A Fresh Start

Celebrate the season with a traditional Persian rice pilaf

You don't have to be from Iran to appreciate sabzi polo mahi, the traditional dish served for Nowruz (or Norooz), the Persian New Year. It's a celebration of spring–on a plate.

This fragrant basmati rice pilaf turns a vivid shade of green with the addition of handfuls of chopped herbs. Parsley, chives, dill and fenugreek are traditionally used, but each Iranian cook has a personalized combination.

For Nowruz, the fluffy, aromatic rice is usually served with fish (the mahi), to pay homage to Pisces. With all of those fresh herbs, it's the perfect accompaniment for seafood, whether it's grilled, fried or sauteed.

The Persian New Year begins at the moment of the Vernal Equinox; this year, it's 10:32 a.m. Pacific Time on Satruday, March 20. That's when most local Iranian-Americans–L.A. is home to one of the largest populations outside of Iran, after all–will share plates of sabzi polo mahi with their families and friends.

But you can find the dish at just about any Persian restaurant all year long.

In Westwood, get Flame's green rice, subtly flavored with cilantro, parsley and garlic, as a side dish for the juicy, grilled kabobs. At Javan, the savory rice is a great foil to sweet stews like the walnut-pomegranate fesenjun.

Shamshiri Grill's pungent sabzi polo is available every day, but the comforting pilaf is served alongside grilled Lake Superior whitefish every Saturday and Sunday, turning every weekend into a happy New Year.