Sabzi polo, the meticulously cooked Persian rice and herb dish seemed like a perfect choice for my green recipe. Not only is it unique (tons of herbs!) it is also a celebratory dish, traditionally cooked for the Persian (springtime) new year. Not that I don’t like my mom’s trifle and lentil soup to celebrate the new year, but something is nice about celebrating a new year with new, fresh, green things. I thought this was a perfect dish to celebrate the height of the season for early greens: herbs, scallions, garlic and fava beans. I should say that my version is not entirely traditional– I eliminated some of the harder to find herbs, and I added the herb-infused oil to preserve some of that fresh herbal flavor and to add a little more bright green to the plate. I also added the garlic scapes and fava beans, since the time (and color) were right. Even with all of my changes, I think my dish is still very much in the spirit of the original. There’s no way around it: this is is a fussy dish to prepare. Washing, partly cooking, then finally steaming the rice; not to mention all of the chopping and washing herbs. But it is also marvelous– the herbal flavor is delicately balanced and fresh. And all of that fussing with the rice gives you a light, fluffy texture with a crispy layer on the bottom of the pan, well worth fighting your dinner companions for.
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch dill
a small handful of mint
1½ pounds fava beans (in their pods)
5-6 garlic scapes
3 c. white basmati rice
½ t. ground turmeric (optional)
3 T butter
⅓ c. olive oil
1 c. mixed herb leaves
Place a large pot of water on high heat. Remove fava beans from their pods. Wash all herbs and dry in a salad spinner, or leave out to dry on a baking sheet. Remove the leaves of the herbs from the stems and set aside. A “bunch” of herbs is an inexact measurement– but this is usually how herbs are typically sold. The bunches that I used are give you about a cup and a half of leaves, after removing the stems. If you have a big bunch of herbs, don’t feel compelled to add all of them, or if your bunches are on the small side you might need two. You want to use equal quantities of cilantro and flat leaf parsley. About half as much of both dill and mint.
Blanch and Shock
Set aside 1 c. of fresh herb leaves to make the herb oil– make sure that you get a good mixture of all the herb varieties. Plunge herbs into your pot of boiling water and boil for about 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into ice water. Strain the herbs and squeeze the excess water out. Set aside. Remove pointed ends from garlic scapes and boil for 2 minutes, then shock in the ice water. Cook fava beans one minute then plunge into ice water. Squeeze individual fava beans out of their skins and set aside.
Blend Herb Oil
Place the blanched herb leaves in a blender along with the ⅓c. olive oil. Blend on high, scraping the mixture down as necessary, until the leaves are completely pulverized. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh tea strainer. All steps up to this point can be done up to a day in advance.
Remove the green portion of the green onions, set aside the white portion. Finely mince all of the herb leaves along with the green portion of the green onions.
Chop the white portion of the onions finely. Saute with 1 T of butter until translucent.
Begin cooking rice
Using kitchen twine, tie together the stems of your herbs into one or two bundles. Add herb stems to a half-full stockpot of water and bring to a boil. Rinse your rice, scrubbing it lightly between your hands and drain. Rinse the rice and drain twice more. The water drained off should be almost clear. Once water has come to a boil add in the rice and cook for 5 minutes. Pour rice through a colander, letting the water drain out. Discard herb stems
Mix half cooked rice together with herbs, sauteed green onions and salt. Brush the bottom of a Dutch oven or stock pot with a little butter. Pour in the rice and spread evenly. Use the back of a wooden spoon to form several holes that will allow steam to escape from the rice. Scatter pieces of butter over the top of the rice (about a tablespoon of butter). Place pan over high heat for 3 minutes or until the pot is starting to sizzle (you’ll have to remove the lid to hear it). Reduce heat to low and cook for another 3 minutes. Turn heat off and partially open lid. Let rice steam off the heat for another 10 minutes.
In a saute pan, gently warm the fava beans and garlic scapes with a little butter. Scoop out some of the herbed rice making sure to get some of the crispy rice from the bottom of the pot. Top with the warm fava beans and garlic scapes. Drizzle with herb-infused olive oil and garnish with a few sprigs of green herbs.