Why You’ll Find Marzipan Goldfish on My Nowruz Table

Walk into an Iranian home during Nowruz, the Persian New Year that begins with the spring equinox, and you’ll be greeted by what may be an unusual sight: an altar laid with ritual objects, including a shock of green wheatgrass, a mirror and candles, an…

Walk into an Iranian home during Nowruz, the Persian New Year that begins with the spring equinox, and you’ll be greeted by what may be an unusual sight: an altar laid with ritual objects, including a shock of green wheatgrass, a mirror and candles, and seven dishes. Each dish holds a different food that starts with the letter “S”. But the most eye-catching item of all may be a bowl of live goldfish darting to and fro. In recent decades, the millions of goldfish bought for Nowruz have churned up controversy: After the holiday, they’re released into rivers and ponds where, for the most part, they die. To avoid this while still paying homage to tradition, I have a solution. Enter: marzipan goldfish, a harmless stand-in that’s edible to boot.

It’s unclear when the goldfish wiggled their way onto the Sofreh Haft Seen, the table of seven “S”s, the setting of which has been performed in Iran since at least Zoroastrian times. The table is a blueprint for the year ahead, with each item representing a desired quality like health, wealth, and love. Goldfish, signifying life, add a dramatic splash of color to the New Year table and are traditionally released into the wild after the celebration; however, they’re unlikely to survive the transition. Lately, many are coming up with creative ways to replace the live goldfish, whether with a plastic toy, a drawing, or even an orange in a bowl.

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On Shab-e Yalda, Red Fruit & Fortune-Telling Rule the Night

If you can remember the last time you stayed up with family or close friends past midnight, talking, laughing, dancing, snacking, and drinking, then you have a feel for Shab-e Yalda, the Iranian celebration of the winter solstice on December 21.

Shab-…

If you can remember the last time you stayed up with family or close friends past midnight, talking, laughing, dancing, snacking, and drinking, then you have a feel for Shab-e Yalda, the Iranian celebration of the winter solstice on December 21.

Shab-e Yalda translates roughly to “night of birth” in the ancient language of Syriac, referencing the sun being reborn and light prevailing over darkness. It’s a powerful time, and there is magic in the air as people reenact the same ritual as their ancestors have for literally thousands of years. “It’s my favorite night of the year,” gushed my cousin Setareh, who grew up in Iran and now lives in San Diego. “The idea that there is one extra minute in this night and that we should spend it with the people we love is so romantic.”

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Tahdig

Ever since I heard of Tahdig, I’ve loved it, even though I’d never tried it. The idea of a plate of rice with a brittle, crackly crown appealed to me. It wasn’t until I was in Dubai with my friend Anissa Helou where she ordered a plate of just the crunchy shards of rice, I made a statement that it may have been the best…

Ever since I heard of Tahdig, I’ve loved it, even though I’d never tried it. The idea of a plate of rice with a brittle, crackly crown appealed to me. It wasn’t until I was in Dubai with my friend Anissa Helou where she ordered a plate of just the crunchy shards of rice, I made a statement that it may have been the best thing I ever ate. There’s nothing wrong with speaking in superlatives, which is hard not to do about Tahdig. Enthusiasm is a good thing. It’s taken me over ten years to try making it at home, but I finally did. And I’m happy to report that now, I can have Tahdig whenever I want. And so can you.

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Persian-Inspired Crispy Rice & Chicken Perfect for Thanksgiving (or Dinner Tonight)

While I love the spirit of Thanksgiving—gathering around the table, drinking and eating all day with loved ones—I have to admit that I’m not a roast turkey fan. If you’re thinking that it’s because I haven’t had a really good one, whether fried, spatch…

While I love the spirit of Thanksgiving—gathering around the table, drinking and eating all day with loved ones—I have to admit that I’m not a roast turkey fan. If you’re thinking that it’s because I haven’t had a really good one, whether fried, spatchcocked or with super crispy skin and tender, juicy meat, then please rest assured that I have. I’m still not that into it. What I love most are the side dishes. Maybe it’s because I’m typically in charge of them on Thanksgiving Day, so I take a certain amount of pride in making them interesting, or because I love these late fall vegetables. Maybe both!

For anyone who shares my feelings on turkey, I created a menu that is centered around tahchin, a chicken-and-rice dish from my childhood, and served with a variety of vegetables—think: golden mushrooms with creamy labneh, sheet-pan crispy kale and squash, and saffron-infused skillet potatoes.

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