Tag Archives: New Year

A Green Persian Spring

This post is a little bit late, but may I wish you all a happy welcome to Spring and a happy Nowruz.  The first day of Spring is also the first day of the new year according to Iranian tradition, hence “Nowruz.”  Dear Iranian friends first introduced me to the holiday in southern California, and since then we always celebrate it at home.  I also celebrate this holiday in my anthropology of food classes where we make our own version of the traditional Haft Seen table, or table of seven S’s that symbolize best wishes for the upcoming new year.  It’s a great excuse to get people thinking good thoughts for everyone around them, as well as focusing on the upcoming greenery that is (hopefully) starting to peek out of the dirty snow banks and brown, crinkle grass yards and fields.

If I could pull it off, I would have a massive Persian feast on Nowruz, and in the past I’ve done that using it as an excuse to have friends over to celebrate over good food and new friends.  However, as with many things in life with kids (or kid), I’ve scaled things down a bit.  At least for this year.  If there is ONE dish that I simply must have when this time of year comes around, it is Ghormeh Sabzi or Green Persian Stew.  “Ghormeh” in Persian means stew and “Sabzi” is the word for green or in this case green, leafy vegetables.  Ghormeh Sabzi is a rich, beef and bean stew with a sauce brimming with slowly simmered, finely chopped Springtime greenery.  The slight citrus acidic kick cuts through the richness of the stew itself and ties everything together.  Just writing about it makes me want to simmer up another batch, and in fact I might just do that this weekend.  Hmmm… We are having guests…

But back to Ghormeh Sabzi…  I know that the name is likely rather foreign to many of you, but as we make this transition from frozen, cold whiteness into the chilly freshness of Spring, this is the perfect stew whether the name sounds familiar or not.  It bridges both the desire for comforting warmth and the desperate need for all things green and full of life.  And frankly, what better time to try something new than a new year, whether or not you start the new year in January or March?  I hope that you all have a fantastic Nowruz (new year) and a gorgeous Springtime.

Ghormeh Sabzi - Green Persian StewGhormeh Sabzi (Green Persian Stew)

Ingredients
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 leeks, split in half lengthwise and well washed
1 bunch cilantro, well washed
2 bunches parsley, well washed
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 tsp. tumeric
3 tsp. salt
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. water
¼ c. lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

IMG_9959Directions

  1. Put the rough chopped onion in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Put the onion in a small bowl and set aside.

    A roughly chopped onion ready to be sublimely and finely chopped.

    A roughly chopped onion ready to be sublimely and finely chopped.

  2. Roughly chop the cleaned leeks and add them to the food processor. Pulse them until chopped finely, then put them in a medium bowl and set aside.
    Halve the leeks lenghtwise, keeping the root end intact.  Then hold them under running water, fanning out the layers as you go, to rinse out all of the grit.

    Halve the leeks lengthwise, keeping the root end intact. Then hold them under running water, fanning out the layers as you go, to rinse out all of the grit.

    The rough chop waiting for the food processor magic.

    The rough chop waiting for the food processor magic.

    I love my food processor.  Finely chopped leeks, perfect for this stew.

    I love my food processor. Finely chopped leeks, perfect for this stew.

  3. Add the cilantro and parsley to the food processor and chop finely. Add them to the leek bowl and set aside.

    Cilantro and parsley finely chopped in seconds.

    Cilantro and parsley finely chopped in seconds.

  4. Pour 1 tbsp. of olive oil into a Dutch oven and heat the pan over medium high. When the oil is hot add the onions and sauté until browned on the edges.

    Browning the onions.

    Browning the onions.  I seem to have a number of “steamy” pictures for this recipe.  Is there a special benefit to hot onion facials?

  5. Add the stew meat to the pan and brown the pieces on all sides.

    Adding the stew meat to the pot.

    Adding the stew meat to the pot.

  6. Add the turmeric and salt, and stir to combine.

    Turmeric and salt ready to go.

    Turmeric and salt ready to go.

  7. Add the leeks, cilantro and parsley to the pan, along with the kidney beans, water, and lemon juice. Bring the stew to a simmer and let it bubble away gently for 1 ½ hours. Taste to adjust seasonings.
    The amount of raw greenery can look daunting in your stew pot, but it will become something magical.

    The amount of raw greenery can look daunting in your stew pot, but it will become something magical.

    Adding the beans and remaining ingredients.

    Adding the beans and remaining ingredients.

    Everything looks a bit raw when first added to the pan, but after the long simmer...

    Everything looks a bit raw when first added to the pan, but after the long simmer…

    After the long simmer, all of the flavors come together and this stew is the perfect cold Springtime dinner.

    After the long simmer, all of the flavors come together and this stew is the perfect cold Springtime dinner.

  8. Serve over steamed basmati rice. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Ghormeh Sabzi (Green Persian Stew) recipe.

I like how the Piggy Bowl seems to strut its stuff for a number of the food glamor shots.

I like how the Piggy Bowl seems to strut its stuff for a number of the food glamor shots.

 

Chinese New Year – Nanaimo Style

One of the fun things about our move to Canada has been learning about all the different holidays celebrated here.  Like the differences between American Independence Day and Canada Day; the fact that Boxing Day has nothing to do with the sport; and holidays that are even new to the province like BC Family Day.  Many of the holidays that are new to me on Vancouver Island have a decidedly British flair to them, so while I find them fun to celebrate I’m no longer surprised to find them here.  I was surprised, however, when I learned that the Chinese New Year is celebrated on the island.

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I have celebrated Chinese New Year in a minor way whenever I’ve taught one of my anthropology of food courses during a spring semester, but I haven’t lived in a place where it was celebrated in the community until now.  Nanaimo is a city of malls, and people give directions to places in town based on which mall it is closest too.  This gets a bit interesting since a number of the malls have old names and new ones that can be used interchangeably.  In this case, the Nanaimo North Town Centre has an annual Chinese New Year celebration that is free to the public.  Combine the words “celebration” with “free” and it is a good bet that I’ll do my best to attend; especially if there is the possibility of snacks.

Welcoming the year of the Horse at the Nanaimo North Town Centre.

Welcoming the year of the Horse at the Nanaimo North Town Centre.

The Chinese New Year celebration at Nanaimo North Town Centre (and yes, I do keep having to go back and respell “center” as “centre” since even when I focus my fingers feel like that is backwards spelling) lasted from 11am-2pm and consisted primarily of the traditional Lion Dance.  I had read about this, seen versions on TV and in movies, in fact Little Man (and his parents) just learned about the Lion Dance in one of his favorite cartoons Justin Time, but I had never had the chance to view one live until this year.

One of the lion dance costumes.

One of the lion dance costumes.

The Lion Dance is iconic and highly symbolic in Chinese culture, and I know very little about its intricacies.  In short, each costume is worn by two people (front and back) and there are certain moves that are always included.  Around the dancing area there are generally hung pieces of lettuce (or other greens) that the lions eat and other items like oranges or red money envelopes that the lions chew on but do not consume.  All of this is done to a strong drum beat.  The students from a local Kung Fu studio, Hup Ging Do, practice throughout the year to perform here and at other venues.

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Entrance of the lion dancers.

Entrance of the lion dancers.

Unfortunately between the rapid lion dancing and the loud, reverberating drum, Little Man was not interested in staying around for long.  We came, we celebrated, and we retreated to one of the stores in the mall where Little Man “bought” a birthday present for a friend (and a corresponding one for himself) of a cool Chinese style dragon complete with Warrior.  I’m hoping that next year we can last a little longer at the dance, and maybe even try some of the Chinese-inspired snacks set out by the Fairway market.

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Now, what I am really excited about is a hybrid event related to the Chinese New Year that I would like to attend next year.  The event is called the Chinese New Year and Robbie Burns Celebration.  Yes, in this amazing melting pot place there is an annual event where they combine to celebrate both the new year in Chinese custom, but also the birthday of beloved Scottish poet, Robert Burns.  My only sadness is that I didn’t learn about this event until it had already passed, but they had me at “haggis wontons.”  From all accounts this is a fun event complete with traditional Chinese celebrations and highland dancers.  I can only imagine how great this would be and I can’t wait until next year!

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On the Eve of New Year

I have made no resolutions, save to be happy.

I have eaten nothing “lucky” or numbered 7, but I shared a simple feast with loved ones.

I may not even make it to midnight.

Our first Canadian snow.

Our first Canadian snow.

But this has been one of the best and most unsettling (or unsettled) years of my life.    Everything is set up to start, and I’m excited to see what it will all end up being.  A new life in an old country.

Closer and yet still far from family.

New friends being made, and mourning the distance from others.

Ridiculous toddler and amazing husband.

A first view

A first view

New as we approach the new year, I hear the ending verse of Maya Angelou’s “On the Pulse of Morning” over and again.  It is my New Years wish…

“Here on the pulse of this new day

You may have the grace to look up and out

And into your sister’s eyes, into

Your brother’s face, your country

And say simply

Very simply

With hope

Good morning”

Tree