Nowruz marks the first day of Spring. Growing up, we never celebrated Nowruz, also known as the Persian New Year, in my house. It was considered a pagan holiday to my folks; and they, being more traditional conservative Jews, also felt it just a little contraindicative to celebrate a national holiday in a nation that would prefer they didn't live there or even exist for that matter. Ya' feel me? Then came the late 1970's, early 80's; the Islamic Revolution in Iran led to a mass influx of Persian Jews in the US. Soon after, Los Angeles (i.e. Westwood, West Los Angeles, & Beverly Hills) became known as “Tehrangeles”. Kabob houses began opening up all over LA. Mashti Malone's opens up his Persian Ice Cream shop in Hollywood and now, everyone and I mean everyone, covets the crunchy basmati rice or potatoes or (if you're Persian Armenian) Pita from the bottom of the pot; otherwise known as “tah-dig. Woo-howdy, and what a treat it is. We fought over it at our dinner table. I eyed my father's tah-dig, until he couldn't take it anymore, finally giving in to my pestering glare of: ”you gonna eat that or not, already!" Now, everyone, it seems, celebrates Nowruz. The “fear of the other” has become politically correct curiosity and acceptance. Am I just a little perturbed by this? Ya, a little. All that unfortunate shame and hiding. For what? Perspective is everything isn't it? I am humbled, of course, that my culture and our food, which once felt so wrong, exotic, weird, strange, unwelcoming, is exactly what it was meant to be appreciated for; a delicious way of bringing families and people together through, most of all, love.
Ain't nothin wrong with that!
Grab your recipe for the Caramelized Cinnamon Carrot & Onion Basmati Rice here:
Havij Polo ~ Carrot Saffron Basmati Rice with Sexy Tah-dig
Persian Jews get to bend the rules during Pesach with the grain allowance of Rice, don’t hate on us! Rejoice, this recipe will sure become a staple in your dinner or celebration rotation. Caramelized Onions, Carrots and a hint of cinnamon, compliment your savory meats and poultry with a hint of aromatic sweetness. Serve with roasted chicken, brisket or your Thanksgiving Turkey. Serves 4
2 -3 cups Basmati Rice
2-3 cups Shredded Carrots
½ cup Grated Onion
1 Tsp Cinnamon
Tsp ea Salt & Pepper
Par Boil Basmati in pot of salted boiling water, (pot should be ¾ full of water), til al dente. Strain through sieve. Let dry. Wipe out pot. Set aside. In a small sauce pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, bring to temp. Add grated onions, carrots, salt, pepper and dash of cinnamon. Sauté til onions are translucent and carrots are tender. Set aside
In pot (should be nonstick) used for boiling rice. Add 2 tablespoons Olive or vegetable oil. Spray Olive Oil around perimeter of pot. Begin layering rice, then carrot onion mixture, alternating with each layer, finishing with rice.
Cover with lid. Set over med/high heat for 15 minutes till “tah-dig” crispy rice bottom is set.
Lower hear to low, remove lid – add 2 tablespoons of cold butter, diced around top of rice. Cover lid with a towel or paper towel turban. (This is to absorb water as the rice steams, to ensure fluffy rice). Continue Steaming for another 35-45 minutes. Invert rice on round platter as a “gateau” or spoon and layer onto platter in pyramid shape topping with “tah-dig”. Garnish with cilantro, parsley and crispy rice kernels.
Bonus: Cut washed and dried russet potatoes with skin length wise, 1/8th” thin. Layer on bottom of oiled pot, salt and pepper to taste, continue to layer rice and carrot mixture as above.