Sabzi ~ Persian Fresh Herbs
I was introduced to Sabzi as a child when I lived in Iran. Dare I say, it is a given that I love it and don’t find it to be a strange addition to the table. Sabzi so deliciously refreshing especially when you just take a handful and put it in your mouth. I love how the different flavors get mixed in together with the taste of the rest of the meal.
I am always amused at the way in which people react to Persian Sabzi. As you may have noticed I, for the most part, have stories that go along food that I love to share. I have two humorous ones for Sabzi. I humorously call these “West meets East” moments!
The first story involves one of my childhood friends Nader. About twenty five years or so ago, one fine day Nader, yours truly, and his sister Layla were called by adults as it was lunch time. Us kids always ate in the kitchen while the adults ate in the dining room. As a child I found this rule to be so lame; yet now, as an adult I can totally see the reason. We were three obnoxious kids. Nader was the rambunctious boy, I was the shaytoon, mischievous, tomboy, and well Layla was the calmest out of the three and definitely a girlie girl. In their kitchen they had this really awesome pull out table that rolled in and out of the wall unit. We had just rolled out the table and sat down when Nader was asked if he wanted some Sabzi. The answer that came out of his mouth was hysterical and his expression was priceless. Mind you were were all 10 or less years old at the time. He said something along the lines of:
“Mica sono un’asino? Gli asini mangiano l’erbetta.” What am I a donkey? Only donkeys eat herbs!”
Oh how I laughed! Even though I was only a couple of years older than he was, I knew that he had no idea what he was passing on because, having grown up in Italy, he was not used to the way Persians ate herbs with their meal.
I didn’t think anything could top that until…I took The Sous Chef, when we first met, with me to a gathering where Persian food was catered. There was some delicious Kabob, rice, and a huge and inviting platter of Sabzi. We all filled up our plates and went to sit at a table. Both The Sous Chef and I were busy conversing with the people sitting on either side of us while eating. Once the meal was over I asked him how he liked Persian food, as it was his first time having Persian Kabob.
“Everything was really good. But the herb salad needed some dressing. I looked around it but there was no dressing.”
“What herbs salad, I didn’t see one.”
“Well there was this huge platter with all kinds of herbs, radishes, and green onions.”
“Ohhhh, you mean Sabzi! There is no salad dressing for that. You just eat the herbs with you meal” Do you know how hard I had to try to contain myself from laughing out loud? VERY HARD!
Oh how he cracked me up!
Moving right along, here is a tutorial on how to clean and present Persian Herbs.
Cast of characters with their corresponding names in Farsi:
Persian Basil ~ Reyhan
Mint ~ Nanaw
Cilantro ~ Geeshneez
Tarragon ~ Tarkhoon
Persian Watercress ~ Shawhi
Green onion ~ Peeazcheh
Chives ~ Tareh
Radish ~ Torobcheh
Look at these beauties! I always buy my herbs from my local Persian Store.
Remove the top portion of each Basil then removed each leaf from the bottom part and place aside. Please note that Persian Basil tastes and smells different than Italian Basil which is the kind that most people are used to. I would say that Persian Basil is a cross between Thai Basil and Lemon Basil.
Do the same thing with the mint, removing the top part leaving it intact and then removing the individual leaves.
With cilantro you can either remove all leaves, like I do, or just cut off the bottom part of the stem that is thicker and tougher.
Remove all the leaves from the Tarragon’s stem.
Cut the bottom part of the watercress’ stem.
Remove the top end of each green onion and also cut just around the portion where it starts splitting off.
Cut off the dried up ends of Chives. This means a small portion off each end.
Cut off the top portion of the radishes. You can either cut the leafy part or them on. Some Persians like to eat the leaves. You can also get creative with your radishes, you can make small incisions around them and place them in a bowl of water for about one hour. The parts with the incisions will open up making the radish look like a flower.
Arrange your herbs in a dish. A couple of things, you may choose to mix your herbs together or place them like I did. It i completely up to you. Also, you can either wash your herbs before or after cutting them. I personally like to wash them after I clean them up.
Important note, if you have leftovers place them all in a lightly damp kitchen towel or paper towel. Put your little bundle in a zip lock bag and keep in the fridge. Note that they will last longer this way, but no more than a few days.