. My mom served cod, snapper or sole filets as our fish course. Later, she served whole butterflied salmon as our family and circle of friends grew.  These days whitefish filets are easily found at Persian stores or Costco(!) in the weeks running up to New Year. 

I still serve salmon to my guests, usually a white king if we can get it. I’ve moved away from my old standby of baking the salmon with white wine, herbs and onions to making a simple green sorrel sauce that pairs beautifully with the salmon and the rest of the menu as well.


Garden sorrel, just starting to go gang busters, just like zuchinni

Sorrel is an amazing herb to have on hand.  I highly recommend coming over here and digging some up (kidding!) or buying a plant to have at home. It grows like a weed and tolerates being neglected. As for the taste, I love the way it peps up green salads and makes a lovely spring soup.

Sorrel sauce with salmon is a classic dish and there are a million recipes out there you can use.  I don’t use one in particular, but I do like to extend and temper the sharp and citrusy taste of the sorrel with a little spinach and peppery watercress, so that is my twist on the classics.


Holy Trinity - Left to Right - sorrel, watercress, baby spinach

Sorrel sauce for our New Year’s Salmon –serves 4 to 6

Notes: The New Year meal should come together pretty fast if you are an organized cook. The sauce will be much better if it is made at the last minute. I recommend setting up your mise with everything measured, minced, chiffonaded and ready to go before your guests arrive.  You can save a little more time by sautéing the shallots before hand and just warming them up before you start adding the greens.  If you can get your sous-chef to deal with getting guests to the table and all the tahdig out of the pot before you are done making the sauce, high five to both of you.

If you have picky eaters, I would serve the sauce on the side so they can try it first.  I also recommend adding the liquid to achieve your desired consistency. Some folks like to spoon the sauce and have it not slide off the filets, and others like a more liquid presentation.  You can puree the sauce, but really, you want to be sitting with your guests as soon as possible, so skip it.

1 bunch of sorrel, washed, dried and stems removed
½ bunch of watercress, washed, dried and stems removed
3 oz or ½ package of baby spinach, washed and dried
1 shallot, minced
3 T. unsalted butter
4-6 T heavy cream, half and half or crème fraiche
Salt and pepper to taste

Chiffonade (Chow's video link) sorrel, watercress and spinach, but keep them separate as they’ll be added individually. Set aside until needed.

Melt butter in a heavy skillet. When melted, add shallots and sauté until transparent.  Lower heat and add spinach, cook until just wilted, then add watercress and cook until it starts wilting. Lastly, add sorrel and cook until it wilts. The sorrel will turn a most unfortunate shade of olive while the spinach and watercress still look green, but it should taste pretty awesome. 

Remove the skillet from heat and stir in cream, half and half or crème fraiche slowly to reduce the chance of curdling and the sauce is at your desired consistency.  Season to taste.

Serve at once either on the side or spoon over fish filets.










Persian New Year -Ajil or trail mix for hearty fire jumpers

 the last of the crocii

It is all about the flowers, spring, purity, life affirming and the cookies that my mom makes.

Persian New Year is next week. I haven’t blogged about it because I haven’t been very good about keeping up with the biggest challenge to starting the New Year, which is cleaning up your messes from the previous year.

That sounds really vague doesn’t it?

Really, the few weeks leading up to New Year are pretty much the same – clean house, settle debts, make lots of yummy food, prepare altar and get your life in order.  This year, this has evaded me, partially due to travel, partially due to inertia, and mostly due to ennui.

All together it makes for a muddled end to one year and no real clarity to the next.

I think there is no way I can catch up and make it all spic and span by the Spring Equinox. I’m just going to settle for a 70% solution and call it good.


Haft sin 2006

Makeshift haft-sin or altar from New year 2006. We were in Rome, so we winged it. Looks pretty darn good, IMHO.

The last Tuesday night before the New Year is a big deal in Iran – Chahar Shambeh Souri. I call it the Super bowl pre-game, the Rudolph the Red nose Reindeer special before Christmas of Persian New Year.  You build a bonfire in the street, on the beach, in your backyard and you jump over the flames cleansing your health from a pallid and jaundiced to a vigorous and life affirming pink or red.  In my recounting, I call it get rid of the bad juju and move on.  While we can’t always to go to those great lengths of bonfire makings, we try and jump over a candle at home.

The best part of the celebration is the Persian Snack mix that goes along with the event, because gathering wood, making a fire and jumping over it takes a lot of effort.


This year's ajil, the mixture varies year to year, but its all so good.

Ajil, or snack mix is sold all over Iran and is a staple of any Iranian’s diet.  Much like the GORP mixes that are life sustaining foods of coach airline flyers and hikers around the US,  Ajil is nutritious and easy to make. It keeps for a long time and it is hard not to take great handfuls of it at a time.  It calls for a nice mix of salty and sweet components that balance well off each other. Everyone has a little different riff on the mix, but it pretty much consists of equal proportions of various nuts and dried fruits. My mom’s mix this year consists of hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, dried chickpeas, sultanas, raisins and dried tiny figs.  In the past she has added dried cranberries and apricots, but we’re more likely to stick to the standard mix these days.

Ajil for the last Wednesday before the New Year – Ajil Chahar Shambeh Souri

This is a pretty casual recipe, a little of this, a little of that, no need to be precise with measurements, but proportions are important.  Nuts are all shelled; no one needs to work hard at eating this stuff.

 Makes 9.5 cups

1.5 cup walnut halves
1.5 cup almonds (unsalted)
1.5 cup hazelnuts (I like them toasted, unsalted)
1 cup pistachio nuts (salted)
1 cup dried chickpeas. lightly salted (available at Middle Eastern markets)
1 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
1 cup flame raisins (the bigger, the better)
1 cup currants               

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until well combined. The chickpeas tend to fall to the bottom of the bowl, so tell your guests to scoop all the way to the bottom to get the proportion of sweet and salty together. My TH leaves the chickpeas behind, go figure. If you have picky eaters, you can leave them out.  Store leftovers in a sealed bag for up to a month, if they last that long.